UN vs UN: “COVID-19 is disrupting a food industry already thrown into turmoil by climate change”

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

UN Environment claims Covid-19 is disrupting food production which has already been battered by climate adversity. But just last November, the UN Agriculture body said “reserves held by the five major exporting countries could rise to a five-year high, primarily on the back of another foreseen build-up in India.”

14 MAY 2020 STORYECOSYSTEMS AND BIODIVERSITY

COVID-19 is disrupting a food industry already thrown into turmoil by climate change

Today’s COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the critical role of rice in ensuring global food security while combating climate change.

The world eats a lot of rice. Over 3.5 billion people rely on it as a staple part of their diet. The little grain is fundamental to global food security. Of the 820 million people who today go hungry, almost 60 per cent of them live in areas where rice consumption accounts for over 40 per cent of their annual cereal diet. Paradoxically, it is often those who grow food who are among the world’s most food-insecure. For over 100 million rice smallholders, rice is all that stands between them and hunger.

Before COVID-19, the expansive industry that provides this life-giving food to half of the global population was already struggling to cope with the impacts of climate change. Now, the pandemic is ravaging the rice sector, further threatening lives and livelihoods.

Rice production, prices and international trade are all impacted by the pandemic as well as widespread droughts. Panic buying prompted rice-exporting countries to impose limits or bans on exports, while domestic price caps imposed by some importing countries have led to reduced import volumes. Coupled with logistical stoppages resulting from nationwide lockdowns, over half of global rice supply – originating in five key countries – is now at risk. Currently, price surges disproportionately harm poorer households for whom rice is a staple, and where rice can account for almost half of monthly spending.

Meanwhile, lockdowns also make it harder for farmers to obtain vital inputs such as seeds, fertilizers and field labor. Crops already planted are at risk due to a lack of labor as quarantines have forced migrant workers to return home. Missed windows for planting and harvest will devastate yields.

“Because of the coronavirus outbreak we are not allowed to gather around, unable to call for any meetings with cooperative members to prepare for the next crop or enter into new agreements with buyers of the rice we will produce”, said Nguyen Phu Cuong, the Director of Vong Dong Cooperatives in An Giang Province, Viet Nam.

Additionally, with the elderly more susceptible to COVID-19, productivity is also under threat, considering the increasing average age of rice farmers today.

COVID-19 comes at a time when underlying climate change impacts are already compromising food and water security. Southeast Asia, which supplies 50 per cent of the world’s rice exports, is experiencing its worst drought in 40 years.

“The adversities in the rice trade triggered by COVID-19 are an acute preview of what climate change has in store,” said Wyn Ellis, Executive Director of the Sustainable Rice Platform. “But instead of a temporary threat to farmers and food value chains, climate change impacts will be lasting, likely for generations. This pandemic shows us how devastating the consequences of inaction could be and how climate change can intensify existing crises.”

Climate change will exacerbate the vulnerabilities of food systems and human health. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is working closely with partners, particularly through the Sustainable Rice Platform, to strengthen smallholder capacity and resilience to current and future shocks.

The Sustainable Rice Platform, initiated by UNEP and the International Rice Research Institute in 2011, is a multi-stakeholder alliance comprising over 100 institutional members, whose Secretariat is hosted by UNEP’s Regional Office for Asia and Pacific in Bangkok. SRP is working to transform the global rice sector by promoting resource efficiency and climate-smart best practice among rice farmers and throughout value chains. SRP is developing sustainable production standards, indicators, incentives and outreach to boost wide-scale adoption of sustainable best practices in rice production, as well as to reduce GHG emissions from rice farms.

SRP members are also actively helping with the COVID-19 response. Some SRP members are reversing their supply chains to deliver personal protective equipment and hand soap to farmers. The crisis response is also providing valuable lessons in how to deal with climate change impacts on rice. For example, farmers, particularly women, have been leading initiatives against COVID-19 by championing hygienic practices, which is leading the Platform to adapt from knowledge sharing to knowledge co-creation.

As we aim to build back better, farmers will need improved capacity to reduce and prevent far-reaching environmental, social and economic blows of global crises. 3.5 billion people depend on it.

For more information, please contact Niklas Hagelberg: Niklas.Hagelberg@un.org

Nature is in crisis, threatened by biodiversity and habitat loss, global heating and toxic pollution. Failure to act is failing humanity. Addressing the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and protecting ourselves against future global threats requires sound management of hazardous medical and chemical waste; strong and global stewardship of nature and biodiversity; and a clear commitment to “building back better”, creating green jobs and facilitating the transition to carbon neutral economies. Humanity depends on action now for a resilient and sustainable future

Source: UN Environment

This Nature in Crisis narrative is largely contradicted by the UN’s own agriculture publication.

