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A New Brew, Price Forecast, and Nano Sensors

Global Food for Thought by Julia Whiting
Purple tea leaves developed by the Tea Research Institute in Kenya.

Our weekly roundup of the top news in food, agriculture, and global development.

Top Story

Prices to Lower, Emissions to Rise

Food prices have risen steadily over the past twelve months, including the highest month-over-month and year-on-year rises in a decade. The FAO/OECD Agricultural Outlook 2021-2030 does not foresee this trend continuing for long, dispelling commodity super-cycle worries. Assuming a post-pandemic recovery with resilient food markets, prices will fall slightly in real terms and then plateau over the next ten years, with production projected to meet demand over the long term. The report predicts at least a 4 percent rise in agriculture generated GHG emissions, with livestock driving the rise, and cautions that the world will not achieve zero hunger if the status quo continues.

Council Insights

Food, Culture, and Identity

Couscous, jollof rice, and pizza not only spark appetites but conjure images of specific places. Food is inextricably linked to culture, tradition, community, and identity. Yet changing consumer attitudes, climate change, and dietary diversity are affecting what and how we eat. How can safeguarding cultural heritage and preserving food diversity strengthen communities and build healthier food systems? Chefs Mercedes Bernal and Coco Reinarhz will answer that question and more with experts Mitchell Davis and Paul Newnham on July 19 at 10 am CDT. Register for this free and virtual program today!

Council Events

Food Identity and Preserving Cultural Heritage
Date: July 19
Time: 10:00 am CDT

Life Lessons from Congress, the Farm, and the Movies, with Dan Glickman
Date: August 3
Time: 12:00 pm CDT

Food and Agriculture

Tea Time

Research has recently found that a large portion of the flavor that tea holds comes not from the tea leaves, but actually from micro-organisms. In the future, this research may lead to new tea flavors based on experimentation with microbes, as opposed to leaves.

Plants Adjust to Climate Change

Plants are reacting to human-generated climate change. Plants are shifting towards poles and upslopes, ecosystems are being replaced, and some of the world’s oldest trees are dying. These changes mirror geological records of plant reactions some 56 million years ago, during a period of rapid warming.

Smart Food

The UN accepted India’s proposal to name 2023 the International Year of Millets. More than 90 million people in Africa and Asia depend on the nutritious, climate-resilient, and climate-smart crop.

Deeper Dive

A New Brew

Non-herbal teas, all made from the leaves of Camellia sinensis, fall into six categories: green, oolong, white, black, pu-erh, and yellow. A little over ten years ago, the Kenya Tea Research Institute added a new type with a purple-leafed Camellia sinensis. The leaves’ color comes from anthocyanins, a natural pigment that gives blueberries, grapes, and purple potatoes their color.

Data Crunch

Nano Sensors Uncover Resilience

Researchers at Cornell University are using nano sensors to better understand how plants manage their water flow. They hope to identify new drought- and heat-resilient traits and their genetic origins, as well as develop new techniques for assessing a crop’s water potential.


Drought Threatens Crop Yields

A widespread drought in Mexico will likely worsen due to forecasts of high temperatures and water supply shortages. Crop yields are under threat, as the drought makes irrigation increasingly untenable, and the extreme heat quickens soil evaporation.

Big Ideas

Transparency is Power

Opaque supply chains can hide unethical and unsustainable practices from the consumers’ view. Blockchain can address this issue by providing fully traceable supply chains. Council Non-Resident Fellow Mark Kaplan is using the technology to build transparency into the seafood industry, protecting workers and consumers alike.

Other Upcoming Events

Financing Food Systems Transformation
Date: July 13
Time: 8:30 am CDT

Pinduoduo Food Systems Forum: Building a More Resilient Food System with Technology
Date: July 14
Time: 10:00 am CDT

State Food System Plans: Are they worth it?
Date: July 15
Time: 2:00 pm CDT

Engaging the Private Sector for Innovative Global Development
Date: July 21
Time: 10:00 am CDT

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DC Report

Expanding Rights 

Biden is expected to direct the Agriculture Department to combat the consolidation of multinational agribusiness corporations in domestic and import/export markets. The administration hopes to increase competition in the agriculture sector. 

Big Actors

Cuban Food Shortage

Cuba is currently facing its worst food shortage since the 1990s. The shortage has been caused in part by rising food prices, and the government’s lack of revenue.

Building Trust

The Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA) is partnering with UNICEF to support the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator initiative. IFANCA has worked on halal certification of vaccines to build trust in Muslim communities, part of ensuring equitable access for vulnerable communities globally.   

Trade and Commodities

Syngenta Expands in China

Agrichemicals company, the Syngenta Group, is rapidly expanding farm services in China to meet growing farmer demand linked to country’s increasing focus on food security and ahead of the company’s stock market listing.

About the Author
Julia Whiting
Former Research Associate
Council expert Julia Whiting
Julia Whiting joined the Chicago Council on Global Affairs in 2019 and was a research associate with the Global Food and Agriculture Program. She supported the development of research reports on global food security issues as well as coordinated digital engagement and content for the program.
Council expert Julia Whiting