Food Security

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Irrigation of crops
Sprinklers Watering Crops

Due to the impacts of climate change, biodiversity conservation as well as resource effectiveness and efficiency, food security and hence the availability of high-quality, safe food for a fulfilling life is viewed as a central challenge in the 21st century.

In its World Food Summit of 1996, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) defined food security as existing “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life”.

‘Food Security’ therefore includes food security, food safety, food provision, nutritional needs and dietary behaviour. Both physical and economic access to food must be possible and dietary needs as well as food habits considered.

4 Dimensions of food security

According to FAO, food security is based on 4 dimensions

Availability of food: in sufficient quantity. The availability (supply) is determined by food production, stock levels and trade.

Economic and physical access to food: the presence of food still does not guarantee supply at household level. Income, expenditure, markets and prices affect food security.

Food utilisation: the nutritional status of an individual is the result of a nutritionally adequate use of foods, linked to behaviours and the knowledge of composition and preparation of foods as well as their processing and storage, in order to ensure the safety of food as well as drinking water.

Stability: availability of, access to and appropriate use of food must continuously be secured. Adverse weather conditions, political instability and economic factors may have an impact on the food security status of an individual.

Collaborations

Platform www.foodsecurity.at

The web portal www.foodsecurity.at is a platform in the area of food security for AGES together with Agrarmarkt Austria Marketing GesmbH, the Federal Institute of Agricultural Economics and the International Association for Cereal Science and Technology, whose common goal is joint contracting and project acquisition as well as a coordinated positioning of the aforementioned institutions.

Food Security

Research Project "Food Security risks for Austria caused by climate change"

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Basket with various foods

Food security is a global challenge. Climate change will affect agricultural production potential, both in Austria and in the regions from which Austria imports food, feed and means of production. In addition, Austria’s food supply is also influenced by factors such as global population growth, political conflicts, social and political unrest in exporting countries as well as by the globally increasing competition for food and feed, land, energy and means of production.

Method

The project is based on a multi-stage risk analysis. First, the balances of supply and import flows into Austria were analysed. Moreover, the political as well as socio-economic threats to regions from which Austria imports food and feed, energy and other resources relevant for agricultural production were identified and assessed. In a second step, the identified threats and other factors influencing the security of supply were combined into scenarios and these scenarios then analysed using simulation models.

The climate change-induced variations in the simulation models are based on harvest yield forecasts. Furthermore, different agricultural policy orientations (intensification, extensification) are incorporated into the simulation models.

3 scenarios are defined

  • best-case scenario (sustainable intensification)
  • most-probable-case scenario (progression of the current development)
  • worst-case scenario (total extensification and greening)

Results

The biggest risks affecting agricultural production and food supplies in Austria that have been identified in this project are

  1. climate change
  2. energy imports
  3. import of means of production
  4. import of feed high in protein
  5. suspicion of technical progress
  6. biofuels and biogenic raw materials
  7. agricultural policy

The simulations show that in the best-case scenario, land use in Austria would decrease, for example, by 27% for wheat production and by 34% for feed grain by the year 2050.
In the worst-case scenario, however, the land consumption for wheat would rise by 94% and for feed grains by 115%.

In absolute terms, this means that in the case of intensification (best-case scenario) the total land usage can be reduced by around 240,000 hectares compared with the most-probable-case scenario. In the case of extensification, land use increases by 1,213,000 hectares compared to the most-probable-case scenario (average of the simulation results).
In the most-probable-case scenario, which is oriented to the given agro-political discussion (further extensification, demand for biomass is only moderately increasing), the total area requirement remains similar to the current status.

In summary, this modelling shows the following: if Austrian politics proactively counters the risks detected, allowing a (sustainable) agricultural intensification, "freed-up" areas (up to 240,000 ha) provide a significant scope for additional production potential. Consequently, the import dependency as well as the food safety risk can be reduced and/or areas provided for the use of energy and material resources.

In the case of a nationwide extensification (greening), and if the problem of dependency is not counteracted by fossil fuels, a massive increase in dependence on imports in food supply by the year 2030 can be assumed. This is also due to an expected increase in the price of fossil mobility energy in particular, as well as an excessive increase in the area required for energy and materials production. Self-sufficiency rates are sharply declining, while food safety risk is dramatically increasing.

If the currently postulated agricultural policy is continued and technological progress allowed to a certain extent, this results in both a leeway for extensively/ecologically used land (up to 25%) and for the use of energy and material (up to 15% of the areas). Food safety risk increases due to the slight decline in self-sufficiency rates and the increasing uncertainty in export regions.

Final Report (full version)

Publishable final report

Project report in "ACRP in Essence"

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