Remarks by Angel Gurría,
16 July 2020 - OECD, France
(As prepared for delivery)
Director General Qu, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to launch this joint publication, the 2020-2029 OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Director General Qu and his team for the close and continued partnership, and for joining us virtually today.
This publication comes at a particularly important time. The pandemic has triggered the most severe recession in nearly a century. Our latest Economic Outlook paints a bleak picture: we project a 6 to 7.5% annual decline in global GDP for 2020, with tens of millions additional people unemployed in the OECD by December 2020. And the recovery in 2021 will not be sufficient to bring back output and job losses generated by the crisis.
As the pandemic spread, and governments and consumers took precautions, we soon worried about empty food shelves and trucks with spoiling produce waiting at border crossings. However, supply chains adjusted quickly to satisfy the increased demand of consumers stuck in confinement. Governments rapidly created corridors for food to reach international markets in a timely manner; and so far, strong production and stocks have ensured that global food availability is stable.
Nevertheless, some disruptions persist including interruptions in food processing plants or shortages of seasonal labour. The impacts of these disruptions, however, have remained localised. However, there is no room for complacency, especially as the virus spreads to developing countries. We continue to monitor short-term developments, including policies, through the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS).
In the medium term, we expect global production to increase, in step with rising demand due to population and income growth. In the next ten years, prices will be trending slightly downward.
Moreover, productivity growth is going to drive the predicted increase in output. This is expected to ease pressure on resource use and help to narrow agriculture’s environmental footprint. At 0.5% per year, agricultural greenhouse gas emissions are projected to grow slower than in the past. Nevertheless, without additional efforts, this slowdown will still fall short of the targets outlined in the Paris Agreement.
Governments can actively help the sector in its green transition by investing in innovation, sustainability and resilience. The OECD Agricultural Policy Monitoring and Evaluation, that we released last month, showed that governments continue to support farmers with more the 500 billion dollars a year . By contrast, only about 100 billion dollars were spent on R&D, infrastructure and other enabling services that could improve productivity and sustainability. Innovation and sustainable resource use are crucial to achieving stable livelihoods for the sector’s workers, as well as food security for everybody, and a sustainable use of our planet’s resources.
The Outlook we are launching today underlines that although the agriculture sector can ensure food security throughout the pandemic and over the next decade, numerous challenges persist. Let me focus on some of them and the policy priorities that are put forward.
First, we are currently focusing on COVID-19, but we should not forget that different regions continue to face multiple challenges. For example, the African swine fever that decreased Chinese pork production by over 20% last year, or the locust plague that is destroying crops in East Africa.
At the same time, we face the many disruptions from climate change. In this context, distribution and access to global markets through open borders and rules-based trade are essential for robust and resilient food systems. In addition, reducing the environmental footprint of agriculture is key, including through targets for the reduction of pesticide use and by fostering innovation in the sector to reduce the carbon intensity of production.
Second, imports will become more important for regions with strong population growth, like Sub-Saharan Africa. Here, per capita calorie availability is expected to increase from 2440 kcal per day, to 2500 kcal per day – compared to a global average of 3000 kcal. A well-functioning, predictable international trade system can help ensure global food security and allow producers in exporting countries to thrive.
Third, past experience has shown that trade restrictions are no recipe for food security. On the contrary, they lower production and access, and increase pressure on global prices. As calls for protectionism grow, policy transparency is crucial to the trust and predictability that underpin a stable global trading system. Information on developments and trends in global markets, such as are provided in the Outlook or in the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) are one part, but importantly, countries should also notify their policy measures to the WTO.
And fourth, food access can be a challenge also within countries, especially in times of crisis. As we continue to grapple with COVID-19, we have to make sure that food can reach consumers despite confinement and border measures. And, as we deal with the economic fallout, governments have to provide safety nets to ensure access to healthy and nutritious food for vulnerable populations despite falling incomes.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Fortunately, the current health crisis has not turned into a food crisis. Nevertheless, we must not lose sight of the specific challenges that countries, communities and individuals continue to face. Sustainable food security can only be achieved by transparency, co-operation and support for innovation and sustainability.
The longstanding collaboration between the FAO and the OECD is testament to our resolve to tackle the challenges that we face together. Rest assured that the OECD will continue to strengthen this important partnership and focus on designing, developing and delivering better agricultural policies for better lives. Thank you.