Dr Bushell – principal scientific adviser, global R&D, Syngenta – was delivering the keynote address on the second day of the Food Security 2010: Making Food Security Work: Matching Supply to Demand conference, held at Chatham House in London.
He stressed that, greater than the need for technology was the need for the food industry, organisations, countries and governments to work more closely together and to focus on local solutions.
According to various speakers, around 30-40% of today’s food harvest is wasted, and education, proper storage facilities and transport infrastructures could make rapid inroads into reducing this loss, optimising the amount of food readily available internally or for food export, and therefore putting smallholder farmers and developing nations on a more sustainable footing.
Drought-resistant corn and co-cropping (ie where an indigenous vegetable is planted alongside corn to attract the insects away from the corn, which has seen a twofold increase in the corn yield during pilot projects) are also future options for boosting productivity.
However, it was noted that climate change is likely to bring a 27% reduction in production at a time when the world needs to double its production, and erosion and salination are losing the world 14m hectares of arable land per annum. So, the challenge is still quite daunting.
Yet, growth through good agricultural practices, governance and education is possible. According to FAO OECD (Food & Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations/Organisation for International co-Operation and Development) figures, a growth in agricultural production of 40% is now expected from Brazil, while growth in the EU is expected to be around just 4%.
Eastern Europe, meanwhile, has very fertile land, which has been left relatively untouched following the fall of the communist regime. According to one presenter, Eastern Europe could play a big part in food security in the future. However, lack of private land ownership (which means farmers cannot use land as a collateral to achieve pre-harvest financing) and no long-term grain policy, coupled with a fragmented infrastructure, hamper the potential progress the region can currently make.
Brazil has already overcome some of these challenges, and many farmers are now able to overcome land issues by using future crops as collateral to raise finance. According to one speaker, who highlighted the economic revival of Brazil’s agricultural sector as the success story that may provide guidance to other developing regions: “Whenever you modernise agriculture, you reduce carbon emissions.”
Whatever actions and projects are undertaken, partnership is essential, and whereas modern retailing is criticised in the west, it’s invaluable to support an embryonic infrastructure in developing countries.
“It’s important to work with the private sector to create a replicable and rapidly scalable model”, said one speaker about key elements that must be present in any agricultural development project.
Claire Rowan is managing editor of Food & Beverage International magazine. Subscribe here.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019