COVID-19 has made the world realize the weakness of agro food system

The food and agriculture status report of FAO in 2021 reveals the vulnerability of the agricultural food system and puts forward solutions to the impact.

Rome – the global hunger population has increased again due to the serious impact of COVID-19. Therefore, countries need to improve the resilience of agricultural and food systems to deal with the sudden impact during the epidemic. The food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released its latest report today, pointing out that if it is not prepared, the sudden impact will continue to destroy the agricultural food system.

This year, the FAO state of food and agriculture report, with the theme of “improving the resilience of agricultural food systems and coping with shocks and pressures”, assessed the ability of national agricultural food systems to respond to shocks and pressures and recover rapidly from them. The report also provides guidance to governments on how to improve resilience.

At present, about 3 billion people around the world cannot afford a healthy diet. The state of food and agriculture report estimates that if the impact reduces income by one third, another 1 billion people will go hungry. In addition, if key transportation links are damaged, as many as 845 million people will face the dilemma of rising food costs. The report defines shocks as “short-term deviations from long-term trends that have a significant adverse impact on systems, human well-being, assets, livelihoods, security and the ability to withstand future shocks”, such as extreme weather events and outbreaks of animal and plant diseases and pests.

Before the outbreak of COVID-19, countries all over the world were facing insufficient progress, and it was difficult to achieve the commitment to eradicate hunger and malnutrition by 2030. Food production and supply chains are vulnerable to extreme climate, armed conflict or rising global food prices. At the same time, the impact is increasing and frequent.

The report was released at the right time.

Qu Dongyu, director general of FAO, pointed out at the online conference that “COVID-19 has made us realize the weakness of the agro food system.” FAO’s chief economist, Maximo Torrero Cullen, presented the report at the press conference and held a group discussion with policy makers and academics.

Take practical action

The world’s agricultural and food system is complex. It is intertwined by a series of food and non food agricultural products production and their storage, processing, transportation, circulation and consumption activities. The annual output is up to 11 billion tons of grain and billions of people are directly or indirectly employed. It is urgent to strengthen the ability of the agricultural and grain system to resist the impact, and we must attach great importance to it.

By analyzing relevant factors, such as transportation network, trade exchanges and the popularity of healthy and diversified meals, the report also established resilience indicators of agricultural and food systems at the national level for more than 100 countries. Although low-income countries generally face more severe challenges, the report finds that middle-income countries also face risks. For example, 60% of Brazil’s exports come from only one trading partner. Once it is hit, Brazil will be helpless. Even high-income countries such as Australia and Canada may be impacted due to the long logistics distance. For nearly half of the countries analyzed by FAO experts, after the rupture of key network links, the local transportation time will increase by at least 20%, and the transportation costs and food prices borne by consumers will rise.

Based on the empirical evidence of this report, FAO recommends that governments make the resilience of agricultural food systems a strategic element for their countries to meet current and future challenges.

Among them, the key is to realize the diversification of input resources, production, market, supply chain and participants, because diversification can resolve the impact and open up a variety of ways. Supporting the development of small and medium-sized agricultural grain enterprises, cooperatives, federations and industrial clusters will help to maintain the diversification of domestic agricultural grain value chain.

Another key factor is connectivity. Interconnected agricultural food networks can change the sources of supply and the channels of transportation, sales, inputs and labor, so as to overcome difficulties more quickly.

Finally, strengthening the resilience of vulnerable families is also the key to eradicating global hunger. To this end, we can expand access to assets, broaden sources of income, popularize social protection plans and help cope with various shocks.

Director general Qu pointed out: “the state of food and agriculture reflects the work of FAO in strengthening resilience. We will also set up new indicators to help member states measure the resilience of their agricultural and food systems and identify the links that need to be improved.”

Source: FAO

Post time: Nov-30-2021