OECD food systems resources

Explore recent OECD food systems-related reports, working papers and policy briefs.

Key food systems resources

Making Better Policies for Food Systems

Towards Sustainable Land Use

Towards Sustainable Land Use

Rural Well-Being: Geography of Opportunities

Rural Well-Being: Geography of Opportunities

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27/09/2022
Food systems exert major pressures on the environment. This paper reviews what is known and not known about environmental impacts along food supply chains, looking at the contribution of different stages of the supply chain, the impact of different products, heterogeneity among producers, and the role of international trade. This review shows that most environmental impacts in food supply chains occur through land use change or at the stage of agricultural production. Livestock (especially ruminant livestock) has a higher footprint than plant-based food. However, there is also important heterogeneity among producers, even within the same region. A significant share of total environmental impacts is "embodied" in international trade, although considerably less than half. In terms of evidence gaps, some impacts (e.g. biodiversity, soil carbon) have been less studied, and there are geographic and product blind spots. Moreover, existing evidence is not sufficiently granular. While important evidence gaps thus exist, the overall picture that emerges is one of a rapidly growing evidence base, which can inform innovative supply chain initiatives to reduce impacts.
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27/09/2022
This paper reviews initiatives which take a “supply chain lens” to improving environmental outcomes of food systems. Some focus on due diligence, or ask firms to disclose impacts of their supply chain. Others benchmark firms according to supply chain performance. Firms also increasingly make corporate pledges covering their supply chain. In addition to traditional voluntary sustainability standards and labels, new labels are emerging which communicate actual environmental impacts along the life cycle. Governments can also provide financial incentives linked to such impacts. This review demonstrates the strong growth and diversity of initiatives, bolstered by more clearly defined societal expectations and reporting standards, and leading to a greater availability of data and evidence and more universal reporting, reducing the scope for greenwashing. Despite their great promise, there remain coverage gaps. Evidence on effectiveness also remains relatively scarce, although there is a clear increase in the number of empirical studies.
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22/09/2022
Food systems are expected to ensure food security and nutrition for a growing population. While food insecurity is more acute in developing countries, OECD countries are also affected. The current high-level of food prices could push more people into poverty and hunger. Governments have a role to play in easing impacts on households. They run or support food assistance programmes, such as school meal programmes, food voucher programmes and food banks’ operations. Based on OECD countries’ experiences, this paper provides a roadmap to identify and overcome evidence gaps on food insecurity and food assistance programmes to allow for a better targeting and improved efficiency of such programmes. This paper highlights the need for a coordinated effort by OECD countries to collect regular and comparable information.
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22/09/2022
Fostering gender inclusion can have positive impacts on the food systems' triple challenge of ensuring food security and nutrition for a growing population, supporting the livelihoods of millions of people working in the food supply chain, and doing so in an environmentally sustainable way. Yet these positive synergies are often invisible as sex-disaggregated information is not collected. This report calls for the development of better evidence on gender and food systems as a necessary first step in the path towards gender equality. Based on OECD countries’ experiences, it provides a roadmap to identify and overcome evidence gaps on gender aspects and policies that address gender inequality in food systems with the aim of advancing women’s contribution to food systems.
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29/06/2022
The OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2022-2031 provides a consensus assessment of the ten-year prospects for agricultural commodity and fish markets at national, regional, and global levels, and serves as a reference for forward-looking policy analysis and planning. Projections suggest that, following a business-as-usual path, SDG 2 on Zero Hunger would not be achieved by 2030 and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture would continue to increase. To achieve the Zero Hunger target while reducing direct GHG by 6%, overall agricultural productivity would need to increase by 28% over the next decade. Comprehensive action to boost agricultural investment and innovation, and to enable technology transfer are urgently required in order to put the agricultural sector on the necessary sustainable growth trajectory. Additional efforts to reduce food loss and waste, and to limit excess calorie and protein intakes would also be necessary. This report is a collaborative effort between the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, prepared with inputs from Member countries and international commodity organisations. It highlights fundamental economic and social trends driving the global agri-food sector, assuming no major changes to weather conditions or policies. More information can be found at www.agri-outlook.org.