… An erratic unfolding of the northern hemisphere spring and summer rains has deteriorated the outlook for global rice production since May, providing modest support to international rice prices in an otherwise quiet trading environment.

Based on the latest forecasts, global rice production
in 2019 is set to fall 0.8 percent below the 2018 all-time high
. Much of this decline is expected to occur outside Asia, particularly in Australia, Brazil, Nigeria and the United States, often as a result of adverse weather, compounding diminished producer margins. On the other hand, Asia appears headed towards another abundant harvest,
with anticipation that a shortfall in China and a slight reduction in India would be largely compensated by output expansions elsewhere in the region.

Prospects of a strong trade recovery in 2020 have been tempered by expectations that ample local availabilities
will keep import demand in Asian countries subdued for another year. Nonetheless, global rice flows in 2020 are
still forecast to exceed their 2019 level, as imports are anticipated to expand in all other regions. This is the case of Africa in particular, where countries such as Guinea, Senegal and Nigeria would need to purchase more to compensate for reduced production levels. With the exception of Australia, Brazil and Thailand, all traditional rice suppliers are expected to boost exports in 2020, although the

largest increases are predicted for India and China. Indeed, continued growth in Chinese rice exports in 2020 could essentially eliminate the trade imbalance that China has had since emerging as a net importer of rice in 2011.

Growth in the food use of rice is predicted to slightly outpace population growth in 2019/20, lifting global utilization to a level that exceeds expected production. As a result, world rice inventories at the close of 2019/20 marketing seasons could decline, albeit to a level that would still stand out as the second highest on record. Rice importers are envisaged to account for all the stock drawdown, led by reductions in China and, to a lesser extent, Bangladesh and Indonesia. By contrast, reserves held by the five major exporting countries could rise to a five-year high, primarily on the back of another foreseen build-up in India. …

Source: Page 4, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, November 2019

I accept that Covid-19 and the lockdowns have significantly disrupted industry and food production, and that may have even more serious knock on consequences.

But in my opinion for the UN to claim that the industry was already in turmoil due to climate change simply isn’t credible, given just last November the UN was forecasting a five year surplus in major agricultural export countries.

29 thoughts on “UN vs UN: “COVID-19 is disrupting a food industry already thrown into turmoil by climate change”

  1. I haven’t seen a single change in international production caused by any form of “climate change” at all, even the late planting corn last year was still up to yield standards.

    Additionally the *global warmer* seasons caused by the hotter sun increased food supplies drastically.

    The main thing endangering the global food supply is the morons up in Canada spraying glyphosate on un-ripe crop resulting in UNRIPE crop being put into the food supply.

    • That’s nothing compared to the morons on here talking out their hats. Glyphosate is used in the U.S. as well as other countries and all Canadian wheat is tested at delivery and prior to final shipping.

      • Morons in the US do the same thing. It was never designed or safety tested for that purpose. It was meant to go onto the ground and degrade, not be sprayed directly onto grain that we eat.

        • No, round up gets sprayed on the plants so it hits the crop as well as the weeds

          On the ground it does nothing

        • “It was never designed or safety tested for that purpose. It was meant to go onto the ground and degrade, not be sprayed directly onto grain that we eat.”

          That is nonsense. Glyphosate was designed to knock out the EPSP synthase enzyme, which renders a susceptible plant unable to synthesize three aromatic amino acids, severely impacting normal plant growth. When used as a crop desiccant, glyphosate is applied to a wheat crop after wheat kernels are no longer accumulating photosynthates, so the herbicide does not translocate from treated foliage to the kernel. All that remains for the wheat plant to do prior to harvest is for the kernels to dry to about 12% moisture, after which the grain may be harvested and safely stored. At the time of application, the wheat kernels are also protected from direct contact with the herbicide by the structures surrounding the seed (glumes, lemmas, paleas). All that happens is that the wheat foliage absorbs the herbicide and the grain dries more quickly than would normally occur in those regions (such as in southern Canada or the northern US) where temperatures at harvest time are too cool for optimal drying before onset of autumn rains. Wheat grown in many other regions aren’t treated, as weather conditions are reliably warm and dry at harvest time. Farmers aren’t fond of spending money on unnecessary treatments for their crops.

          An added benefit is that living weeds growing among the wheat plants are controlled by the glyphosate, resulting in fewer annual weed seeds being returned to the soil in the field and good control of many established perennial weeds resulting.

          Finally, you may be very sure that herbicides labelled for this use (including glyphosate) have indeed been tested to ensure that residues do not exceed tolerances as set by US EPA or the Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency. If a herbicide hadn’t been evaluated for this use, it would not be a labelled use.

