Supply Lines: Hotspots for hunger

Supply Lines

The Democratic Republic of Congo is emerging as the country with the world's largest food crisis in terms of absolute numbers.

About 21.8 million people in the nation are acutely food insecure, new figures from the United Nations' Food & Agriculture Organization show. The staggering figure underscores how the fallout from the pandemic is driving up hunger in countries that were already gripped by crisis.

In addition to the Congo, the worst deteriorations in acute hunger in recent months have taken place in Burkina Faso — which has witnessed a nearly 300% uptick in the overall number of people experiencing acute hunger since the start of 2020 — as well as Nigeria, Somalia and the Sudan, the FAO said.

In Nigeria, working the land can be a dangerous occupation because of longstanding religious and ethnic tensions and, more recently, organized crime. That's as farmers already were having to contend with flooding or drought. It's all now hitting agriculture just when the country needs it most. The pandemic has triggered a surge in food prices in a nation that imports more than a tenth of its food supply.

With 200 million people, Nigeria is the most populous country in the world's most food-insecure continent. Producing food at home matters more as importers struggle to access dollars to pay for shipments from overseas after an oil price crash sapped foreign-currency reserves. "We are heading toward famine and starvation," Niger state Governor Abubakar Sani Bello warned in April.

The challenges come as the world is forecast for a sharp rise in food insecurity because of Covid-19's impact. As many as 132 million more people globally may fall into the grip of hunger this year, including in many places that used to have relative stability.

Millie Munshi in Denver

Charted Territory

China just made its largest weekly purchase of American pork since April, U.S. government export data show. The Asian nation banned shipments from Germany after wild boars were found with African swine fever, but its protein demand is still strong as it rebounds from its own outbreak of ASF. That's a boon for U.S. farmers, who are also seeing huge sales of soybeans and finally getting the demand push they've been waiting for ever since Beijing and Washington signed a trade pact earlier this year. 

Today's Must Reads

  • Water trading | If the record heat and wildfires ravaging California weren't a clear enough sign that the climate is changing, then consider this: Wall Street is about to start trading futures contracts on the state's water supply.
  • Burrito boom | As the pandemic made people hesitant or unable to eat inside its restaurants, Chipotle saw its online orders and delivery business take off. CEO Niccol thinks much of that digital business is here to stay.
  • Brewing storm | Australia's food exporters are facing a challenging year, with the value of shipments set to drop by 10%, as the country grapples with souring Chinese ties, shrinking meat sales and a virus-driven downturn in demand.
  • Grain surplus | Iraq will offer barley for export for the first time after ample rains and price incentives spurred farmers to grow a surplus of the grain. 
  • China ban | An Indonesian seafood exporter has become the latest in a string of companies to be slapped with a ban by China after product packaging tested positive for the coronavirus.
  • Overflowing cups | Brazil has an unprecedented coffee problem — too many beans and nowhere to store them.

  • Speedy delivery | It's not the most obvious connection, but your Amazon orders are actually helping fuel a rally in cooking oil futures.

On the Bloomberg Terminal

  • Readjusting goals | Details behind Kraft Heinz's transformation plan, which is already underway, underscore a customer-focused shift in operating structure to drive organic sales, productivity improvements and $2 billion in cost savings over five years, Bloomberg Intelligence writes.
  • Dining in | Sales performance for most key U.S. packaged-food categories continued to exceed historical averages in the four weeks ended Sept. 6, extending gains as consumers ate more at home, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.
  • Use the AHOY function to track global commodities trade flows.
  • Click HERE for automated stories about supply chains.
  • See BNEF for BloombergNEF's analysis of clean energy, advanced transport, digital industry, innovative materials, and commodities.
  • Click VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the coronavirus and here for maps and charts.

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