SDG
23/06/2022
This annual report monitors and evaluates agricultural policies in 54 countries, including the 38 OECD countries, the five non-OECD EU Member States, and 11 emerging economies. It finds that the continued rise in agricultural support has been slower than sector growth in recent years, but has been driven to record highs mainly by temporary factors. The share of general services to the sector (including innovation and infrastructure) in total support provided to the sector has decreased to 13%. This year’s report focuses on the potential for agriculture and agricultural policies to contribute to climate change mitigation. It argues that short-term agricultural policy responses to global crises must simultaneously address current challenges and support reforms to combat climate change and distortions in international markets.
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UN action track
30/05/2022
Increased productivity and sustainability of the agricultural sector are core policy objectives in OECD and non-OECD countries. This Guide provides an overview of the current state of the art in measuring sustainable productivity of the agricultural sector and analysing sources of growth in a reliable and comparable manner across countries in a way useful for policy makers. It draws on the contributions from members of the OECD Network on Agricultural Total Factor Productivity (TFP) and the Environment that brings together relevant experts from academia and national statistical agencies. Its insights will be key for designing policies necessary to meet the triple challenge of feeding a growing world population and providing incomes to food system actors whilst ensuring environmental sustainability.The Guide presents recommendations in two areas. First, on how to improve the traditional calculation of TFP based on market prices inputs and outputs, proposing harmonised methods on capital measurement, land pricing, output aggregation and quality adjustment. Second, on how to account for environmental outcomes, considering a reduction in pollution or emissions as a productivity gain, but the increased use of natural capital as a productivity loss. A main challenge is the estimation of “shadow prices” for non-market inputs and outputs. It is recommended to pursue several complementary avenues: investing in improving TFP methodologies and data; continuing investigating its expansion to include environmental outcomes; and mapping traditional TFP with other indicators of agri-environmental performance.
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UN action track
SDG
13/04/2022
One important constraint to farmers’ adoption of digital technologies, beyond costs, relevance, user-friendliness, human capital requirements, and perceived technology risks, is farmers’ lack of trust in digital technologies. A number of issues underlie this lack of trust: 1) problems of data privacy, security, and confidence in data sharing; 2) cases of misaligned incentives of sellers and buyers of digital technologies; 3) difficulty in learning how to unwrap “black box” technologies; and 4) lack of standards for comparing and certifying the operation of digital technologies. Governments have several potential options to help bridge these trust gaps. These include encouraging firms to decouple their sales of problem assessment from sales of solutions; strengthening public sector extension services and farmers’ technological learning; facilitating the development of risk-sharing arrangements between technology providers and farmers; and exploring ways to promote the standardisation of evaluation and certification of digital agricultural technologies.
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UN action track
SDG
13/04/2022
Digitalisation offers the potential to help address the productivity, sustainability and resilience challenges facing agriculture. Evidence on the adoption and impacts of digital agriculture in OECD countries from national surveys and the literature indicates broad use of digital technologies in row crop farms, but less evidence is available on uptake for livestock and speciality crops. Common barriers to adoption include costs (up-front investment and recurring maintenance expenses), relevance and limited use cases, user-friendliness, high operator skill requirements, mistrust of algorithms, and technological risk. National governments have an important role in addressing bottlenecks to adoption, such as by ensuring better information about costs and benefits of various technologies (including intangible benefits such as quality of life improvements); investing in human capital; ensuring appropriate incentives for innovation; serving as knowledge brokers and facilitators of data-sharing to spur inclusive, secure and representative data ecosystems; and promoting competitive markets.
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UN action track
SDG
24/01/2022
Net soil carbon sequestration on agricultural lands could offset 4% of annual global human-induced GHG emissions over the rest of the century and make an important contribution to meeting the targets of the Paris Agreement. To harness this potential of the agricultural sector to positively contribute to the sustainability agenda, a package of policies is needed to enhance global soil carbon stocks. Such a package would include regulations to prevent the loss of soil carbon, knowledge transfer policies to promote “win-win” solutions, and additional incentives delivered via market-based policies. The latter will need to be supported by innovative contracting solutions to address concerns about the non-permanence of carbon stocks and to reduce transaction costs.
