While alarming statistics have been noted in the most recent report on the state of food security and nutrition in the world, policies targeting accessibility and affordability of food have finally been prioritized strategically.
This blog will focus on the sections of the report related to agricultural policies.
There is no doubt that low- and middle-income countries have consistently prioritized price disincentives and have provided low fiscal subsidies to farmers, especially for staple foods, fruits, vegetables, fats, and oils. Governed by a low agricultural budget, lower-middle-income countries cannot afford to provide price incentives, invest more in general services or provide high subsidies to producers. Instead of subsidizing healthier food production, the cheaper way is to decrease the farm gate prices of less healthy products making farmers less likely to produce them. Monetary-wise, policies that require a change in incentives or subsidies are not favorable to lower-middle-income countries due to budget constraints. The question, therefore, is: What non-market-based solutions can be implemented to support the transition of lower-middle-income countries to a healthier food system? Can this be accomplished by mobilizing international public investment support? Are there other low-cost alternatives that can enable this transition?
Reallocation of food and agricultural policies proposed in the report for food groups whose level of current per capita consumption in each country/region does not yet match the country/region levels include:
Repurposing existing public support.
Removing/reducing border support and market price controls for priority foods.
Repurposing fiscal policies for producers and consumers.
The proposed solution of repurposing agricultural support to support higher priority foods presents many trade-offs. Complementing policies that can support shifts in the food supply and mitigating trade-offs include:
mandatory limits or voluntary targets to improve the nutritional quality of processed foods and drink products
Enacting legislation on food marketing.
Implementing nutritional labeling policies and healthy procurement policies.