Launch of the OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2021-2030, 5 July 2021


Remarks by Mathias Cormann,

Secretary-General, OECD

Paris, 5 July 2021

Director General Dogyu, Colleagues,

I am absolutely delighted to launch this year’s Agricultural Outlook with Qu Dogyu, the Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization.

This is the 17th Outlook that we have produced jointly with the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Our long-standing collaboration has ensured support to the agricultural sector and helped deliver solutions to fight hunger everywhere.

This study looks at where trends are expected to take us ten years from now. This year, the projections end in 2030—the target for the Sustainable Development Goals.

We are sadly behind schedule for many of the targets, including when it comes to the “Zero Hunger” goal.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put us further off-track by holding back incomes and exposing our vulnerabilities.

However, there have been some positive developments. Despite initial concerns, a breakdown in food supply chains did not materialise. COVID-19 was not a food crisis.

Despite the downturn in overall trade, trade in agro-food products grew by 3.6% and production levels were up 1.4% in 2020.

Still, the recent price rally in several agricultural commodities has made food less affordable for many.

It has also underlined the importance of the transparency mechanisms implemented after the 2008 food price crisis.

By providing information on policies and market conditions, the G20’s Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) has helped discourage countries from implementing export restrictions that would have further exacerbated the situation.

When we shift from short-term fluctuations to the Outlook’s longer-term projections, we can see two encouraging trends— more trade and more productivity.

OECD member countries are united in our commitment to global trade, market-based economic principles and supporting a global level playing field. With over 20% of calories crossing at least one border on their way from farm to table, agro-food trade is essential for reaching the “Zero Hunger” goal.

Disruptions from natural hazards further emphasise the role of trade in ensuring food security. As past crises and, to some extent, the COVID-19 pandemic have shown, firms’ ability to fall back on a diverse set of suppliers in a global market contributes significantly to supply chain resilience.

Over the last decade, agricultural output has grown at 1.7% per year—overwhelmingly through higher productivity.

For the next decade, however, we project that output growth is going to slow to 1.4% per year. Productivity improvements will account for 87% of that growth. If we want to tackle the triple challenge of ensuring food security, sustainability and producer livelihoods, then our policies need to focus on productivity.

Productivity growth is also of particular importance when we look at agriculture’s role in the fight against climate change.

Despite an expected decline in the carbon intensity of production, the sector is still projected to emit 4% more greenhouse gases in 2030 than it does today—moving further away from our Paris Agreement targets.

Our diets contribute significantly to these trends—80% of the increase in emissions is going to come from livestock.

Fortunately, our projections are not prophecies. We can and we must take action to get ourselves back onto the right track – to meet our sustainable development and climate goals.

Above all, action should focus on investing in the drivers of productivity—infrastructure, innovation, and human capital.

Our latest Agricultural Policy Monitoring and Evaluation report, released last month, details that the 54 governments covered in this report, spend only USD 76 billion per year on innovation, biosecurity and infrastructure. This is a tiny fraction of the USD 720 billion in total government support to the sector, of which almost half distorts international markets and undermines the role of trade in our food systems.

Dear colleagues,

Action is needed and action is possible. The international community has a responsibility to make global agriculture more productive and sustainable.

Even in these challenging times, the partnership between the OECD and Food and Agriculture Organisation is stronger than ever. This year’s UN Food Systems Summit offers us an opportunity to develop a global vision for food systems.

By sharing best practices, by investing in innovation, capacity building and infrastructure, and by ensuring functioning global markets, together we can truly reach our goals and defeat hunger.

Thank you.


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