          • the headers seperating the chaff from the kernel means the residue of dry glyphosate does get onto the kernels
            otherwise you couldnt test n find it IN flour and they do find it.
            FDA/usda? UPPED the allowable glyphosate residues in food by double or more some yrs ago
            their assumption is an amount per kilo etc is ok
            they dont account for multiple sources and the actual volumes eaten/cumulative total of ingested chemicalsper yr.
            the increase in people compalining of gut issues nd food /gluten intolerace is rising for a reason.
            oddly quite a few supposed gluten intolrantpeople say theyre fine when eating bread in europe where spray topping is banned and total gmo intakes are lower by a large degree.
            if your crop cannot ripen naturally then maybe you shouldnt BE growing it?
            I thought canada and other far mth spots had a very short season what strain that did ripen fast and in lower tems?
            or did that get trashed as other older better crops did for the new hybrid expensive seed?

          • you forgot to mention the glyphosate resistant weeds now increasing .
            from 2006 10 resistant species
            https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/gwc/gwc-1.pdf
            Rigid ryegrass 1998
            Horseweed (marestail) 2000 1
            Italian ryegrass 2004
            Common ragweed 2004
            amaranth 2005 G
            Waterhemp 2005
            Goosegrass 1997
            Hairy fleabane 2003
            Broadleaf plantain 2003
            Johnsongrass 2005 A

            from 2018 41 species resistant

            https://www.nfuonline.com/cross-sector/science-and-technology/crop-protection/crop-protection-key-content/glyphosate/glyphosate-news/first-signs-of-glyphosate-resistance-found-in-uk43636/

            Glyphosate resistance has been found in 41 species in 29 countries, but this is the first case of resistance developing in either sterile brome or the UK.
            The authors highlighted how the results were a timely reminder of the risks of resistance associated with increased glyphosate use and how this provides an early indication of the need for stewardship.
            Last autumn, the NFU held a workshop that brought together farmers, sprayer operators, researchers, academics, manufacturers, agronomists and others to discuss how best to prevent Glyphosate resistance.
            Industry has since produced enhanced stewardship guidelines, which can be found on the AHDB website.

  2. Good reporting, Eric. What a hoot! the idea that there will be a rice production shortfall in SE Asia. All they have to do is eat more and export less. A buddy who was in Vietnam the same time as I was told me he was walking patrol along a dike separating rice paddies when the enemy opened up on them in an ambush. He and his buddies dove into the rice paddies, into the human waste fertilized water and shot back. They didn’t suffer any gunshot losses, but the next day he had the famous two-phase intestinal disruption: in the first phase you are afraid you will die, and in the second phase you are afraid you won’t die. Stay sane and safe (and be careful about SE Asia rice).

  3. The only crisis is at the UN where crisis is a major component of fundraising efforts.

  4. Global rice production, along with the production of other grains, has been increasing steadily for many decades.

  5. On a side-track, climate-change Governor Jay Inslee is now taking his fascism a new, opportunistic direction, by implementing a comply-or-be-arrested order for an army that’s going to be coming to citizen’s houses, demanding that they consent to be tested.

    https://twitchy.com/gregp-3534/2020/05/13/you-must-comply-gov-jay-inslee-announces-contact-tracing-program/

    Here’s Mr. Inslee’s e-mail:
    https://www.governor.wa.gov/contact/contact/send-gov-inslee-e-message

    • Suppose there was this guy and every time he sneezed, ten people around him would immediately drop dead. Would you infringe on his civil rights and lock him up?

      It would take someone pretty extreme to value the freedom of that guy over such serious potential loss of lives. So, the question is where we draw the line as we move away from the extreme case toward more normal cases.

      • Yeah – and your example was pure crap. And just the sort of bullshit pseudo logic Inslee depends on.

        Idiot.

      • As Ol’ Ben said (paraphrased): Those who wuld give up freedom for safety deserve neither freedom or safety.

        Once you give up your freedoms you will *NEVER* get them back without lots of bloodshed.

        • So, if there was a guy who was so infectious that everyone he met died, would you let him walk free?

          There’s no evidence the framers, including Ben, thought that freedom should be completely untrammeled. As my dear mother was wont to say, “Your freedom ends where the other guy’s nose begins.”

          • Hi commieBob, – The current pandemic is demonstrably not lethal to anywhere near 100%. It has become known that this ChiCom virus transmission occured(s) more commonly via surface cross contamination than by airborne vectors. So meeting (“met”) is merely another contextual obfuscation.

