How is the European Union contributing to the global Agrifood systems transformation?

Illustration 1. Thailand, Thale Noi Wetland Pastoral Buffalo Agro-ecosystem. Source: FAO-GIAHS

By Mariona Poy Gil

The agricultural sector in the European Union

With a wide variety of high-quality food items, the European Union is one of the top agricultural producers and exporters in the world. Nonetheless, the EU’s contribution to the world’s agri-food system goes far beyond its own boundaries. The EU has a considerable impact on how food is produced, delivered, and consumed globally as a major actor in global trade and development. This blog aims to discuss the role of the EU in the agri-food systems transformation.

The agricultural industry in the EU has a very diverse spectrum of goods and production methods. The EU produces a sizable portion of the world’s sugar, wheat, and barley in addition to a variety of other agricultural and livestock products. High environmental and animal welfare standards, which are ingrained in EU policy and regulation, are another attribute of the EU’s agriculture industry.

The contribution of the European Union to the global transformation of agri-food systems

Nonetheless, the EU’s contribution to international agri-food systems goes beyond its own commerce and production. The EU is a significant actor in international development, offering aid and taking part in trade talks with other nations and areas. The EU seeks to advance sustainable agriculture, enhance food security, and lessen poverty in developing nations through its policies and programs. As an example of the EU’s role in international development, it plays a vital role in the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations). 

As shown in the chart below, the annual contributions – with a total amount of $1618 billion between 2014 and 2021 – had a clear increase in the amount, except during the pandemic years, which affected the donations.

Illustration 2. EU’s voluntary contributions to FAO (USD Million). Source

The biggest contributions were made to projects in Africa, with a total of USD 673.318.983. On the other hand, the region where the European Union has invested the least through FAO is Europe and Central Asia, since its own territory is developed mainly internally. The total amount for this region is USD 79.819.909.

The main goal of the EU with its contributions is to support projects which aim towards the increase of resilience of livelihoods to threats and crises.

Illustration 3. Contributions of the European Union to FAO by regions. Source

Through the European Agricultural Policy, the EU actively promotes sustainable farming as one of its main goals of CAP (Common Agricultural Policy). The CAP is a collection of laws and initiatives that aid EU farmers and advance rural development. It funds rural development initiatives, pays farmers directly, and controls agricultural trade and output. Over time, the CAP has changed to accommodate new issues like environmental worries, climate change, and food safety.

With its programs for development aid, the EU also supports sustainable agriculture. The EU is a significant contributor to development aid, sponsoring initiatives that advance sustainable agriculture, enhance food security, and lessen poverty in developing nations. The development of sustainable agrifood systems is supported by the EU’s development aid programs, which put a strong emphasis on institutional improvement, knowledge transfer, and capacity building.

The EU also supports sustainable agriculture by promoting it through its trade policy. The EU is a prominent participant in international trade, and its trade policies have a big impact on how food is produced, delivered, and consumed globally. The trade policies of the EU seek to advance environmentally friendly agriculture, safeguard the environment, and enhance animal welfare. The EU also encourages the creation of sustainable supply chains and fair trade practices. As a joint initiative with FAO, the EU is the main sponsor of the project Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Program, which seeks to reduce and eliminate illegal logging. This project is funded by the EU, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. This is just one of many examples of projects the EU is doing to promote their goals in this sector.

The need to address how climate change is affecting agriculture and food systems is another obstacle. Changes in temperature and precipitation patterns are projected to have a considerable influence on agriculture, altering agricultural yields and livestock production. The problems posed by climate change must be considered in the EU’s policies and programs, and the growth of adaptable and resilient agrifood systems must be encouraged. As a clear example of these initiatives, we have the green direct payments, which are under CAP rules. This payment is done when farmers maintain permanent grassland, undertake crop diversification, and dedicate 5% of arable land to an ecological focus.

The EU must also address the problem of food loss and waste. The loss and waste of food presents a serious problem for the global agrifood system, having negative effects on the economy, the environment, and society. In order to address this problem, the EU has set goals for decreasing food loss and waste as well as promoting sustainable food production and consumption. Inside this platform, we can find different sub-groups which tackle different aspects of food loss and waste. There is a sub-group on Action and implementation, date marking and food waste prevention, food donation, food loss and waste monitoring and consumer food waste prevention.

In conclusion, the EU is essential to the growth of sustainable agriculture, increased food security, and the alleviation of poverty in emerging nations. The EU seeks to solve the complex issues of sustainable development through its policies and initiatives.