$12 trillion cost of food security failure world warned

The world has been warned it faces a $12 trillion bill if it does not fix the global food system and enhance its security.

Following recent news that the fight against hunger has stalled, a meeting of global leaders heard there needs to be urgent action if progress is to be made in transforming food systems.

“There will be no end to the cycle of hunger and poverty if we continue to finance instruments and business models that do not work for primary producers and food-systems operators,” said Alvaro Lario, (pic top left) president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in a statement during the opening session of UN Food Systems Summit + 2 Stocktaking Moment. He added that firm financial commitments and political will are needed to halt current trends and build a food secure future.

The Summit was convened by UN secretary general António Guterres, who said in his opening address: “In a world of plenty, it is outrageous that people continue to suffer and die from hunger.”

He added, “Starving food systems on investment means, quite literally, starving people.”

The emerging global vision is to create a new food financial architecture with governments, the private sector and development partners mobilising as much as $400 billion a year until 2030 – far less than the cost of inaction estimated at $12 trillion a year in environmental, social, and economic damage to communities, families, livelihoods and lives.

“Today’s food systems have failed to make nutritious diets accessible or affordable for all. Four out 10 people worldwide are unable to afford a healthy diet. We must build a world where healthy and nutritious food is available and affordable for everyone, everywhere. If we don’t act now, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and climate targets remain completely out of reach,” said Lario.

According to the latest figures released by the UN earlier this month, 122 million more people are suffering chronic malnourishment since 2019. Currently, over 3 billion people in the world cannot afford a healthy diet. Food systems are responsible for one-third of greenhouse gas emissions, up to 80% of biodiversity loss and up to 70% of fresh-water consumption.

“We need to massively scale-up investments in rural development and across food systems to help small-scale farmers produce more food and more diversified food, access markets, value chains and technologies and adapt to climate change,” added Lario. IFAD, the only UN fund that exclusively focuses on rural areas, is co-leading the financing agenda together with the World Bank Group.

The Summit is reviewing progress made to create inclusive, sustainable and resilient food systems. The event is hosting 2,000 in-person participants and thousands of virtual attendees from 170 countries – including 22 heads of state, 103 ministerial level delegates, close to 100 Food Systems National Convenors, 450 non-state actor (NSA) delegates, and high-level delegates from the UN system and other international organisations.

“All the governments represented here today have committed to eliminating poverty and hunger, and to taking urgent climate action by 2030. So, I am here to say loudly and clearly that we will not succeed – that you will not succeed – unless we transform our food systems today. The stakes are higher than ever. The next few years are critical for financing food security,” said Sabrina Elba, (pic top right) who is receiving an honourable mention at the UN SDG Awards for her work as IFAD’s goodwill ambassador.