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Zero Hunger

Living Edition
| Editors: Walter Leal Filho, Anabela Marisa Azul, Luciana Brandli, Pinar Gökcin Özuyar, Tony Wall

Agribusiness

  • Valeria BorsellinoEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-69626-3_1-1
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Definition

The term agribusiness refers to a set of multiple, interrelated businesses, which are connected to agriculture upstream and downstream in the supply chain; it provides goods and services to consumers around the world (Davis and Goldberg 1957; Gunderson et al. 2014). The sphere of agribusiness concerns the business of agricultural production: it includes the people and firms who provide inputs, process the output, manufacture the food products, and transport and sell food products to consumers (Anitha 2006; Bairwa et al. 2014).

Synonyms

Introduction

The objective of this entry is to provide noneconomists with an analytical tool with which to understand various aspects of contemporary agriculture and food and fiber systems. The first part of the entry will provide an overview of the concept of agribusiness from its conception to current times. It will then present the main challenges facing the agribusiness system in the arena of recent global competition by illustrating key critical aspects, which are related to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Particular reference will be made to SDG2 which focuses explicitly on food by seeking to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.” Agribusiness can contribute to solving these challenges by constructing a secure and sustainable food and agriculture system. Implementing sustainable practices and working in partnership with governments and other stakeholders throughout the agricultural value chain will be key to achieving the targets pertaining to SDG2.

The Concept of Agribusiness

Several definitions for the term agribusiness can be indentified in the literature: two publications, “From Agriculture to Agribusiness” (Davis 1956) and “A Concept of Agribusiness” (Davis and Goldberg 1957365体育网站), by American economists at the Harvard Business School, introduced and defined the term agribusiness for the first time in 1956: “the sum total of all operations involved in the manufacture and distribution of farm supplies; production operations on the farm; and the storage, processing, and distribution of farm commodities and items made from them.”

According to this definition, Agribusiness comprises a three-part system:
  1. 1.

    365体育网站The agricultural input sector, dealing with the supply of inputs, which are required by farmers for growing crops (e.g., the production of organic and biofertilizers, plant protection products, seeds, chemicals, etc.), livestock (e.g., feeds and fodder for livestock, feed for the fisheries, etc.), and other related enterprises (e.g., machinery, fuel, credit, etc.). Improvements regarding the quality of purchased inputs have enjoyed significant gains throughout the entire agribusiness system.

     
  2. 2.

    365体育网站The commercial farm production sector (or output sector). This can be described as the middle part of an agribusiness, aiming at producing crops, livestock, and other products. Recently, producers have specialized in one or a few crops or types of livestock in order to increase their operational efficiency and become production experts. The agricultural production sector has been responsible for most of the changes in the agribusiness sector; in turn, it has been changed by developments in other areas of agribusiness, particularly those relating to technology.

     
  3. 3.

    The processing-manufacturing sector (or product sector) covers various aspects, such as the storage, processing, marketing, and export of the finished products so as to meet the dynamic needs of consumers. This sector employs millions of people in a variety of businesses, ranging from grain elevators to fruit and vegetable-processing plants, to supermarkets, and fast food restaurants. The businesses in this sector acquire raw agricultural commodities from producers which are then processed into food products to be sold in the times, places, and manner, as requested by consumers.

     

In order to capture the wide-ranging meaning of agribusiness, it is important to visualize the aforementioned three sectors as interrelated parts of a system in which the success of each part depends heavily on the correct functioning of the other three parts (Beierlein and Woolverton 1991). Accordingly, Davis and Goldberg broke with the traditional way of looking at agriculture as an independent, isolated sector: instead, each sector became the basic part of a specialized interdependent system of agents, operating in an increasing number of interconnected economic activities, which are upstream and downstream in the supply chain. Thus, from the mid-twentieth century, the term agribusiness seemed more suitable than agriculture for describing the constellation of the totality of activities taking place beyond the farm gate, taking products from the land to the consumer.

