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Lessons from the pandemic: agri-food systems must be more resilient – Agro Diary


Agri-food systems need to be more resistant to unexpected shocks, such as the coronavirus pandemic, which is the main cause of widespread hunger. According to a recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), agri-food systems remain at risk due to a lack of preparedness.

Photo: ©FAO/Hashem Azizi

Until 2021 The state of food and agriculture The main theme of the FAO report is to make agricultural food systems more resilient to shocks. In this regard, the publication presents the current state of national agri-food systems and provides advice on how to improve their resilience.

Today, about 3 billion people do not have access to healthy food. The FAO report estimates how many people could be in this situation if they cut their salaries by a third in an unexpected situation. Additionally, food could become more expensive for 845 million people if they get stuck in important shipping lanes. The report defines shock as “a short-term deviation from the long-term trend that negatively affects the system as a whole, people’s well-being, financial situation, livelihoods, and resilience.” Examples include weather fluctuations, diseases and pests of plants and animals.

Even before the outbreak of the pandemic, the world was not on track to eliminate hunger and malnutrition by 2030. While food production and supply chains have been historically sensitive to extreme weather events, armed conflict or rising food prices, the frequency and severity of such shocks will increase in the future.

The world’s agri-food systems, a complex network of activities covering the production, storage, processing, transportation, distribution and consumption of approximately 11 billion tons of food and non-food agricultural products, directly and indirectly provide livelihoods for four billion people. The importance of enhancing their resilience cannot be overemphasized.

The report presents national data for more than 100 countries, including Hungary, and analyzes factors such as the quality of transport and trade infrastructure, and the availability of healthy, diverse foods.

While low-income countries are usually forced to face greater challenges, the report says middle-income countries are not safe either. For example, 60% of Brazil’s export earnings come from a trading partner, which narrows room for maneuver in the event of an unexpected shock. Even high-income countries such as Australia or Canada are at risk due to the long distances food has to travel. In nearly half of the countries surveyed, shutting down major networks will increase delivery times and therefore costs by up to 20%, making food more expensive for consumers.

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