The world is now facing a major food crisis – FAO

The pandemic, global disruptions in supply chains, rising prices for key commodities, conflicts and humanitarian crises are threatening the functioning of the world’s agri-food systems, said Qu Dongyu, director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

“Now we are at serious risk of a food access crisis and possibly a food access crisis next season. All of this has jeopardized our efforts to achieve the SDGs,” Qu said at the opening of the 2022 United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) in New York last Tuesday.

The HLPF is the main United Nations platform for the implementation and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the global level.

“We must prevent acute food shortage trends from accelerating in the coming months and years,” Qu said.

The FAO Director-General outlined the steps that the international community must take to remedy this situation:

Food production at the country level must be expanded.

Monetary and critical resources are needed to produce crops and vegetables, and to protect livestock through treatment, vaccination, feed and water.

Agri-food supply chains and value chains need to be strengthened, involving the public and private sectors, to support small farmers and households.

In addition, livelihoods, agri-food systems and economies need to be protected from future shocks.

Increasing sustainable productivity, expanding the provision of services and goods, and increasing access to innovative financial tools and digital services are essential to mitigate the impact of conflict on food insecurity.

No time to waste

Speaking at the FAO-led side event, Transforming Agriculture and Food Systems for a Sustainable World: Responding to Global Crises, Qu said: “We have only eight years until the agreed timeline for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. We have no time to waste.”

Qu summarized the scope of the challenge ahead, pointing out the impact of the pandemic, conflicts and cumulative losses on the global economy of more than $12 trillion in 2020 and 2021, which will slow down progress towards the SDGs.

To overcome these challenges, he identified four main areas for attention: investment in countries most in need; policies that increase productivity and protect natural resources; ensuring more efficient use of available resources and products; and the importance of innovation, science and research.

Timely food assistance is needed, FAO says, but more attention needs to be paid to producing nutritious foods locally. Only 8 percent of all emergency food security funding goes to help agricultural production, but investment in agriculture and rural livelihoods is seven to ten times more cost-effective than traditional assistance.

“We must implement policies that will both increase productivity and protect natural resources,” Qu said.

Significant financial investment, estimated at 8 percent of the size of the agri-food market, is needed to transform agri-food systems to promote healthy and nutritious diets and ensure equitable outcomes.

Waste management

Qu also spoke about the need to make better and more efficient use of available products and resources, citing examples of global water scarcity, food loss and waste, and more efficient use of fertilizers.

About 1 billion hectares of land are severely water-stressed, and nearly 800 million hectares of rainfed arable land and pastures are severely affected by recurring drought.

More efficient use of the best technologies and regulations is needed for the efficient use of water in agriculture.

The FAO Director-General also drew attention to the issue of food loss and waste.

Current levels of food loss and waste could feed about 1.26 billion people a year.

Qu also stressed the need to use technology to improve the efficiency of fertilizer use.

The FAO Director-General noted that innovation, science and research are key to accelerating the achievement of all these goals.