The Beginnings of Agribusiness

365体育网站Knowing something of the beginnings of agribusiness facilitates our understanding of how this system operates today and how it may change in the future. Until the end of the 1950s, agriculture was the dominant sector in rural areas in many developed countries, in contrast to the industrial sector prevailing in urban areas. This rural-urban contrast, therefore, mirrored the agriculture-industry divide, but it also indicated other dichotomies, such as a low level of development-modernity and tradition-progress. For many centuries, agriculture mainly regarded the subsistence farming of crops and livestock production, ploughing a field, planting seeds, harvesting a crop, milking cows, or feeding livestock. The vast majority of people lived on farms or nearby farms and they were largely self-sufficient. Almost all agricultural activities took place directly on the farm: farmers produced most of the inputs they required for production, such as seeds, draft animals, feed, and simple farm equipment. Commodities were processed to make farmer’s family food and clothing, and only a fraction of production was commercialized or exchanged in nearby villages and city markets.

This situation has changed slowly but significantly. Farmers progressively observed that focusing their activities on agricultural production rendered their operations more efficient and thus their produce more profitable. Companies, therefore, began to orient themselves toward achieving maximum profit by intervening on the cost side through the creation of economies of size, as well as the intensification of production and production yields. The search for size economies led to a growing specialization, which was horizontal and vertical in nature: the former was attainable via a simplification of the production systems (a reduction in the number and type of crops and/or animals) and the latter by means of a progressive transfer of the phases of the traditional production process to outside the farm (expulsion). Simultaneously, new production phases and functions were being produced in a process of “crushing” and “recomposing” activities, including activating and deactivating relationships on the local and global levels. Farmers became production experts who increasingly purchased those inputs which they had previously made themselves. This shift enabled others to develop businesses which aimed at providing those inputs used in agriculture, such as seeds, fencing, farm machinery, and so on. Thus, industries comprising the agricultural inputs sector were born.

This increasing transfer of activity (deactivation) outside the farm has led to changes in the nature of sectors upstream and downstream sectors in the agricultural process. The activities hitherto relinquished by the agricultural sector have been increasingly activated by companies outside the sector. Examples include companies producing technical vehicles and agricultural machines, processing and distribution companies, service companies, etc. These companies have been increasing the concentration and industrialization of their activities, recently causing a sharp rise in the role of modern distribution in dictating the pace of change throughout the entire agro-industrial system. Commodity processing and food manufacturing has moved away from the farm to make commodities (wheat, rice, milk, livestock, and so on) more useful, suitable, and convenient to consumers wishing to purchase the processed commodity (e.g., flour) instead of the raw agricultural commodity (wheat).

In the meantime, technological advances in food processing and preservation methods have made agriculture commodities available all throughout the year and not only during the harvest period. This has led to repercussions on the traditional (almost historical) link between industry and agriculture at the local level. Indeed, the aforementioned advances in transport, storage technologies, and information systems have allowed the food industry to decouple itself from the supply of local raw materials and to trade raw materials and even semi-finished products on the world market. A shift has, therefore, occurred from the traditional commodity-based business to a more consumer-driven market; this requires increasingly differentiated products, constant innovation, highly specialized product delivery, and customer services (Boehlje 1999; Sonka 2000; Gow et al. 2002). Firms meeting this consumer demand for greater processing and convenience comprise the processing-manufacturing sector.

Agricultural enterprises can, therefore, be said to have changed from essentially autonomous farms to one of many components in the food (and nonfood) production and distribution chains. Agriculture has become big business with evident consequences regarding the organization of work and the professional skills required not only by the agricultural sector but also by those activities in the related ecosystem. The majority of people employed in the agricultural sector are actually engaged in businesses related to seed and fertilizer production, agrochemical products, farm machinery, food-processing, marketing, and trade. Others work in finance, research, distribution, and marketing activities in providing services to farmers. The latter, in turn, rely on upstream agricultural input industries to provide the products and services which farmers need to produce to make a profit, downstream commodity processors and food manufacturers, and ultimately food distributors and retailers who purchase the farmers’ raw agricultural commodities and to process and deliver these commodities to the end user.

Since agriculture and related businesses have undergone substantial structural changes (Schmitz et al. 2010; Pisani 1984), any definition of agriculture has had to be expanded to include more than production and to embrace inputs to farms in addition to activities to transport farm products to markets. Thus, agriculture has evolved into agribusiness, becoming a technological- and market-oriented industry as it spreads out from the realm of farming to encompass more sophisticated sciences. This has created a wide and complex system reaching far beyond the farm gate to include all those who are involved in transporting food and fiber to consumers (Gandhi 2014).

According to a classic definition, agribusiness not only includes those farming the land but also the people and firms supplying the inputs, processing the output, manufacturing the food products, and transporting and selling the food products to consumers (Fig. 1). It, therefore, encompasses the following:
  • 365体育网站The supply sector of inputs related to the agriculture and food industries (specialized engineering industries, chemistry, energy, etc.)

  • 365体育网站Agricultural primary production

  • The feed industry

  • 365体育网站Services to the agriculture and food industries (supplies, purchasing, maintenance, seed improving and production, breeding services, applied research, education, consulting, etc.)

  • Food production and other processing industries

  • 365体育网站Food trade and public catering

Fig. 1

The agribusiness sector

The Evolution of the Concept of Agribusiness

Following on from Davis and Goldberg’s (1957) definition, the concept of agribusiness has been developed and refined by other scholars in other advanced economies; here, the effects of the shifting of agricultural activity toward the upstream and downstream sectors have already been felt. Let us see how the concept of agribusiness has evolved over time. Since Davis and Goldberg’s definition, the nature of agribusiness has changed, resulting in differing definitions. One example of agribusiness is “coordinating science of supplying agricultural production inputs and subsequently producing, processing, and distributing food and fibre” (Roy 1980). Thereafter, Downey and Erickson (1987) included “all those business and management activities performed by firms that provide inputs to the farm sector, produce farm products, and/or process, transport, finance, handle or market farm products.”

Soler and Tangury (1998) included the following industry sectors in the agribusiness chain:
  • The primary production of commodities, such as unprocessed food, aquaculture, fiber, and chemical and pharmaceutical substrates

  • 365体育网站The tertiary transformation of the commodities into value-added products

  • 365体育网站The supply of inputs to the primary and tertiary sectors

  • The retail and wholesale provision of commodities and value-added food, fiber and related products to consumers

  • The provision of services such as finance, insurance and technical advice

Malcolm and Davidson (1999) visualize the agribusiness sector as a vertical slice of an economy comprising many parts. Specifically, consumers and producers of goods and services related to agriculture operate in the agribusiness slice. A further definition has been suggested by Zuurbier (1999) who defines agribusiness as a chain of industries directly and indirectly involved in the production, transformation, and provision of food, fiber, chemicals, and pharmaceutical substrates. However, Sonka and Hudson (1999) have revised their original definition, adapting it to the situation at the turn of the millennium, when the impact of genetic and biological research in the preproduction phases was particularly marked. They defined agribusiness as a chain of subsectors which are interconnected by a series of direct and reverse links, including:
  • 365体育网站Research, genetic and seed firms and suppliers of other biological material

  • Suppliers of other inputs

  • 365体育网站Agricultural producers

  • Buyers of agricultural products (merchandisers or first handlers)

  • Processors of the first and second phases of processing the agricultural products to finished product

  • The retail, trade, and institutions serving public catering

  • Consumers

Ricketts and Rawlins (2001) describe agribusiness as consisting of profit-motivated enterprises, which are involved in providing agricultural supplies and/or the processing, marketing, transport, and distribution of agricultural materials and consumer products. Alternatively, Dunne (2002) defines agribusiness as a series of operations adding value to the finalized product within the whole process of its production, storage, adjustment, and distribution. This is the result of the mutual interdependence of the relationships between suppliers and buyers, according to the series of all activities from raw materials provisioning to the sale of the finalized product (food) to the finalized end consumer.

The nature of structural and economic changes which occurred in the agribusiness sector at the end of the twentieth century was expressed by Connor (2003) as a transformation in which suppliers and customers are inextricably linked throughout the entire sequence of an event which brings raw materials from their supply source through different value-adding activities to the final consumer. Another definition of agribusiness, with a broader set of activities focusing on markets and including natural resources is: “Agribusiness is a dynamic and systemic endeavour that serves consumers globally and locally through innovation and management of multiple value chains that deliver valued goods and services derived from the sustainable orchestration of food, fibre, and natural resources” (Edwards and Schultz 2005). At the opposite end of the spectrum, a more basic definition by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) states that agribusiness refers to any business related to agriculture, including farming, processing, exporting, input suppliers, trading, and retailing (USAID 2008).

Yet another definition of agribusiness has been suggested by Obst et al. (2007) who conceptualize agribusiness from a broad perspective describing it as “activities involving production, processing and distribution of agricultural goods and services and all related activities.” Later, Ricketts and Ricketts (2009) widened the definition offered by Downey and Erickson, including “the manufacture and distribution of farm supplies to the production agriculturist and the storage, processing, marketing, transporting, and distributing of agricultural materials and consumer products that were produced by production agriculturalists.” And more recently, the Encyclopaedia Britannica (Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc. 2011), recalling Malcolm and Davidson’s definition of agribusiness, has defined it as “a part of a modern economy devoted to the production, processing and distribution of food, fibre products and by-products including the financial institutions that fund these activities.”

Recently, the definition of agribusiness has been further broadened to include: (1) agribusiness referring to at least 13 agriculturally related industry sectors, including food and beverages, feed, fuel, pharma-medicine, pharma-cosmetics, electricity, plastics, the environment, entertainment/tourism, textiles, shoes and leather, construction and furniture, paper and packing (Gunderson et al. 2014), and (2) agribusiness “is comprised of all organizations, large and small, profit-seeking and eleemosynary, that engage in the production, distribution, marketing, or utilization of food, fibre, forest products, or biofuel, including those that supply water to and collect waste from those organizations” (Van Fleet 2016).

All the aforementioned definitions focus on interrelationships within the supply or value chains of food and fiber organizations. They also focus on the food system from input supply through to production, processing, and distribution to retail outlets and the consumer. It seems, therefore, inevitable that an acceptable definition must recognize the supply/value chain nature of agribusiness. In essence, agribusiness can be said to simply refer to the application of theories and practices of business administration to organizations which are engaged in agriculture and agriculturally related products and services. While it has no rigid or consensual definitions, the fluid meaning of agribusiness helps to reinforce the idea that the sector plays an increasingly important role in most national economies and global commercial exchanges.

Emerging Challenges in the Agribusiness Sector

365体育网站Agribusiness is one of the most challenging business sectors in the world, involving a whole constellation of activities and supporting businesses which move food and fiber from its place of production to its place of consumption. It, thus, enables the world economy to grow, nations to engage in trade, and feed growing populations utilizing the planet’s limited resources. Modern agribusiness has become very competitive and complex, stimulating many public debates on many topics. Examples of these include economic development, food security, trade, nutrition, natural resources, protecting plant and animal diversity, genetics, and economic, social, and environmental priorities. Inevitably, a more efficient agribusiness system creates new challenges and social concerns, such as the reduced access of small-scale producers and family farmers to viable markets; the high levels of food loss and waste; food security and safety problems; the high-calorie but low-nutrient content of many foodstuffs; plant disease and animal health issues; biodiversity depletion; climate change; the elevated and more intense use of energy; an expanding ecological footprint associated with longer food chains; the decline of family farms; the increasing costs of production; and the disintegration of economic and social conditions in rural communities. All these issues constitute a critical challenge to development, exacerbating business risk to companies, governments, communities, and the environment.

Moreover, agribusiness currently faces a growing problem: its productivity has increased to match the global demand for food, fiber, and, more recently, biofuels. However, restrictions to future growth and productivity are emerging: while the total material wealth, food availability, and well-being of humanity have improved, there is an increasing scarcity of critical resources such as water, soil, and energy. Alarmingly, ecosystem services have been degraded to such an extent that they threaten to undermine long-term societal development.

As the process of industrialization intensifies with apparent progress in the field of agribusiness, albeit with associated problems, there is a growing need to identify integrated solutions to enhance the sustainability of agribusiness practice. There is a widespread and growing discontent with the industrialization of agricultural production and food provision systems. Agribusiness has been put at the core of societal debates (Jansen and Vellema 2004), having been put under pressure to avoid or justify controversial management practices and improve the sustainability of products and processes. The current model of economic growth adopted by many countries, which is heavily based on the exploitation of natural resources, is no longer viable: a more careful and sustainable approach to the use of the planet’s limited resources is required. An increasing world population, land and soil degradation, rising pollution, biodiversity loss, and resource shortages (e.g., water, energy, land) are all in conflict with resource use (e.g., food vs. fuels, large land holdings vs. small farmers, the livestock issue). Moreover, the impact of climate change (Foley et al. 2011; Gerland et al. 2014; FAO and ITPS 2015; Gomiero 2015, 2016; Steffen et al. 2015365体育网站) makes pressing the adoption of a complex approach in defining viable management strategies and policies for the entire agribusiness system.

