The wider perspective

It is sometimes a good idea to take a step back from daily business and consider the wider perspectives to ensure that whatever strategy we are pursuing is supported by the broader forces. Market trends and their demands can blind and restrict us to working on the daily stuff and leaving no time for strategic considerations. These days there are a plethora of reports published daily that can help in these considerations. The UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs issued a report in 2012 on the future of sutainability for food and agriculture. It makes interesting reading for agri-businesses because of the supply chain security issues invovled.

The report is mixed news for Irish agri-businesses as the global picture represents opportunities and threats. Growing populations and reduced land availability elsewhere globally probably point towards opportunities for Irish businesses. The predicted  extreme weather changes (eg should the gulf stream cease functioning) and the trend towards a narrower concentration on fewer and fewer foodstuffs may represent threats.

The report is based on workshops with significant thought leaders in the food and agri-business sector over several months with the idea of informing policy makers across governments and industry. This is where such reports have implications even for small businesses. There are some specific challenges for Ireland in the report should policy makers act on the recommendations. For instance, around the acceptance that the carbon footprint and land use of producing meat is so high that the report suggests moving populations towards a non meat diet must be considered. This could affect the demand for meat even though Ireland’s meat production footprint is lower than many other countries.

Also, the levels of waste at all points in the food chain is unacceptably high and the report recommends that supply chain rules will have to be changed to reduce this considerably. Globally, there is currently more than the required 4,000 calories per head per day being produced but between 30-40% of this is being wasted either at various stages of production and processing and even at the final sale and consumption points in the developed countries.

There was consensus on several key points of action around in the report such as the need for policies to focus on nutrition more than production, to consider a healthy ecology and not just high yields and to recognise the increasing role of private organisations in the policy decision making. Agri-businesses in Ireland which are taking the topic of sustainability seriously are in line with global forces which are re-thinking how we will feed 9 billion people in a healthy, fair and economic manner. This sustainability issue is far more than just a passing fad, those who align their strategies with these wider goals are making good long term business decisions.

The report was by the UN and was called Food and Agriculture – the future of sustainability

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