Agriculture Economists Focus on Food Security

February 1, 2016

The Crawford Fund is pleased to be again supporting the annual conference of the Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society (AARES), which gathers leading international and Australian economists and over 300 colleagues in Canberra from 2-5 February. The Fund is managing the media outreach for the event, which has a strong focus on food security.

It’s a special year, being the 60th anniversary of the conference, and this year’s theme—‘Feeding and Energising Emerging Asia and the Pacific’—aims to progress key issues for agriculture, mining and environment sectors.

There’s a strong international component this year, incorporating workshops on how the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) can boost its contribution to world welfare. The conference will also present a retrospective on the contribution of agricultural economics involving many renowned Australian economists working internationally, with mention of the work of Sir John Crawford.

Dr Mark Rosegrant
Dr Mark Rosegrant

The conference includes an address by Dr Mark Rosegrant, Director Environment and Production Technology Division at the renowned food policy think-tank—the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Dr Rosegrant has addressed our Crawford Fund annual conferences in the past and is known internationally for his development of models (some of which have become international standard) for projections and scenarios for global and regional food demand, supply, trade, and prices; and to integrate water and energy impacts. His address to AARES will focus on the trends and challenges we face when it comes to food security, water scarcity and energy use, and what impact energy taxes and political policies have on these issues.

More information on Dr Rosegrant’s address follows, and some of the related media coverage of the event’s food security focused work is linked below.
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“In working towards the Sustainable Development Goals, there’s no doubt there will be trade-offs between work to provide ‘access to food, nutrition, safe water and modern energy for all’, as well as strong environmental protection, including reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. We all need to look for win- win solutions,” said Dr Rosegrant.

“We have the benefit of experience and economic modelling to know that climate change increases food prices and food insecurity, and we can predict impacts to help people in less-developed countries. When we throw into the mix a range of policies to reduce GHG emissions, things get more complicated,” he said.

Dr Rosegrant will report on new figures using an integrated modelling suite he’s developed. This will include forecasts (to 2050 and beyond) on crop area, yield, and production; demand for specific agricultural commodities; prices and trade volumes for specific agricultural commodities; levels of poverty, hunger, and malnutrition, and the impact of energy taxes as an instrument in reducing GHG emissions.

“We have experience of the first conflict between food security and ‘greener’ energy, as the expansion of biofuel production has increased the number of food insecure people.
“An important area we are now working on is assessing the impact of energy (carbon) taxes on food security and water scarcity under climate change.

“Energy taxes significantly reduce fossil fuel consumption and slightly reduce food supply due to higher agricultural chemical prices and reduced groundwater pumping. They cause small reductions in household income, particularly in countries that are net exporters of fossil fuels or net importers of refined petrol. Also, they slightly decrease food demand due to lower household income, leading to little or no change in food prices.

“When looking at impacts on water scarcity, energy taxes have variable impacts across regions depending on relative impacts on climate change and groundwater use,” he said.

In his summary of findings related to carbon taxes, food and water, Dr Rosegrant concluded, “Finally, energy taxes improve food security with reduction in climate change intensity due to lower fossil fuel use”.

Dr John Dixon, Principal Advisor at the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), is on the AARES local organising committee and was interviewed recently on ABC Canberra to introduce the conference. You can access his interview here.