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  • Writer's pictureMeyrick Consulting

Future food security starts now!

If there’s one thing we have a little more of in these strange days, it’s time.

This has given me plenty of opportunities to think carefully about the sector in which I work. I understand the economy must get itself moving but the idea that we ignore food security and the climate change threat is a concern.

I’m not an activist

Yet it would be crazy not to focus on climate change that is already underway. If we cannot do something about carbon emissions now, then we may as well give up, shrug our shoulders and just carry on until it’s too late!

If we don't develop a more sustainable lifestyle then every part of our life will be in jeopardy

I am not suggesting this of course, because the serious impact of devastating changes in the global climate will make lockdown look like a metaphorical walk in the park (come on, forgive me that one!) What we are actually talking about is future food security. It’s already made the news in recent weeks as farmers are struggling to recruit labour to bring in the harvests. What happens if the climate changes to such an extent that we have record breaking and dangerous temperatures and a shortage of rain? If we do not develop a more sustainable lifestyle every part of our life will be in jeopardy from the land and soil we use; the insects that support crop production; water quality and availability.

Both production and consumption are a massive part of the conundrum

Farming consumes around 70% of all water resources while degrading about 60% of agricultural land. It is our duty to think about waste and also how much we demand from the food system worldwide. The industry and the individual can play a significant part in how all this plays out.

Ignoring both ends of the spectrum is a massive burden to health systems and quality of life

Then of course there are countries still struggling with malnutrition and hunger whilst others are battling obesity and over consumption. We have to do something about this because ignoring both ends of the spectrum is a massive burden to our health systems and quality of life. Did you know that one in three people globally are facing some kind of malnutrition and the rates of diet-related non-communicable diseases are on the rise? Here we are talking about strokes, particular cancers, type II diabetes and cardiovascular issues.

With obesity and excess weight combined, more than half of the world’s population is affected

Therefore, we might well talk about the cost of Covid 19 but the cost of obesity and being overweight is actually $2 trillion globally. If we cut consumption and some of the less than moral food production practises, we could make an impact on carbon emissions and also diet-related diseases.

By 2057 we will then be looking at 10 billion people on this planet; it’s almost too many to imagine

However, it is not that simple. With population rates growing; currently in June 2020 it is 7.8 billion, we need to produce more food that is often more production intensive. With the population on target to be 8 billion by 2023 and 9 billion by 2037 we have to plan for such eventualities. By 2057 we will then be looking at 10 billion people on this planet; it’s almost too many to imagine.

According to food ‘we need to produce more food in the next 35 years than we have ever produced in human history

Given the projected increases in world population, and on the basis that rising incomes will continue to change diets.’ Even that is problematic as it is likely that 70% of the world will be urbanised by 2050 and in addition sea level rises will have reduced the availability of land. So, you have to wonder that if we all cut the amount we eat, could we make a difference?

Is there an alternative in thinking, process and philosophy?

In addition, perhaps it’s also time to transform the conventional capital-based business models. What could we put in its place? Chris Brown, Vice President and Global Head of Environment at Olam International recently spoke about the company’s vision. The focus, he said will be on biodiversity and also the availability of assets nature offers, rather than what humans demand from it.

Our future is inextricably linked to healthy ecosystems and biodiversity

Chris Brown is highly aware of how the concept of corporate environmentalism is one of the benchmarks within this new approach. He says, ‘there is a developing dependence on financial accountability for sustainability where finance and sustainability teams in the food and agribusiness sector act as one.’ For example, natural products such as coffee or cotton are totally reliant on healthy ecosystems and biodiversity. Brown says that 'Olam and other companies long-term value and profitability are inextricably linked to this too'.

We've had a brief glimpse of a more worrying future

Therefore, it is obvious that we need the right people in the industry that care passionately about this profound issue of food security. Our brush with food shortages and curbs on what we consume was a sharp shock. We now need to plan what we can do to alleviate future shocks. Food industry staff have a different set of challenges they need to resolve, and it really is important that we recruit wisely to tackle what might probably be a life and death reappraisal of the Food and Drink Industry.

I’d really like to know what your thoughts are about the issues surrounding food security, climate change and the impact on the food and drink industry. Do leave a comment.

Population figures from worldometers

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