The mission of Wageningen MFC is providing good food for everyone in an urbanizing world. Food security is one of the major fields of our business. We help our clients solving food security problems, with a co-design approach and implementing the six principles of the MFC concept.
As the current war in Ukraine and the sanctions being imposed on Russia accelerate the rise of agri-food commodity prices and disrupt agri-food logistics and supply, national and regional food security is once again becoming a priority on different countries’ agenda.
Wageningen MFC developed diagnostic instruments to position a country or region on a scale ranging from completely import-dependent to completely self-sufficient (and even exporting substantial surpluses). We categorize four types of countries or regions, based on our project experience and our research on food security:
- Countries and regions with unavailability of land and/or unsuitability of climate,
- Countries and regions with massive population pressure,
- Countries and regions with a disrupted link between urban and rural development,
- Countries and regions with surplus agri-food production.
It should be mentioned that every region or country has its unique situation, and that the solutions that we are co-designing are tailor-made for improving a specific country or region’s food security to surpass a critical threshold for survival in ‘worst case’ situations, whether it is caused by extreme (or worsening) climate conditions, lack of space, high demographic pressure, general economic under-development, or geo-political tensions.
Here, we elaborate our general view and strategies for each type of country or region to improve food security.
Type 4: Countries and regions with surplus agri-food production
The surplus countries and regions generally have an abundance of land and a well-developed agriculture. They can produce not only sufficient food for themselves, but also supply for the rest of world. Large parts of Europe, Oceania, Russia, and much of the Americas are typical examples. The relation is mutually beneficial. On the one hand these surplus countries and regions are the pillars of global food security; on the other hand, for themselves, agriculture and food exports are a pillar of a prosperous economy. To make this work, the global logistics network and supporting infrastructures are crucial.
However, this mutually beneficial system is not without problems, and problems that are expected to worsen in the future. Already now, in many surplus countries and regions, (1) economic benefits are not what they potentially could be. In the future this gap could widen due to (2) loss of production capacity caused by soil degradation and climate change, or due to (3) disruption of logistic relations caused by pandemics or geo-political conflicts. As a worst-case surplus countries and regions could even run into food security problems themselves. One might be optimistic that strategies to improve food security for deficit countries and regions, as introduced in the previous three stories will make the world as a whole less dependent on the surplus capacity of exporting countries and regions, and on the balancing power of the global logistic system. But for now, this is a long-term perspective. For the present and the near future, to maintain the surplus production capacity of exporting countries and regions, and to keep the logistic system running smoothly, are essential if we want to avoid serious food security problems at a global level.
To reduce the gap between actual and potential benefits of large-scale exports of agri-food products, several solutions are available: (i) deepening vertical integration, to integrate more steps within one supply chain; (ii) extending horizontal integration to integrate more different supply chains by using one another’s rest- and by-products; (iii) shift towards higher added value products and application of more advanced technologies; (iv) improved world market access, by improving agrologists system and infrastructures, and product quality; and (v) creating more synergy between plantation-style production and local producers. To read more, please click here.
To deal with developments that threaten production capacity, two issues are important: (i) preventing and improving soil degradation, this relates to horizontal integration because of the opportunity to replace chemical fertiliser by organic matter rich animal manure; and (ii) finding answers to climate change effects, especially drought, this relates to more advanced technologies, especially water-saving land-independent production of fruit and vegetables; flooding – less important in our package; more pest and disease pressure – again relates to advanced technologies/closed land-independent systems.
As an answer to increasing logistic disruptions (of two types: (i) caused by pandemics; and (ii) caused by increasing geo-political tensions/conflicts) our approach is mainly to strengthen the self-sufficiency potential of deficit countries and regions – hence the countries and regions with unavailability of land and/or unsuitability of climate, with massive population pressure, and with disrupted link between urban and rural development. However, the link between the local/country/regional level logistic system/infrastructure with the global system remains very important, focusing on rural transformation centres; local/regional sourcing for agroparks; consolidation centres; export centres – as nodal points in integrated multi-modal transportation networks.
In the coming weeks, we will elaborate more detailed contents on these three perspectives. Stay tuned!
To read about other types of countries or regions and their food security challenges: