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Agri-Food Systems must change, but how? – changes will be “markedly different”, food specialist says.

(Julio Berdegue, FAO’s Regional Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean)

As Guyana presses on in its celebration of Agriculture month, through the initiation of dialogue of technological advancement, increased careers in the industry, amongst other things, food specialists around the world are now raising concern about the need for a drastic change in agri-food systems.

An agricultural food system, as defined by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, is the linked events in the agricultural production of food. This begins at the stage of processing, continues trading and distribution and ends at consumption.

Due to the pandemic, however, a handful of issues have arisen due to the many economic and social changes that have had to be made. Julio Berdegue, the FAO’s Regional Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, highlighted in a recently written article that approximately 113 million people within the region cannot afford healthy meals. 14 million more people, according to Berdegue, have faced hunger in 2020 alone.

This, he insinuated, cannot be rectified with the use of current food systems being used in the Caribbean region.

Additionally, the regional rep made note of a recent report emanating from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which pellucidly described the effect that current agri-food systems are having on the environment. “With regard to agri-food systems, [the report] reminds us that 23% of the total net anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are related to agriculture, livestock, forestry and land-use change,” he explained.

In the midst of this, though, Berdegue said he acknowledges that this transformation does not mean that every crook and cranny of the Agricultural sector must be investigated and reformed. “It is true that among the many agri-food systems that exist on the planet, not everything has to change,” he mentioned. “It is not necessary to change all the dimensions, shapes and customs,” Berdegue went on to say.

Conclusively, the FAO official said that the question no longer remains of whether some of these food systems must be altered, but how it must be done must be of incremental importance.

“…the winners will be those with the greatest capacity for innovation…and new ways of producing, processing, trading, buying, selling and consuming food,” he said.