      • commieBob,
        Of course you would quarantine that person, because they would constitute a provable immediate and deadly threat to the health and safety of the public. But what does that have to do with Covid-19? It’s not even close to a death sentence to be exposed to it, and cases of airborne infection are vanishingly small. By your logic, we should consider a nail file just as deadly as a machine gun because they can both kill. What utter nonsense. The law recognizes the differences between different types and severity of threats/risks.

      • So we have a deadly sneezer. Should we “lock him up”? Yes that sounds reasonable. Even locking up any survivors in the ten he infected could be would be reasonable in this example. Should we lock up everyone in the entire nation? Of course not that would be a ridiculous overreaction, an act of tyranny and economic suicide. In the United States we’re finding this out the hard way.

  6. Of course it’s a load of cobblers, but they have to keep pumping the message out. A lot of people will believe it, and it’s important to keep up the pressure so no one has the time to look out the window and see that things aren’t really much different from what they were in 1980.

    It’s predicted by all the models that almost all the warming due to GHE will be at high latitudes, and the warming of the last few decades in the arctic would appear to bear this out (if you assume that the warming is due to human-emitted CO2, which is doubtful). So how is this supposed to be affecting the rice-growing countries, which are all in the tropics or sub-tropics?

    The climate change juggernaut moves relentlessly on. Any objective facts that it may once have carried, fell off long ago, or were deliberately jettisoned because they weren’t cooperating with the models.

  7. I saw a Youtube video by a farmer in the southern US somewhere, who was having to kill a lot of animals including a large beef herd, just in time for a ship bringing beef from Namibia to arrive.

    I bet politicians everywhere have improved their personal security

  8. From the article: ““The adversities in the rice trade triggered by COVID-19 are an acute preview of what climate change has in store,” said Wyn Ellis, Executive Director of the Sustainable Rice Platform. “But instead of a temporary threat to farmers and food value chains, climate change impacts will be lasting, likely for generations.”

    There is no evidence that human-caused climate change exists. Your “likely for generations” is a ridiculous, unsubstantiated assertion based on nothing but other ridiculous, unsubstantiated assertions about CO2 and the Earth’s climate.

  9. I simply cannot say often enough or loudly enough that I simply don’t understand what planet these people live on. The major rice exporters like the US and Brazil are not having any problem accessing seed.

    The USDA grain forecast for 2020/2021 states: “For 2020/21, global rice production is forecast up with larger crops in China, Southeast Asia, and the United States. Global consumption is also forecast to rise, particularly in China, India, and Sub-Saharan Africa. Global trade is forecast up at the third largest volume. The Philippines will be the top importer, driven by lower domestic production. Global stocks are also forecast to rise to record levels, driven primarily by continued expansion in India’s government-held stocks. The country now accounts for more than one-fifth of global stocks, while China still holds the majority.”

    How can covid-19 and global warming be causing problems with food grains when all the forecasts are for ANOTHER increase in global harvests?

    The USDA forecasts the exact same thing for corn and wheat in 2020/2021.

    For twenty years the AGW alarmists have been predicting global starvation because of global warming. Yet for 20 years we keep on seeing record global grain harvests. When is the AGW alarmist predictions actually going to come true? If I were in the AGW alarmist community I would be mortified to continually be grouped with the Armageddon predictors on the street corners in NYC!

  10. The fact that grain harvests are going up is an indication that farmers are substantially more secure than they were 50 years ago. When I was young, a major impediment to improving yields in India was that buying better seed and fertiliser was gambling with money they needed now – maybe they could get the results in the experimental demonstration farm, but if not it was a disaster; maybe the cash crop would make them richer, but if outlay was required, they did not have it.

  11. The UN is never one to let a good crisis go to waste whether it is real or imaginary. The UN toys with crises, it does not solve them. Here they are tacking a real Covid-19 crisis on to an imaginary Climate Crisis in the hope that Covid-19 will make the imaginary Climate Crisis look real. The statistics of World food production increases make it look like the Climate Crisis is actually a CO2 Climate Benefit.

  12. Most Aussie rice growers didnt plant or planted lots less last yr
    why?
    because of drought and stupid greentards controlling the water rights debates
    many will prob stop producing rice many others will stop and sell out
    no one benefits but the greenies ar happy
    funny cos they eat a fair bit of rice
    and lentils etc
    not sure who or where they think they magically appear from

  13. ps. to my previous comment
    Interpretation
    Early triple antiviral therapy was safe and superior to lopinavir–ritonavir alone in alleviating symptoms and shortening the duration of viral shedding and hospital stay in patients with mild to moderate COVID-19. Future clinical study of a double antiviral therapy with interferon beta-1b as a backbone is warranted.
    Funding
    The Shaw-Foundation, Richard and Carol Yu, May Tam Mak Mei Yin, and Sanming Project of Medicine.

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