Explains How Repurposing of Agricultural Support Can Transform Food Systems

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Repurposing of Agricultural Support :Agricultural support is not providing desirable results for sustainability and human health, but repurposing it can be a game changer. It offers governments an opportunity to optimize use of scarce public resources to transform food systems in ways that make them not only more efficient, but also more supportive of the SDGs.

New Delhi (ABC Live India):  Repurposing of Agricultural Support :The report, A multi-billion-dollar opportunity: Repurposing agricultural support to transform food systems, launched by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) finds that current support to producers mostly consists of price incentives, such as import tariffs and export subsidies, as well as fiscal subsidies which are tied to the production of a specific commodity or input.

Further the report confirms that the inefficient, distort food prices, hurt people’s health, degrade the environment, and are often inequitable, putting big agri-business ahead of smallholder farmers, a large share of whom are women.

Government agricultural support policies are not fit for today’s food systems 

As this report demonstrates, the way governments around the world support agriculture are a factor in the global and environmental challenges that food systems are facing. While not accessible to all producers, agricultural producer support in particular has led to some farming practices that are harmful to nature and health and largely focused on certain commodities, thus hindering the health, sustainability, equity and efficiency of food systems.

Against this backdrop, agricultural producer support needs to be repurposed  and reformed to support a transformation of our food systems and the  achievement of the SDGs. Repurposing is defined in this report as the reduction of  agricultural producer support measures that are inefficient, unsustainable and/or inequitable, in order to replace them with support measures that are the opposite.

This means agricultural producer support is not eliminated but reconfigured. In this way, repurposing will always imply reforming.

By repurposing agricultural producer support, governments can optimize scarce public resources to support food systems in ways that make them not only more efficient, but also more supportive of healthy lives, nature and climate.

This can also be an opportunity to achieve a strong economic recovery in a post-COVID-19 pandemic world.

This report provides policymakers with an analysis of agricultural support globally and by country income group over time, along with a six-step guide on how to repurpose agricultural producer support – and the reforms required – to better support the transformation of our food systems and the achievement of the SDGs.

The report highlights cases where such a process began: the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh that adopted a policy of Zero Budget Natural Farming; the 2006 reform of agricultural policies in China that supports decreased use of mineral fertilizers and chemical pesticides; the Single Payment Scheme in the United Kingdom that removed subsidies in agreement with the National Farmers’ Union; the European Union, where crop diversification has been incentivized through reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the Senegalese programme PRACAS to incentivize farmers to cultivate more diverse crops.

The Report conveys following messages:

Agricultural support is not providing desirable results for sustainability and human health, but repurposing it can be a game changer. It offers governments an opportunity to optimize   use of scarce public resources to transform food systems in ways that make them not only  more efficient, but also more supportive of the SDGs.

Globally, support to agricultural producers currently accounts for almost USD 540 billion a year, or 15 percent of total agricultural production value. This support is heavily biased towards measures that are distorting (thus leading to inefficiency), unequally distributed, and harmful for the environment and human health. Under a continuation of current trends, this support could reach almost USD 1.8 trillion in 2030.

Phasing out the most distorting and environmentally and socially harmful producer support (i.e. price incentives and fiscal subsidies tied to the production of a specific commodity) is essential, but this will not bear fruit if resources are not redirected towards investments for the provision of public goods and services for agriculture (i.e. research and development and infrastructure) and to decoupled fiscal subsidies.

Any repurposing strategy is dependent on a range of factors and country-specific circumstances, involving policymakers and all relevant stakeholders through public outreach and communication strategies to ensure buy-in and policy coherence across all food systems components. This includes measures to mitigate negative short-term impacts especially for the most vulnerable groups, including smallholder farmers, many of whom are women.

Six steps governments may follow to develop and implement a repurposing strategy include: estimating the support already provided; identifying and estimating the impact of the support provided; designing the approach for repurposing agricultural producer support, including identifying needed reforms; estimating the future impact of the repurposing strategy; reviewing and refining the repurposing strategy, prior to implementation; and monitoring the outcomes of the new agricultural producer support.

A few countries have begun repurposing and reforming agricultural support, but action needs to be broader, bolder and faster worldwide. The time has come for greater collaboration and cooperation across government, research institutions, non-governmental organizations and
the private sector to develop the evidence on which successful repurposing strategies can be built. The United Nations Food Systems Summit 2021 and other subsequent forums present a momentous opportunity to spearhead action in this direction.

To read complete report click here

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