PRODUCTIVITY IN A TIME OF PANDEMICS

The global unemployment crisis created by efforts to contain COVID-19 is decreasing incomes and reducing per-capita food expenditures. However, population growth remains the primary driver of agricultural demand. The long-term trajectory of demand growth for agricultural products remains unchanged. Focusing on increasing output through productivity growth remains as vital as ever, especially with the added pressures from pandemics and climate change.

KEY MESSAGES

To sustainably double the amount of food, feed, fiber, and bioenergy needed for nearly 10 billion people in 2050, agricultural productivity needs to increase at an average annual rate of 1.73 percent.

According to the 2020 GAP Index, TFP growth is below the target, growing at an average annual rate of 1.63 percent.

TFP growth in low-income countries continues its precipitous decline, growing at an average annual rate of just 0.58 percent, far below Sustainable Development Goal 2.3 to double agricultural productivity of smallholder farmers, many of whom live in low-income countries.

Without significant increases in productivity and output, low-income countries with rapidly growing populations will not have sufficient resources to grow or import enough food for their citizens, perpetuating cycles of hunger, malnutrition, and poverty.

While the recent outbreaks of African Swine Fever in Asia and desert locust in Africa are not reflected in the current data, the impact on TFP in those regions will be substantial.

Technologies and practices that support productivity growth also support resilience. They provide tools and information agricultural producers need to absorb the impact of a crisis and adapt to the challenges it brings.

With access to a variety of technologies, up-to-the-minute data, and strong social safety nets, producers in the traditional productivity powerhouses in North America and Europe have distinct advantages in times of pandemics.

Policy and investment priorities for productivity and resilience include: increasing funding for agricultural research and development, expanding agricultural extension and farmer training programs, accelerating adoption of science-based and information technologies, strengthening the social safety net, and improving financial risk-management tools for producers.

Strengthening human capital (the skills, knowledge, and experience possessed by an individual or population) and social capital (the networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society) is critical for productivity growth and resilience.

PRODUCTIVITY GROWTH: THE “NO-REGRET” INVESTMENT IN RESILIENCE

The OECD report Strengthening Agricultural Resilience in the Face of Multiple Risks, calls appropriate investments in agricultural productivity growth a “no-regret” strategy to strengthening resilience. The report recommends investments in, “the provision of information, education, infrastructure, and research and development,” all of which are essential public goods advocated for in the GAP Report. Read more here in Chapter 3. >>>>

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Invest in public agricultural R&D, extension services, and consumer education

Public sector agricultural R&D, extension services, and consumer education programs generate innovation and information that facilitate environmentally sustainable agricultural output growth, improve human health, and support a vibrant agricultural economy.

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Embrace science- and information-based technologies and practices

Science- and information-based technologies and practices enable producers of all scales to manage environmental and economic risks, by improving their sustainability, resilience, and competitiveness.

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Improve infrastructure and market access for agricultural inputs and outputs

Efficient transportation, communications, and financial infrastructures, as well as affordable and equitable access to markets for agricultural inputs, services, and outputs, support sustainable economic growth, diminish waste and loss, and reduce costs for producers and consumers.

Public sector agricultural R&D, extension services, and consumer education programs generate innovation and information that facilitate environmentally sustainable agricultural output growth, improve human health, and support a vibrant agricultural economy.

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Cultivate partnerships for sustainable agriculture, gender equity, and improved nutrition

Public-private-producer partnerships supporting agricultural development, gender equity, and nutritious food systems leverage public and private investments in economic development, natural resource management, and human health.

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Expand and improve regional and global trade

Forward-looking trade agreements, including transparent policies and consistently enforced regulations, facilitate the efficient and cost-effective movement of agricultural inputs, services, and products to the people who need them.

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Reduce post-harvest loss and food waste

Reducing post-harvest losses and food waste increases the availability and affordability of nutritious food, eases the environmental impact of food and agricultural production, and preserves the value of the land, labor, water, and other inputs used in the production process.

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