WIF 2023: More investments needed to transform agrifood systems amid hunger crisis

According to a UN report, the number of people going hungry has increased by 122 million since 2019


Ashwani Kumar

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Published: Tue 17 Oct 2023, 8:07 AM

There is an urgent need to attract more public and private sector investment to transform agrifood systems amid a global hunger crisis affecting more than 735 million people, top officials said at the World Investment Forum 2023 in Abu Dhabi.

Agrifood systems, which comprise all the activities needed to get food from where it’s grown to where it’s processed, eaten, and disposed of, are pivotal in tackling global challenges like malnutrition, poverty, biodiversity loss and climate change.

According to a UN report, the number of people going hungry has increased by 122 million since 2019 because of multiple crises, including the pandemic, natural disasters, and the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Speaking at the eighth edition of the forum, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Deputy Secretary-General Pedro Manuel Moreno noted that crises such as the war in Ukraine and climate change require food production and supply chains in many countries to adapt and transform.

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“It is very often the poorest countries that are affected the most but have also the fewest means to adapt and transform their food systems,” he said during a session on agrifood systems.

Despite the supply chain shocks and food price inflation due to multiple crises, international financing and investments in agriculture and agrifood systems haven’t increased.

UNCTAD’s World Investment Report 2023 revealed that the number of international investment projects in agrifood systems is lower today than it was in 2015 when the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted and the world committed to a world of zero hunger.

Moreno said the forum could help turn the tide through actions to channel more of the funds invested in sustainable finance in global capital markets to food production.

“These markets offer a real opportunity as underlying investments have been growing steadily.”

He urged the participants to explore how technology can help boost the productivity and resilience of food systems and how to reduce loss and waste in food supply chains.

Globally, around 13 per cent of food produced is lost between harvest and retail, with an additional 17 per cent wasted in households, food services and retail combined, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).

FAO Director-General Dongyu Qu said global agrifood systems are at the heart of the high-priority SDGs.

He said transforming these systems will contribute not only to eradicating poverty, ending hunger and improving nutrition but also to ensuring they are more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable.

“We need to mobilise increased and targeted investment,” Qu said, adding that transforming agrifood systems will cost $680 billion annually between now and 2030 in low and middle-income countries. This amount comprises $425 billion in investments and $255 billion in social safety nets.

Qu said in developing countries, farmers, processors and other actors in agrifood systems need help to access financial resources and services to boost resilience to global shocks.

The goal is to strengthen and further develop national capacities for agrifood transformations that are country-led and owned so they are more adapted to local contexts and specific needs.

Experts underlined the urgent need to scale up public and private SDG-aligned investment in agrifood systems to reduce food insecurity and foster rural employment, particularly for women and young people.


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