Global Context for Stewardship
On this site stewardship is:
- concerned with safe, effective crop production
- carried out in the context of sustainable agriculture which aims to meet social, economic and environmental goals
Global Context for Stewardship
Global attention is currently focussed on food production and high food prices. A concise analysis from The United States Department of Agriculture suggests that the higher prices are being caused by
- long term trends which are narrowing the gap between supply of and demand for food; that
- the gap between supply and demand is made narrower by more recent factors causing food prices to rise further; and that
- Governments’ policies are combining to push prices higher still
Increasing Demand for food
Currently two basic factors are combining to increase the pressure on land to produce more food than ever before.
- The growth in population means that a larger quantity of food is required in total.
- As countries mature economically, those populations are increasingly expecting to eat more food of a higher quality. That is they prefer to rely less on staple foods (e.g. rice and wheat) and are instead eating more meat and dairy products. That means
- Where meat and dairy producing animals are fed on grain - that grain is diverted away from world food stocks for human consumption.
- Since it takes many kilos of grain to produce one kilo of meat, less food is available to feed the human population.
There is thus huge…
Pressure on the land’s ability to supply. Each year technology advances cause the amount of output per hectare to increase but the rate of increase in production is slowing and is lower than the growth in demand.
Recent Factors affecting supply
- Poor weather conditions in 2006 and 2007 reduced yields.
- A small but increasing proportion of land is being taken out of food production and is instead being used to produce biofuels.
- Increasing energy costs are increasing producers’ costs directly and indirectly. Under some circumstances this can cause production of some crops to become uneconomic. Output thus reduces until market adjustments make production economic once more.
The problem of producing sufficient food of the required quality is exacerbated by social, political and economic behaviour. Governments seek to provide food for urban populations at an affordable price. Thus:
- Food exporting countries are discouraging exports by increasing export tariffs and capping the quantities of food exported.
- Food importing countries are reducing import duties to reduce the cost of food imports
Both actions cause world stocks to reduce. This adds to the concerns over the reliability of future supplies and causes importing countries to seek to increase the amounts purchased. Those countries with large reserves of foreign exchange are able to pay the inflated prices thus maintaining demand at high prices.
“How can we respond effectively to achieve both food and environmental security in the 21st Century?”
“A new approach to meeting the demands of a growing population for safe, affordable and nutritious food which needs to be produced without damaging the environment”
Prizio-Biroli considers the relationship between the developed and the developing worlds and how their respective policies adversely impact on world food supplies and prices. He concludes by calling on
“All other countries in the world” to follow the EU lead and to work towards restructuring “their agricultural policies, so as to sustainably produce enough food and open up their markets step by step.”
Given the global context, the specific challenge for modern agriculture is thus:
How can we continue to meet the ever growing demand for safe and nutritious food and renewable materials in the years ahead in a way that conserves natural resources and biodiversity for future generations?
The Stewardship Community works to meet this challenge
Global Context for Stewardship | Global Food and Environmental Security