This year’s The State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) report, entitled Making agrifood systems more resilient to shocks and stresses, was published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in November 2021. Without proper preparation, unpredictable shocks will continue to undermine agrifood systems, the report warns.
Today, there are approximately 3 billion people who cannot afford a healthy diet. The SOFA 2021 report estimates that an additional 1 billion people would join their ranks if a shock reduced incomes by one-third. Moreover, food costs could increase for up to 845 million people if a disruption to critical transport links were to occur.
The report presents country-level indicators of the resilience of agrifood systems in more than a hundred countries, by analysing factors such as transport networks, trade flows and the availability of healthy and varied diets. While low-income countries generally face much bigger challenges, its findings show that middle-income countries are also at risk.
In Brazil, for example, 60 per cent of the country’s export value comes from just one trading partner. This leaves it with fewer options if a shock hits a partner country. Even high-income countries such as Australia and Canada are at risk from a shock because of the long distances involved in the distribution of food. For nearly half of the countries analysed by FAO experts, the closure of critical network links would increase local transport time by 20 per cent or more, thereby increasing costs and food prices for consumers.
The key to making food systems more resilient is diversification - of input sources, production, markets and supply chains, as well as of actors – since diversity creates multiple pathways for absorbing shocks, the report states. Supporting the development of small and medium agrifood enterprises, cooperatives, consortia and clusters helps maintain diversity in domestic agrifood value chains.
Another key factor is connectivity. Well-connected agrifood networks overcome disruptions faster by shifting sources of supply and channels for transport, marketing, inputs and labour.
Finally, enhancing the resilience capacities of vulnerable households is critical to ensure a world free from hunger. This can be done through improved access to assets, to diversified sources of income and social protection programmes in the event of shocks.