Food security stories 4.3 – Countries and regions with surplus agri-food production



In the previous Blog, we stressed that surplus countries and regions are crucial for global agri-food security. We also pointed out that these surplus countries face problems, which are (1) gaps between actual and potential benefits, (2) loss of productivity due to soil degradation and climate change, and 
(3) disruption of logistic relations.  


In this blog we deal with problems caused by soil degradation and climate change, and with disruption of logistic relations.


Soil degradation has many causes: salination due to unsuitable irrigation practices, overusing of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, neglecting the need for crop rotation and fallowing, using too heavy machinery, and so on.  A crucial factor is to keep organic matter at a healthy level, which can be attained by integrating animal production with production of land-dependent crops as elaborated in the Brazil example. Next to safeguarding the quality and fertility of the land, maintaining constant high productivity, the integrated approach also provides producers with a higher income, and reduces the total amount of land required.


The biggest problem for surplus regions is increasing water shortage due to climate change. Generally, zones with high precipitation levels move to higher latitudes, causing droughts in traditional production areas such as Kazakhstan, Australia, and large parts of the US and Brazil (see map below). IPCC predicts that for different climate scenarios for Latin America temperature rise might be between 2℃ and 6℃ while as much as 50% of present arable land is threatened by desertification making it unsuitable for agriculture[1]. Water saving technologies and smart water management are crucial, such as precision irrigation, limitation of ground water extraction, and finally a shift to sheltered systems. It is inevitable, however, that part of the present surplus areas will lose their exporting capacities, or will even turn into deficit areas, calling for the need to develop present low-productive areas where future rainfall is expected to increase, to take over as exporters.


The case of Mexico as described in the previous blog, is one of the examples how the design of agro-logistic networks and agro-parks might strengthen climate resilience. Especially the central and northern parts of the countries are expected to be seriously hit by climate change. There is an urge to shift the production from open fields to modern sheltered systems as much as possible. The benefits of doing so are greatly increased water efficiency, better protection against extreme weather events, and a much higher diversity of products answering the demands of constantly changing markets and leading to much higher profitability too.  


Source: Putnam, A. E., & Broecker, W. S. (2017). Human-induced changes in the distribution of rainfall. Science Advances, 3(5), e1600871.


Geo-political conflicts with their disruptive effect on logistic relations, hit importing countries in the first place, but of course exporting countries are affected as well. While countries in the Middle East and Northern and Eastern Africa go hungry because of wheat exports from Ukraine are drying up, wheat is heaping up in Ukrainian warehouses. As another example of exports being affected by disrupted logistic relations, during the COVID-19 pandemic many surplus countries felt obliged to restrict their deliveries to the world market in order to build strategic reserves and stabilise prices for their own population.   


This is our last Blog regarding our food security stories. Please see the links blow to see other Blogs in this series. Thank you for your patience, we hope you enjoy the reading! We will keep sharing our knowledge and insights through this platform, please stay tuned!


[1] Magrin, G., C. Gay García, D. Cruz Choque, J.C. Giménez, A.R. Moreno, G.J. Nagy, C. Nobre and A. Villamizar, 2007: Latin America. Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, M.L. Parry, O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson, Eds., Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 581-615.