FRANCE, Paris. The fight against the global Covid-19 pandemic is causing unprecedented uncertainties in global food supply chains, with potential bottlenecks in labour markets, input industries, agriculture production, food processing, transport and logistics, as well as shifts in demand for food and food services.
In the short term, the economic and social impacts of the pandemic interrupt the generally positive medium-term outlook for global agricultural production and food consumption. Governments face the challenge to create balanced policies that address immediate needs, such as labour shortages and create durable conditions for the agricultural sector to ‘build back better,’ according to a new report presented by OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría and UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Director-General QU Dongyu.
The joint OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2020-2029 report finds that over the next ten years supply growth is going to outpace demand growth, causing real prices of most commodities to remain at or below their current levels. Fluctuations in the driving factors of supply and demand could lead to strong price variations around this general path. At the same time, a decrease in disposable incomes in low-income countries and households caused by Covid-19 is expected to depress demand in the early years of this outlook and could further undermine food security.
Global livestock production is expected to expand by 14%, faster than the projected increase in animal numbers. Feed use will expand in line with aquaculture and livestock production as feed efficiency improvements will be counterbalanced by an increase in feed intensity due to reduced backyard farming.
The Outlook underscores the continuing need to invest in building productive, resilient and sustainable food systems in the face of uncertainties. Beyond Covid-19, current challenges include the locust invasion in East Africa and Asia, the continued spread of African swine fever, more frequent extreme climatic events, and trade tensions among major trading powers. The food system will also need to adapt to evolving diets and consumer preferences and take advantage of digital innovations in agro-food supply chains. Innovation will remain critical in improving the resilience of food systems in the face of multiple challenges.
Assuming the continuation of current policies and technologies, agricultural greenhouse gas emissions are projected to grow by 0.5% annually, indicating a reduction in agriculture’s carbon intensity. Livestock will account for 80% of this global increase. Nevertheless, without additional efforts, this slowdown will still fall short of what the agricultural sector could and should do to contribute to the Paris Agreement targets for fighting climate change.