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What is the news?
On September 14, three UN agencies — Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), UN Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Environment Programme (UNEP) — released A multi-billion-dollar opportunity: Repurposing agricultural support to transform food systems report.
About the report
The report analysed countries’ support to farmers and the consequent adverse impacts on food prices, environment, global warming and farmers, specifically smallholders.
It was released on the eve of the Food Systems Summit September 23, 2021 and is a part of the process to speed up progress on all the 17 UN-mandated Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
It focuses on the countries’ support to farmers that distort prices, encourage emission-intensive agriculture resulting in global warming and make the global agriculture trade an unequal one for the vast smallholder farmers.
What are the findings of the report?
Currently, countries pump in $540 billion a year as support to farmers. This is expected to triple by 2030 to $1.759 trillion. Yet 87% of this support, approximately $470 billion, is price distorting and environmentally and socially harmful. Of this, only $110 billion was used to support infrastructure, research and development and benefitted the general food and agriculture sector.
Firstly, the agricultural support system, in form of price incentives and fiscal subsidies, is not helping the farmers as it should have. Rather, it is keeping us away from SDGs and the Paris Agreement
Secondly, most of the support was targeted at a few commodities thus not benefiting all farmers.
Thirdly, the support was for the most emission-intensive sectors like sugar and the beef production chain; and third, the current support systems had invariably helped corporates more than producers.
– The farming sector in India has been largely penalised over the last 20 years, due to the strong focus of Indian agricultural policy on protecting consumers by ensuring affordable food prices. This is also known as “taxing” the farmers
What are the recommendations?
The report’s call was not to eliminate support but to repurpose it away from emission-intensive and environment unfriendly sectors.
The report had a six-step recommendation to start the repurposing process.
For governments, it suggested:
i). Measuring the support provided
ii). Understanding its positive and negative impacts
iii). Identifying repurposing options
iv). Forecasting their impacts
v). Refining the proposed strategy and detailing its implementation plan
vi). Monitoring the implemented strategy
Meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement requires shifting support especially in high-income countries for an outsized meat and dairy industry, which accounts for 14.5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
In lower-income countries, governments should consider repurposing their support for toxic pesticides and fertilizers or the growth of monocultures.
Source: This post is based on the articles “Food Systems Summit: ‘Supports to farmers keeping the world away from SDGs and the Paris Agreement” and “Food Systems Summit: How government is robbing billions of dollars from farmers” published in Down to Earth on 14th Sep 2021.