Food security is now a top priority on the international agenda. On 20 November, the Global Forum on Food Security in London highlighted that "climate change, conflict and population growth pose increasing challenges to food security". According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), almost 30% of the world's population (2,356.9 million people) is food insecure.
Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is a major global food supplier, exporting 40% of its food production and representing 17% of the total world food exports. However, several countries in the region are also importers. In addition, inequalities in access to food persist, and climate change, rural poverty, loss of agricultural biodiversity, food inflation and health crises (such as COVID-19) pose challenges to food security in LAC. In the European Union (EU), food supply is not under threat, but European agriculture is dependent on imports of essential products such as animal feed and fertilisers.
The declaration of the EU-CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) Summit in July 2023 recognised food security as one of the challenges aggravated by the impact of Russia's war on Ukraine. It proposed improved cooperation and coordination in multilateral fora. Both regions have a shared responsibility to contribute to the 2030 Agenda, which established the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including "ending world hunger" (SDG2), but also the challenges of contributing to sustainable production that preserves the planet for future generations. Cooperation between the EU and LAC in the agriculture and food sector has a long history, but there is a need to give it a more strategic dimension and to promote joint strategies to address the complexities of the global challenge of food security. Initiatives that can promote dialogue and cooperation include:
Establish platforms for dialogue: Create formal and informal platforms where different EU and LAC actors can address food security challenges through meetings and exchanges that foster open discussion and cooperation between governments at different levels together with private sector and civil society actors to identify possible solutions.
Research and Development (R&D) Cooperation: Encourage collaboration on joint research and development projects between universities and research centres in both regions to stimulate research on topics such as sustainable food production methods, innovative agricultural technologies, climate-resilient crops and strategies to combat malnutrition.
Exchange knowledge and experience: Promote exchange programmes, technical visits and internships so that EU and LAC food security experts can learn from each other and implement multi-level training for different actors in the food production chain, including the most vulnerable rural actors, women and indigenous peoples in Latin America.
Supporting local initiatives: Strengthen local initiatives in both regions that address specific food security problems through support to community projects, sustainable agriculture, biodiversity and nutrition education programmes, including support to small-scale agricultural producers by replicating successful programmes such as «Al-Invest 5.0».
Promote transparency and coordination: Establish transparent and coordinated bi-regional mechanisms to share information on food security, including data on food quality, fertiliser availability and emerging risks.
Developing joint policies: Promote food security policies to increase sustainable food and fertiliser production and other measures to prevent food contamination.
Training and institutional strengthening: Training food safety professionals and officials to improve their skills and knowledge and strengthening institutions responsible for regulating and monitoring the food chain.
Encouraging investment in modern agricultural technology: Investing in digitalisation and modern agricultural technology in LAC to have more efficient irrigation systems or better post-harvest management to reduce food loss and support increased production to meet growing population demand in a sustainable way.
Promoting sustainable trade: Create an enabling environment for fair trade by promoting the transition to sustainable agriculture, access to a variety of nutritious foods, and addressing the challenge of food security in future trade agreements.
Addressing global challenges: The EU and LAC can work together to respond to global challenges such as resilience to climate change, improving equitable access to food for the most vulnerable populations, enhancing biodiversity, transitioning to food sustainability and addressing food crises by developing joint strategies to mitigate these challenges.
All these challenges were discussed at the International Conference "Food Security: Challenges and Opportunities for EU-Latin America and Caribbean relations" held on 9 November. This conference served to contrast the findings of a publication of the same name, co-funded by the EU-LAC Foundation. Both the conference and the publication concluded that the challenges of food security are due to a confluence of factors relating to production structures in general and food systems in particular.
For this reason, cooperation between the EU and Latin America and the Caribbean requires joint action at multiple levels (multilateral, regional, national and local), employing a comprehensive approach that integrates political, economic and social dimensions. Analysing the different variables that affect food security allows for a better understanding of possible scenarios and the development of long-term strategies to meet the challenge of providing healthy food for all, compatible with the preservation of the planet and responding to the consequences of climate change.
Aróstica, P. & Ayuso, A. (eds.) (2023) Seguridad Alimentaria. Desafíos y oportunidades para las relaciones entre la Unión Europea y América Latina y el Caribe. CIDOB. Barcelona. Available at: https://eulacfoundation.org/es/seguridad-alimentaria-desafios-y-oportun…;