Archive for the ‘Agrifood’ Category

Nearly two billion people are shown to be dependent on imported food

Researchers at Aalto University have shown a broad connection between resource scarcity, population pressure and food imports in a study published in Earth’s Future.

The earth’s capacity to feed its growing population has long been a topic of global discussion but previous research has not previously clearly demonstrated this connection.

The researchers performed a global analysis focusing on regions where water availability restricts production and examined the period from 1961 to  2009, evaluating the extent to which the growing population pressure was met by increasing food imports.

The researchers’ work combined modelled data with FAO statistics and took into consideration increases in production efficiency resulting from technological development. The analysis showed that in 75% of resource scarce regions, food imports began to rise as the region’s own production became insufficient.

Even less wealthy regions relied on the import strategy — but not always successfully.

According to the research, the food security of about 1.4 billion people has become dependent on imports and an additional 460 million people live in areas where increased imports are not enough to compensate for the lack of local production.

The big issue, says co-author Dr Joseph Guillaume, is that people may not even be aware that they have chosen dependency on imports over further investment in local production or curbing demand.

“It seems obvious to look elsewhere when local production is not sufficient, and our analysis clearly shows that is what happens. Perhaps that is the right choice, but it should not be taken for granted.”

The international food system is sensitive and price and production shocks can spread widely and undermine food security — especially in poorer countries that are dependent on imports. As a result, further investments in raising production capacity could be a viable alternative. Especially in sub-Saharan Africa and India, there are opportunities to sustainably improve food production by, for example, more efficient use of nutrients and better irrigation systems.

Postdoctoral researcher Miina Porkka emphasises that the solutions will ultimately require more than just increasing food production.

“Keeping food demand in check is the key issue. Controlling population growth plays an essential role in this work, but it would also be important to enhance production chains by reducing food waste and meat consumption. Since one quarter of all the food produced in the world is wasted, reducing this would be really significant on a global level.”

This post is based on information provided by Aalto University.

Communications expert says the agrifood sector needs a rapid response group

The agrifood sector needs to establish a rapid-response crisis management group to protect the reputation of New Zealand’s food products, says a communication expert from Massey University.

Dr Chris Galloway says the agrifood sector is “worth literally billions of dollars to the New Zealand economy” and the best way to minimise the impact of the next crisis is with a rapid and coordinated response between industry and government.

“In a situation like the Fonterra botulism scare you really need coordinated messaging and responses to avoid confusion and to show that you are on top of the situation,” Dr Galloway says.

“Agrifood – and New Zealand’s reputation for quality and safety – is too important to the wider economy for government to take a hands-off approach. Our reputation allows us to charge a premium in overseas markets, such as China. If that reputation is damaged it has a direct dollar consequence – and not just on the individual companies concerned.”

Dr Galloway says industry and government agencies like the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) do a good job, but past crises have shown coordination gaps in terms of messaging and the timing of announcements. He says the first step is to identify key stakeholders and do joint scenario planning.

“One of the things that really speeds things up in a crisis is pre-authorising people to make certain decisions without having to go up the organisational food chain. If you have a crisis management group that has run some scenarios and can agree on a response, they will deal with a live contamination threat much more efficiently – and that can really minimise reputational damage.”

Dr Galloway will discuss his ideas at the latest Big Issues in Business seminar, hosted by the Massey Business School. The event’s theme is ‘Safe food, safe business’ and Dr Galloway will be joined by MPI director-general Martyn Dunne and Jo Finer, director group regulatory, global brands and nutrition at Fonterra.

The three speakers will discuss strategies for managing reputational risk in the agrifood sector, including identifying potential threats, proactively managing risks and repairing a reputation after it’s been damaged.

Dr Galloway also believes a rapid-response team that meets regularly could share market intelligence about potential threats.

“Organisations individually scan for risks in their operating environment – but let’s have a way of bringing those insights together to help anticipate risks and formulate coordinated responses. We are too small a country, and the agrifood sector is too important, for national interest not to take priority over individual company interests.”

The seminar is being held on Thursday 4 June.