Food security and sustainability have been long-standing issues that have recently received renewed interest. After a fervent research effort on food security issues in the 1970s, the complacency of the 1980s and 1990s for the global food-population balance has given way after 2000 to serious concerns about food security globally. The food price crisis of2007-2008 drew significant attention on food security and caused serious concerns that extreme events may become more frequent and more damaging in the future. However, even before the crisis it was obvious that food insecurity concerns are becoming a recurring theme, as it is estimated that about one billion people did not have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food. Thus, currently the nexus of food security, sustainability and globalisation establishes a new perspective in the long-standing issue of food security. This new perspective should take into account agricultural price behaviour in international markets, green growth strategies, technical change, innovation and productivity, investment, financing and financial innovation, risk mitigation issues, global agro-food chain dynamics and sustainability issues. This book, by necessity, has been an eclectic one looking at some of these issues and focusing on a few case studies.
Two chapters of this book examine the very complex relationship of food security, sustainability and globalisation, implying difficulties in the attribution of causality in observed developments for public policy design. There is clear evidence supporting the view that after 2000 international food prices are characterised by exceptionally high levels, high volatility and co-movement, justifying a growing concern on food security issues. However, although green growth strategies have been widely followed in agriculture as a policy response to food security and sustainability, the need for increasing agricultural productivity is more pronounced now than ever before for addressing food security, and achieving resource efficiency and environmental quality in an era of climate change.
The next two chapters examine the link between globalisation and food security, highlighting how MNCs shift away from direct engagement in developing economies through fully internalised subsidiaries to nonequity modes and linkages with suppliers. They argue that MNCs exhibit a relatively more footloose attitude in case of non-equity modes with potentially adverse effects on local economies and conclude that governments need to prudently formulate appropriate policies to mitigate some of the adverse effects that the MNE strategies may have on their national economies or societies or environment. Furthermore, MNEs have grown into complex organisations, adopting multifaceted organisational structures that depart from hierarchies that condition their interaction with local production systems. Hence, the relationship between food security and GVCs is unpredictable and more work is needed to highlight aspects such as innovation and the inclusion of small and medium enterprises.
Four chapters examine investment, credit and finance in agriculture and its relation to food security. There is evidence that lack of adequate amounts of agricultural capital and short-term finance can slow down the agricultural transformation and consequently reduce growth rates in low- income countries. However, new institutional structures and innovations may alleviate the problem considerably. Similar situations of a credit crunch in agriculture are observed in developed countries experiencing an economic crisis requiring action in credit and finance to assist agriculture in overcoming the adverse impact of an economic crisis. Finally, an innovative agro-food value chain finance model, extending the well- known contract farming model to include a bank providing short term finance, has been used successfully, thus providing a good finance instrument for agriculture.
The last of the general chapters examines the risk of extreme events and spikes in agricultural commodity prices using the empirical behaviour of the returns of three basic food commodity products, maize, wheat and soybeans. The findings signify the importance of price spikes on food security and of food import risk management for basic food commodities, maize, wheat and soybeans for importing countries, suggesting significant challenges for insuring food imports by food-insecure countries.
The case studies include a regional study of Middle East and Northern Africa, two North African countries, one transition economy and one country in economic crisis. Food security, in all cases, is an important concern and public policy priority. Across the Arab region, there is a renewed consensus on the urgency of addressing the conflicts, the refugee crisis and the economic challenges posed by the international environment which are impeding development. In Tunisia, the globalisation of markets has adversely affected exports and has increased competition. The chapter states the country has to choose between two policy options, developing agro-food exports, a strategy that addresses new challenges in local agrofood value chains, and a strategy protecting local markets for ensuring food security. The chapter on the country experiencing an economic crisis shows that the welfare of the majority of the population has been affected by the economic crisis and most importantly household access to food has been affected as well. To survive during the economic crisis many households have started producing, storing, freezing and preserving food. In the final chapter on food security in a transition to market economy a few policies have been identified: first, it stresses the need for policy co-ordination and governance structures for food security; second, it identifies the requirement of entrepreneurial learning for the food industry; and finally, it recognises the vital need to increase public awareness of food security.