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Save more, spend less to be shoppers’ new mantra

Shoppers are likely to cut back sharply on discretionary spending after the lockdown, sacrificing outings to malls, restaurants, and salons to save up for immediate needs such as health and hygiene products. The online survey was conducted by Nielsen between 10 April and 14 April among 1,330 people in 23 cities. The findings indicate that the future is tilting toward home-cooked meals rather than eating out. Hygiene has become a big issue with increased awareness and is likely to remain the trend once the pandemic is over. Even if normalcy returns and the lockdown is relaxed, people will not be comfortable in crowded places, including airlines, restaurants, clubs, and metros. The importance of preventive healthcare will grow in consumer priorities because of the covid-19 pandemic. E-commerce has seen exponential growth and this will continue. However, after the coronavirus outbreak and the ensuing lockdown, kirana stores have made a comeback.

Read more at LiveMint

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COVID-19 and the Capitalist Food System

As we discover our agricultural system is responsible for spreading the virus, we also realize how perilously dependent we all are on those very systems of food provision for survival. Both of these problems are caused by one problem: our food system as a whole is controlled by private, for-profit capitalists. It is the profit motive and competition that compels agricultural producers to brutally rationalize and homogenize nature in the form of the monoculture plantation or mono-species livestock operation. These not only provide perfect ecological systems for virus transmission, they also replace formerly biodiverse ecologies that tend to keep wild viruses at bay.

A possible alternative: Socialize the Food System

Rather than simply abandoning the agro-industrial supply chains we depend upon, we need to think about how those supply chains could be reconstructed if they weren’t controlled for profit. This means confronting the fact that the existing food system contains advantages we can’t fully abandon. Any socialist food system would need to find an equitable way to distribute this kind of labor throughout society.

Read more at Jacobin

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The Supply Chain for Food Is Stressed

The spread of the virus through the food and grocery industry is expected to cause disruptions in production and distribution of certain products as panicked shoppers test supply networks as never before. Industry leaders acknowledge shortages could increase, but they insist it is more of an inconvenience than a major problem. People will have enough to eat; they just may not have the usual variety. The food supply remains robust, they say, with hundreds of millions of pounds of meat in cold storage. You might not get what you want when you want it. Consumers like to have a lot of different choices, and the reality is in the short term, we just don’t have the labor to make that happen.

Laborers who were once considered unskilled are now “essential employees,” even heroes to some, because they are providing the nation with food and other crucial supplies.

Read more at The New York Times

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Dumped Milk, Smashed Eggs, Plowed Vegetables: Food Waste of the Pandemic

With restaurants, hotels and schools closed, many of the nation’s largest farms are destroying millions of pounds of fresh goods that they can no longer sell. The waste has become especially severe in the dairy industry, where cows need to be milked multiple times a day, regardless of whether there are buyers. The nation’s largest dairy cooperative, Dairy Farmers of America, estimates that farmers are dumping as many as 3.7 million gallons of milk each day. A single chicken processor is smashing 750,000 unhatched eggs every week.

The widespread destruction of fresh food reflects the profound economic uncertainty wrought by the virus and how difficult it has been for huge sectors of the economy, like agriculture, to adjust to such a sudden change in how they must operate. The quarantines have shown just how many more vegetables Americans eat when meals are prepared for them in restaurants than when they have to cook for themselves.

Read more at The New York Times

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Accredited ‘safe’ vegetables help Vietnamese farmers earn more

Farmers in Northwest Vietnam are accessing a new path to market for their vegetables—via an accreditation program—to help them sell into high-value modern retail markets in Hanoi. The region’s favourable climate and soil conditions are suitable for growing tropical, subtropical and some temperate vegetables. Vietnamese Good Agricultural Practices (VietGAP) provides guidelines on how to grow crops and manage them postharvest to ensure food safety and improve product quality and traceability while supporting the health of producers, consumers and the environment.

With the development of supermarkets and food service market channels in Hanoi and other big cities, customers are now demanding high quality agricultural products—especially ones from mountainous areas like Son La province—because customers believe they taste better and are more nutritious. Furthermore, customers want ‘safe’ vegetables which are grown using good agricultural production techniques and are managed to ensure the food is free of food-borne diseases and pathogens.

Read more at ACIAR