Diggings 29 May, 2020: COVID – 19 roundup 4# and other good stuff

Comfort Food

by Victoria Ying

A graphic comicette for these times


 ‘Carefully laid trap’? Why is China imposing tariffs on our barley (and what’s a tariff)

It’s true that Australia imposes its own “countervailing duties” on a wide range of imports, from Thai pineapples to Italian tinned tomatoes, in a bid to support our homegrown versions. Industries seeking protection from import competition apply to the Anti-Dumping Commission, which decides what level of duty to impose. Kirchner says there has been bipartisan support from both sides of politics in recent years for ramping up such “anti-dumping” duties. Despite Australia’s free-trade agreement with China, large duties of about 140 per cent still apply to Chinese steel and aluminium products, including pipes imported to Australia. Industries with production facilities and employing workers in politically sensitive seats have proven particularly effective in lobbying the Australian government for such protections.’

I have been waiting for this clear, non xenophobic explanation of the barely barney.


Why flour is still missing from supermarket shelves

In the case of flour, the split between supplying commercial and retail demand has been an even more significant factor. Until the pandemic, retail demand was a small (and diminishing) part of the flour market. In Britain, for example, it represented just 4% of flour consumption. The rest went to commercial bakers and food manufacturers. While the quality of flour commercial users buy is not necessarily different, the size of the packages in which they buy is – bags of 12, 25 of 32 kilograms, rather than the 1kg or 2kg bags that home bakers prefer. With home demand spiking – in Australia, for example, retail flour sales rose 140% in March – the large flour-milling operations quickly reached the limits of their equipment and processes to package flour in smaller bags.


‘Blindly hoping for the best’: Restaurants take precautions

Restaurants are operating multiple sittings, using digital menus and charging cancellation fees of the entire cost of a meal as they re-open under restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic … Some venues are using technology to enable them to safely reopen, with Carlton restaurants Super Ling installing systems to enable customers to order from their table using a digital menu on their phones.


Restaurants 2.0: What kind of dining experience can e expect a year from now?

“When my wife Jo [Thomas] and I closed our larger restaurant St Isidore in 2019, we built Small Town based on what we thought the future would be. A business designed to run on the smell of an oily rag. A lot of other restaurant operators have also been considering shifting to a smaller venue, and this pandemic is definitely going to escalate that.”


‘Exploitative conditions’: Germany to reform meat industry after spate of Covid-19 cases

The German government has announced a series of reforms of the meat industry, including a ban on the use of subcontractors and fines of €30,000 (£26,000) for companies breaching labour regulations, as slaughterhouses have emerged as coronavirus hotspots. A number of meat plants across the country have temporarily closed after hundreds of workers tested positive for Covid-19 in recent weeks. This week more than 90 workers were reported to have fallen ill at a plant in Dissen, Lower Saxony. Following an outbreak at a plant in Coesfeld, where more than 270 of 1,200 workers tested positive, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia announced mass testing of industry employees.



Cooks and Farmers: Imagining the Future Together.

 At Mrizi I Zanave and in all the related businesses we have around 70 workers. And in this period of lockdown, 25 of us have taken the opportunity to transform our work. What we used to produce in the dairy and in our workshops for the restaurant is now being sold online: we’ve put in place a delivery service which is bringing our products from the countryside to the capital, Tirana.” Many of the workers at Mrizi I Zanave, however, have had to stay at home, with few prospects and a feeling of helplessness that many of us have experienced first-hand around the world. “We thought about what we would be able to do, and then the idea came to us: the solution is underneath us, in the earth itself. In the Albanian countryside there are lots of elderly people living alone. Often their children have emigrated, and there aren’t a lot of social opportunities.”


Respecting the Land and Seeking Ancestral Knowledge after COVID-19

 “The pandemic has put at the forefront of the debate the role of rural and indigenous peoples and their close relationship with mother earth, seeds and food. And in these moments of crisis we recognize that for us it is also a time of great opportunities to recover our food sovereignty, to think about a sustainable world, respectful of mother earth and more collaborative from the community perspective.


 If you took to growing veggies in the coronavirus pandemic, then keep it up when lockdown ends

The empty shelves at nurseries and seed suppliers seen earlier this year tell us we were again insufficiently prepared to rapidly scale up productive home gardening. We need to develop more robust local food systems, including opportunities for people to develop and share food production skills. These could build on established programs, such as western Melbourne’s My Smart Garden. Particularly in built-up urban areas, provision of safe, accessible, free or low-cost gardening spaces would enable everyone to participate. More city farms with livestock, large-scale composting and seed saving, can increase local supplies of garden inputs and buffer against external disruption.



Melbourne, Vic. 1942-12-03. Miss Sheila McLeod, Miss Howgate, and Miss Clare Broadhurst, voluntary workers in the Victory Garden established in the grounds of WAAAF House, 21 Georges Road, Toorak

Sneak Peak: Family Farmers and Farmworkers Face the Virus

Malik Yakini speaks for many people in the movements for food sovereignty and sustainability as they face the crisis of the novel coronavirus. He sees it from the perspective of the urban farms of Detroit, as the executive director of the Black Community Food Security Network. “The problems people see now, from the difficulty they’re experiencing getting to markets to the absence of food on the shelves when they get there, really highlight the need for a new food system,” he says


‘What’s for dinner?’: Adam Liaw on why the answer is more important than you think

The problem is we’ve been sold the lie that cooking is both difficult and unimportant, so we no longer think of it as a priority for our time. We find time to wash our clothes, shop online and binge watch TV, but not to cook. We have to stop seeing cooking as a problem when it’s actually a solution.


The Australian native tea taking on the world

As native flavours grow in popularity in Australia, lemon myrtle and specifically lemon myrtle tea are emerging as a potential stand-out for international export. It’s refreshing lemon flavour and enough antioxidants to rival black tea have positioned the Australian botanical as a new and unique ingredient for tea blends worldwide. Following the recent expansion of its Australian plantations, Australia’s largest commercial grower, Australian Native Products, believes it is now poised to expand its offering on the global tea market, valued at more than $USD 12.6 billion

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