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UN action track
SDG
19/01/2022
A shift towards healthier diets is expected to address the challenge of providing food security and nutrition for a growing global population. This report explores whether such a shift would also have positive effects on the other two challenges food systems face: supporting livelihoods for those working along the food supply chain and contributing to environmental sustainability. The report finds that aligning diets with World Health Organisation guidelines on sugar and fat consumption would have the expected positive effect on nutrition and food security, and would also positively affect environmental sustainability. The effect on livelihoods along the food value chain, however, would overall be negative. The magnitude of the trade-offs and synergies are greater when fat consumption is reduced, as opposed to sugar consumption, because actual consumption levels of fat are further away from WHO recommendations.
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UN action track
SDG
13/01/2022
International grain prices experienced a sharp increase during the 2020/2021 marketing season, most likely due to the unprecedented increase of imported grains by China. What would be the possible impact on international grain markets if China remains a strong grain importer? The scenario developed to explore the impact of such a development shows that further increases in Chinese grain imports over the medium term could result in a 4% to 25% increase in agriculture commodity prices compared to what was projected in the OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2021-2030.
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UN action track
SDG
27/10/2021
The risks of carbon leakage associated with climate policies in the agricultural sector remains under-researched. Studies to date suggest that carbon pricing policies implemented by a single country, or small group of countries, reduce global emissions but also affect the international competitiveness of these countries’ agricultural sectors and induce carbon leakage. While carbon leakage can be prevented with trade-related measures that adjust emissions prices at the border, such measures applied in developed countries could potentially lead to significant welfare losses for developing countries that heavily rely on agricultural exports. That said, important caveats apply to the reviewed studies: i) from an environmental perspective, estimations of carbon leakage rates alone do not offer a comprehensive assessment of how optimally agricultural activities are allocated across countries; ii) most of the studies estimate the effects of additional environmental policies, such as carbon taxes, and ignore the effects of existing policies, including market distorting and potentially environmentally harmful support for agricultural production.
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UN action track
SDG
27/10/2021
Carbon leakage arises when emission reductions in countries applying a carbon tax are offset, partially or completely, by emission increases in countries that do not apply the tax or any other greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation policies. Analysis using the MAGNET computable general equilibrium model indicates that a carbon tax always lowers global GHG emissions from agriculture, even when it is applied in a small group of countries, provided that producers facing the tax can make use of GHG abatement technologies. This suggests that mitigation policies should be considered in conjunction with investments in research and development on abatement practices and technologies. When a small number of countries adopt a carbon tax, about half of the direct reduction in emissions in adopting counties is offset by higher emissions in non-adopting countries; the rate of carbon leakage declines as the group of countries implementing a carbon tax expands. Higher tax rates stimulate larger global emissions reductions, but also induce higher rates of emissions leakage, thus limiting the mitigation benefits from setting higher tax rates in contexts where few countries adopt the policy.
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UN action track
SDG
27/10/2021
Understanding consumption-based emissions from Agriculture, Forestry and Land-use (AFOLU) activities is important in developing climate policy for the sector. This paper proposes a new methodology to construct indicators – CBAFOLU indicators ‒ to provide estimates of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions arising from AFOLU activities (including fisheries) in the global supply chain of finished products. The CBAFOLU indicators identify the countries where emissions are generated and the countries where the goods that “embody” these emissions are eventually consumed. CBAFOLU indicators are provided for bilateral flows of emissions for 65 countries over 2005-15. The indicators also break down emissions by types of GHG: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and CO2 emissions from land use, land-use change, and forestry (LULUCF). Given their preliminary nature, the CBAFOLU indicators should be seen as a first building block in a series of steps to explore the allocation of AFOLU activities across countries through the lens of sustainability; priorities for further work to refine the indicators are also proposed.
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UN action track
SDG
14/10/2021
