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The decisions of everyone in the food chain – from farmers, to distributors and consumers – are heavily influenced by economic factors such as price, risk and resource availability. The food economy is composed of a complicated, global network of trade, which today connects producers and consumers at scales never seen before. Subsidies for food production exist in almost all nations; some reject these as market distorting while others hail them for their ability to ensure sufficient national/regional supply of food at all times and to protect farmers. Foods that are traded as commodities are subject to volatile markets and also show the intimate connection between food prices and other sectors, such as oil.
From FCRN member Professor Amir Sharif from Brunel University, we are including this recent article in The European Financial Review entitled “Food Security In The UK: A Post-Brexit View”. In it the authors discuss what factors the UK needs to consider post-Brexit in order to ensure consistent, safe and secure food production, supply and consumption.
You can read the article here (requires free registration).
This report from the UK free market think tank Institute of Economic Affairs claims that healthy food is actually cheaper than ‘junk food’. In drawing this conclusion the IEA also states that taxes on unhealthy foods (consumed as they say disproportionately by people with low incomes) is unlikely to be enough to change consumer behaviour and will be regressive - it will hit poorer people the hardest.
Concerns about the links between trade and investment agreements and the spread of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) have seen increasing scholarly attention in the past years. Reviewing 44 low- and middle-income countries over 13 years, this paper aims to provide a generalizable analysis of how trade and investment liberalisation has affected the growth in sales of SSBs, contributing to the evidence base on how international trade impacts health.
In international trade agreements, restrictions on goods or demands for labelling which differ from country to country can be ‘barriers to trade’, effectively restricting the free movement of goods. Trade organisations which manage such agreements, such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), have mechanisms in place to ensure that environmental or public health measures are not in fact ‘disguised restrictions on international trade’ which aim to protect national industries. Formal processes exist in the WTO to query public health and environment regulations for their ‘trade restrictiveness’, their necessity and the possibility of using alternatives.
A newly revised edition of Tim Jackson’s important 2009 Prosperity without Growth has been published by Routledge. In it, Jackson aims to demonstrate that building a ‘post-growth’ economy is a precise, definable and meaningful task.
This World Economic Forum report explores four alternate visions of the world and its food systems in 2030. The key predictable forces of change are used as a base and the critical uncertainties of ‘Demand Shift’ and ‘Market Connectivity’ are used as axes to derive the four scenarios.
The Nexus2020 project has published a report in which academics and business leaders worked together to identify the most important questions around sustainability for businesses. It specifically focuses on so-called ‘nexus’ issues: the interconnections between food, water, energy and the natural environment.
This comprehensive Future Brief from Science for Environment Policy examines the research around ‘impact investment’; those investments which are directed towards generating measurable social and/or environmental impacts, in addition to a financial return. The report focuses on investments in Europe, although it includes a case study of sustainable teak plantation in Panama.
With milk prices in the USA dropping due in part to a fall in demand from Chinese middle class customers, large stockpiles of cheese now lie waiting.
Drawing on the expertise of 21 institutions worldwide, the UN University's Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health, and the Scottish Association for Marine Science, a UNU associate institute, have published guidelines for the burgeoning seaweed industry.
China’s influential Agricultural Development Bank has agreed to lend at least 3 trillion yuan (US$450 billion) by 2020 to China’s agriculture industry to promote a large scale modernisation process. The move was made together with the Ministry of Agriculture and included an agreement to protect national food security, develop China’s seed industry and support agricultural investors who wish to expand abroad.
China’s premier has announced that the country will begin accepting U.S. beef from animals under 30 months of age. When speaking to U.S. business groups, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said China would soon allow imports of U.S. beef. China has conditionally lifted an import ban on some shipments of U.S. boneless beef and beef on the bone, and will also ease restrictions on Canadian beef, the Asian nation's agriculture ministry and its premier said on Thursday.
A group of investors, worth $1.25 trillion, has contributed to a report calling for food companies to change the way in which they include protein in their products to reduce environmental risk. The FAIRR initiative’s report – The Future of Food: The Investment Case for a Protein Shake Up – argues that forward-looking investors and businesses should act now to help shape a new market in sustainable protein, with less of this macronutrient coming from animals, and more from plants (and perhaps from insects and algae).
In this modelling study, the authors examine potential trade-offs between sufficient food provisioning in the future and sustaining biodiversity. On the one hand they find that cropland expansion increases food security, particularly in areas which are currently struggling with access to safe and nutritious food.
This report by the African Centre for Biodiversity argues that the Farm Input Subsidy Programmes (FISPs) have not achieved their intended goals in a number of African countries where they have been implemented. In its highly critical analysis the report argues that they consume large parts of agricultural and even national budgets and are largely ineffective social transfer schemes that create dependency.
According to the latest joint OECD-FAO report Food Outlook which analyses global food markets, the coming decade will likely see an end to a period of high agricultural prices, although prices are expected to rise for livestock relative to those for crops.