Lost in Climate Change Reports

The UN’s next global climate change conference is fast approaching. Hosted by France, the conference aims to achieve a new international agreement on the climate with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C. This is not a new goal as we know – the Copenhagen Meeting in 2009 also wanted to reach the same.

Those interested might find it useful to read some recent reports on the topic to keep themselves up to date. However, by starting with the probably most well-known ones (IPCC’s climate change reports), one surely realises that their language becomes very hard to understand. In a recent article, a number of scientists analysed the language used by IPCC and concluded that her studies have become less readable over time.

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EU’s declining importance in agrifood trade

The fact that twelve countries reached agreement on the terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade area last week (albeit ratification is by no means assured) underlines the changing geography of international agrifood trade. The EU is still an important player, but it is remarkable how quickly its importance is declining as other exporters make their appearance and other import markets grow in size (see this post for a previous discussion). The table below shows the trends over the past two decades (click to enlarge).

The table shows the EU’s share of global exports and imports of agrifood products, but excluding fish (SITC 03).

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What biodiversity benefits can we expect from EFAs?

The recent release by the Commission of its Mid-Term Review of the EU’s 2020 Biodiversity Strategy makes for sorry reading when it comes to Target 3 “To increase the contribution of agriculture and forestry to maintaining and enhancing biodiversity..”. Specifically, Target 3A dealing with agriculture had the following objective:

By 2020, maximise areas under agriculture across grasslands, arable land and permanent crops that are covered by biodiversity-related measures under the CAP so as to ensure the conservation of biodiversity and to bring about a measurable improvement in the conservation status of species and habitats that depend on or are affected by agriculture and in the provision of ecosystem services as compared to the EU 2010 Baseline, thus contributing to enhance sustainable management.

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Does farm size matter?

On October 20th next I will take part in a workshop organised by DG AGRI at the Milan EXPO on the subject “Structural realities in EU agriculture: Does farm size matter?” The aim of the workshop is to discuss the challenges and opportunities brought about by the structural change of the EU agricultural sector for a) the up- and downstream industries, b) EU rural areas and c) the sustainability of agricultural production in Europe.
The debate on farm size
There is a long history in Europe of interest in the structure of agricultural holdings. Many European countries have had land legislation in place with the objective of maximising the number of farm holdings or limiting the maximum farm size.

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Decreasing food prices: Short term happiness

The FAO Food Price Index averaged 156.3 points in September 2015 which is almost 20% less than a year ago. Last month’s 155.7 points were actually the lowest value of the index in the last seven years.
The FAO Food Prices index tracks international market prices for cereals, meat, dairy products, vegetable oils and sugar. As the following figure shows, prices of each of these are moving downwards in the short run, though they increased by 50-100% on a 2002-2004 basis.
FAO Food Price Index for 1990-2015 (2002-2004=100)

Values for 2015 are coming from January-September averages.
Source: Own composition based on FAO (2015) data
FAO suggests that reasons behind are ample supplies, a slump in energy prices and concerns over China’s economic slowdown.

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