Media Monitor

The world is waiting to see if Russia extends the Ukrainian grain export corridor beyond its 19th November expiry date. Russia’s President has accused Ukraine of using the programme to commit terrorist acts. A Russian official said the deal’s extension depended on the West easing Russia’s agricultural and fertiliser exports. The UN is confident the agreement will be extended.

There were market rumours that the Great Odesa ports would soon be blocked because it takes 20-25 days for vessels to be processed and loaded.  A total of 160 ships currently await inspection in Istanbul. Only 14 vessels a day are being inspected, and Russia’s inspectors seem reluctant to speed up the process.

Russia may set a grain export quota at 25.5 mln mt next year, twice that set this year. It will not have a market impact as this year’s grain quota of 11 million mt was not fully used. The country has harvested a record grain crop this year, with wheat production already reaching 104 million mt and total grain output expected to reach 150 million mt.

Despite wet weather and missile attacks, Ukraine’s farmers have sown 2.78 million ha of winter grains, or 58.4 per cent of the planned area. Farmers planted 2.44 million ha of winter wheat or 61.4 per cent of the planned area.

The UK Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased 10.1 per cent in annual terms in September. Food prices rose by 14.5 per cent, the most significant jump since April 1980.

However, shoppers appear to accept rising prices, with Nestlé and P&G reporting better-than-expected sales.

Nestlé reported an increase in organic sales of 8.5 per cent in the nine months to end-September, driven by higher prices. The company reported exceptionally high sales growth in its coffee businesses. It also announced the acquisition of Seattle’s Best Coffee brand from Starbucks for an undisclosed sum.

Nestlé’s CEO expects inflation to continue into 2023, and the FT warns that shoppers may reduce spending or switch to own-brand goods. Bloomberg agrees, even though the CEO of Mondelez believes the problems lie elsewhere.

In an example of high prices being the best cure for high prices (by bringing in new production), Central Australia is harvesting its first wheat crop in 45 years.

India’s rice farmers are struggling with the country’s water crisis, finding it hard to wean themselves off subsidies. The government “seems to have given up” trying to persuade farmers to grow less water-intensive crops.

New Zealand’s livestock farmers continue to protest the government’s “burp and fart” tax.

In a sign of the future of shipping, a Chinese company has taken delivery of a new supertanker with four large sails that should cut fuel consumption by nearly 10 per cent. Meanwhile, container ship operators are removing capacity and laying up ships as they rationalise their networks in the face of falling demand.

The USDA will write off $1.3 billion in debt for about 36,000 US farmers who have fallen behind on loan payments or face foreclosure. It will fund the programme from the $3.1 billion in the Inflation Reduction Act.

Global fertilizer prices fell further as farmers cut back on their use. Brazil’s fertilizer prices are down by almost half from April’s highs, although they are still above long-term averages.

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) has published its (119-page) 2022 Africa Agriculture Status Report that lays out the steps needed to reach zero hunger on the continent. The Africa Centre for Strategic Studies argues that conflict remains the dominant driver of Africa’s food crisis. More than 80 per cent of the record 137 million Africans facing acute food insecurity are in conflict-affected countries.

Climate change poses an “existential threat” to the UK potato industry. The sector is urgently trying to develop new varieties to cope with rising temperatures.

French cereal farmers are experimenting at scale with covering crops with solar panels to produce food and energy simultaneously.

Drought is slowing the seeding of Argentina’s corn crop.

Mississippi River water levels may fall over the next two weeks, further restricting barge traffic. Around 500 mln mt of goods – mainly agricultural products – move along the Mississippi River each year. The Mississippi River Basin produces more than 90 per cent of US agricultural exports and nearly 80 per cent of the world’s grain exports.

Could large-scale seaweed farming help curb climate change?

The FT asks whether the Brazilian presidential election has accelerated deforestation in the Amazon. It also asks if the world can feed itself sustainably. The newspaper presents seven graphs that suggest that providing food to 10 billion people doesn’t have to cost us the Earth.

The Guardian believes food is already costing us the Earth. The latest (60-page) Pesticide Atlas reports that pesticide use has increased by 80 per cent since 1990, responsible for 11,000 human fatalities and the poisoning of 385 million people yearly. It adds that their use caused a 30 per cent fall in populations of field birds and grassland butterflies.

The WWF’s Living Planet Report 2022 (also 60 pages) reveals an (even more alarming) 69 per cent reduction in species populations since 1970. It warns that “we face the double, interlinked emergencies of human-induced climate change and the loss of biodiversity, threatening the well-being of current and future generations.”

The UN FAO celebrated World Food Day on 16th October.  You can watch the (cool) music video here.

Talking of videos, the FT has a 45-minute one that shows “how neoliberal economic thinking has broken our food supply chains.” (Whatever.) It also has a shorter one on organic regenerative farming in the UK.

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