Border processes for perishable agro-food products involve multiple agencies and raise complex compliance and enforcement issues. At the same time, the speed of border processes is of particular importance for exporters as delays at the border can have great negative impacts on the quality of perishable agro-food products and hence their value. This calls for a more detailed and nuanced look at the impact of trade facilitation reforms on agro-food trade. This report examines how a sub-set of OECD Trade Facilitation Indicators (TFIs) could be used to provide a more complete picture of the current performance of border processes for perishable agro-food goods. It highlights specific TFIs of relevance to agro-food, including: documentation requirements or border controls related to sanitary and phytosanitary measures and technical barriers to trade, and automation and streamlining of border formalities, and explores differentiated impacts across agro-food product groups. Practical approaches are identified to enrich the scope of the existing OECD TFIs with a view to deepening the information base on the performance of trade facilitation policies for perishable agro-food goods.
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UN action track
SDG
14/10/2021
Trade in seeds is key to guarantee access to food across the globe. COVID-19 led to concerns that seed supply chains would be disrupted and that countries relying on imported seed would not have sufficient supplies for the upcoming season. Focusing on the impact of COVID-19 from the perspective of seed companies and the formal seed sector, this study shows that the global seed sector was reasonably resilient during the crisis, although seed companies headquartered in the Asia Pacific region were more negatively affected than their counterparts in other regions. The two main bottlenecks were the availability of staff in the seed production chain and in government administrations, and the distribution of seed to farmers. Building a more resilient seed supply chain will require policies to ensure the uninterrupted production and movement of seed during lockdowns; the further development of international seed supply chains; and the diversification of seed production. Digitalisation could also improve the availability of information on seed production and trade, enabling faster government responses to disruptions.
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UN action track
SDG
27/07/2021
The COVID-19 pandemic placed unprecedented short-term stresses on food supply chains around the world. However, rapid responses by both private-sector actors and policy makers mostly managed to prevent severe disruptions. Yet, even before the outbreak of COVID-19, food systems were faced with a formidable “triple challenge” of simultaneously providing food security and nutrition to a growing global population, ensuring the livelihoods of millions of people working along the food chain from farm to fork, and ensuring the environmental sustainability of the sector. This paper discusses the stresses COVID-19 created in food supply chains and the remarkable resilience these supply chains have demonstrated in high-income countries, as well as specific impacts in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors and the importance of transparency in avoiding a COVID-19 induced food crisis. The paper concludes by discussing the long-term challenges for food systems, arguing that the unanticipated shock of COVID-19 strengthens the case for shifting from ‘business as usual’ policies to a more forward looking policy package for food systems.
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UN action track
SDG
08/07/2021
Food systems are expected to provide food security and nutrition, to contribute to the livelihoods of millions, and to do so in an environmentally sustainable way. The broad outlines of these challenges are clear, and in many cases evidence exists on how better policies can improve the performance of food systems. But there are considerable gaps in data and evidence. This paper provides a panoramic overview of different types of evidence gaps on food systems and their causes, and makes the case that better evidence is needed to enable better policies. At the same time, evidence will never be complete. Policy makers and the research community thus need to adopt a pragmatic approach, focusing on where better evidence can make the biggest difference.
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UN action track
SDG
08/06/2021
Natural hazard-induced disasters (NHID), such as floods, droughts, severe storms, and animal pests and diseases have significant, widespread and long-lasting impacts on agricultural sectors around the world. With climate change set to amplify many of these impacts, a “business-as-usual” approach to disaster risk management in agriculture cannot continue if we are to meet the challenges of agricultural productivity and sustainability growth, and sustainable development. Drawing from seven case studies – Chile, Italy, Japan, Namibia, New Zealand, Turkey and the United States – this joint OECD-FAO report argues for a new approach to building resilience to NHID in agriculture. It explores the policy measures, governance arrangements, on-farm strategies and other initiatives that countries are using to increase agricultural resilience to NHID, highlighting emerging good practices. It offers concrete recommendations on what more needs to be done to shift from coping with the impacts of disasters, to an ex ante approach that focuses on preventing and mitigating the impacts of disasters, helping the sector be better prepared to respond to disasters, and to adapt and transform in order to be better positioned for future disasters.
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UN action track
SDG
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