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DR. YAVUZ TEKELİOĞLU WRITES; “COVID 19 AND LOCALIZED FOOD SYSTEMS”

Covid 19, the biggest global crisis faced since the world war II, beyond being a health crisis, is a socioeconomic crisis that has never been experienced before. Almost in every country, it creates devastating socioeconomic and political wounds that will take a long time to recover. There are heavy work and income losses every day and we have no idea when to return to “normal”. The only thing known is “Uncertainty”.

Like all sectors of the world economy, the agricultural sector was also greatly affected by the crisis. The pandemic disrupted the agricultural value chains and created significant risks for the food security of consumers. Limiting the mobility of farmers and seasonal agricultural workers, while consumers’ rush to markets to stockpile food is blowing demand for food, limiting the supply of agricultural products affected very negatively. These developments brought agriculture and food security to the fore in all countries.

Meanwhile, the report on “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World” prepared by 5 international organizations led by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) was published on 13 July.

In the report, it is estimated that 195 million people will be unemployed due to Covid 19. According to the United Nations, there are 690 million people who still make up 9% of the world’s population and are struggling with hunger. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 130 million more will be added to this figure by the end of the year due to the pandemic. Whereas, global food production currently at a level that can feed 10 billion people. Actually, the problem is not in production. As stated in the report, the cause of permanent hunger is poverty, inequalities, conflicts, mismanagement and marginalization of the most vulnerable.

The report emphasizes that this is unacceptable and that food systems are urgently needed to be transformed to reduce the price of nutritious food and ensure that everyone can afford a healthy diet.

Although late, this proposal is very appropriate and once again justifies the advocates of “Localized Food Systems” (YGS). YGS is a rapidly developing model that has been proposed as an alternative to the global food system.
This model includes profound changes in consumer behaviour and mode of production. For consumers, a more diverse, more balanced and healthier nutrition system and the reduction of animal proteins for the benefit of vegetable proteins come to the fore.

On the production side, less concentration, less energy use, diversification according to agro-ecology, industrial and logistic environment understanding come to the fore. In the YGS model, change occurs according to 3 interconnected principles.

The first of these is autonomy or independence. Accordingly, self-sufficiency and food security in basic food must be increased and this must be sustainable. This is national agricultural policies. While being designed according to the purpose, practices that we call city gardening are developing in cities. Currently, 10% of the agricultural product consumption of Paris is met by the production carried out in small gardens, terraces and balconies of the houses. The pandemic has demonstrated the importance of this.

Proximity is the second principle of change. Environmental agriculture comes into play here. Production areas should be close to consumption areas. Apart from that, the processing of agricultural products must be carried out in the same area. Proximity, which facilitates access to agricultural-food products, proved its importance with the Pandemic. As a matter of fact, our big cities far from production centres have experienced significant problems due to the fragility of their supply chains.

Solidarity is the third and final stage of change. This process emerges with company strategies that internalized social and environmental problems, forms of cooperative organization in value chains and the common use of resources.

The alternative model accepts nutrition as a social good that should be managed democratically by public powers. All these developments show that many things will not be the same after the pandemic and that producers, consumers, companies and governments will be more sensitive to agriculture, food safety and environmental issues.

Due to its strategic importance, significant changes are expected in the post-pandemic process in agriculture. In this context, agriculture needs to implement innovative tools that will increase productivity in production in order to resist the crisis and its developments and to adapt to the increasing product demand. The most important strategy for farmers from now on is to reduce their spending as much as possible. For this, applied precision agricultural tools (software, drones) need to be used. In summary, the world after the pandemic awaits an agricultural sector that takes advantage of technologies and digitalization.

Covid 19 has also highlighted geographical indications due to agricultural and food products. As a matter of fact, there are thousands of geographical indications related to agri-food products across the world. Two third of approximately 500 geographical indications registered in our country are made up of these products.

Geographical indications are expected to gain more importance in all countries after the pandemic. These quality products, which represent localization against globalization, also consist of the basic elements of food safety…

Professor Dr. Yavuz Tekelioğlu

President of YÜciTA

(Research Network on Local Products and

Geographical Indications of Turkey)

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