It cannot be denied that the sustainability of the agribusiness sector is complex in nature. This can be said to be due to the multifunctional nature of agriculture, the multiscale nature of the relations between agroecosystems and socioeconomic systems (Smil 2000; Giampietro 2004; Conway 2012), and the ongoing processes of globalization. Societal expectations regarding production methods increasingly impact the agribusiness sector, and many would contend that its ultimate goal must be to perform in an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable manner.

Agribusiness and the SDG2

As promulgated by the United Nations in 2015, the SDG2 explicitly aims at ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture, simultaneously by 2030. Agribusiness can contribute to solving these challenges by implementing sustainable practices throughout the ever-increasing complex agribusiness system (including input, farm production, distribution, and retail). Empowering small farmers, increasing agricultural productivity and farmers’ livelihoods, raising consumer awareness, and increasing agricultural investment, as well as the sharing of knowledge, are necessary for an efficiently functioning food and agriculture system. This would be the result of efficaciously putting the principles of the SDG2 into practice.

In adhering to these principles, agribusiness will face a threefold challenge: to match the rapidly changing demand for food from a larger and more affluent population to its supply; to do so in environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable ways; and ensure that the world’s poorest people no longer suffer from hunger. This challenge requires radical changes in the way food is produced, stored, processed, distributed, and accessed. There will now follow suggestions for identifying some of these key issues which play important roles in agriculture and the development of agribusiness. Indeed, inherent in the agribusiness sector is the generation of some of these issues, which will continue to have a significant impact on food production. Inevitably, these issues must be taken into consideration in the achievement of the SDG2 targets.

World Hunger

Many people understand that world hunger is caused by a lack of food. However, hunger is not a food issue as the world today produces more than enough food to satisfy the dietary needs of the entire global population (FAO 2017). Hunger is more a matter of logistics. The root causes of world hunger can be traced for the most part to the distribution of the food supply and the ability of many people to access these supplies. However, sufficient food availability does not automatically imply a sufficient food intake by a given population. The asymmetry of individuals to access and enjoy a nutritious diet has been described as a “food divide” (Morrone 2016). And such a phenomenon is no longer limited to the global north-south axis; it has grown to affect ever-increasing numbers of people on a global scale (Morrone 2016).

Factors to account for this hunger asymmetry include: (1) income inequality accounts for notable differences in access to food and explains why hundreds of millions of people are still undernourished; (2) the poor suffer from food poverty due in part to inappropriate food storage, a lack of suitable cooking equipment and access to clean water; there is also a paucity of related services, such as healthcare and basic nutrition education; (3) dietary changes have to a degree improved access to more nutritious foods (including meat, dairy products, fruit, and vegetables) but this is not necessarily in the right proportions. Although sufficient food was produced to nourish and feed every person on the planet‚ almost 800 million people were undernourished in 2016 (FAO 2017). Moreover, one third of global food production was lost or wasted along the food chain from production to consumption (HLPE 2014365体育网站). This is a damning indictment of the inefficiency of food systems as they are currently organized.

365体育网站As previously stated, the key to unlocking the challenge of food poverty is to improve logistics. That is, hunger is a problem affecting all aspects of the supply chain, including storage, transportation, packaging, international shipping, customs, road networks, tracking, and visibility. Farmers often struggle to transport goods to market, and food often rots a short distance from those in greatest need. Minimizing food wastage would significantly increase the supply of available food and strengthen global food security.

It has been stated in this entry that a solution to ending world hunger necessitates not merely growing enough food but also distributing it worldwide; people must also be empowered with the capacity to obtain food or produce crops which can be maintained over time to produce sustainable yields. All those involved in the agribusiness sector, that is, growers, food processing, distributors, retailers, consumers, and waste managers can play a role in ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture. If properly managed, agribusiness may have the potential to play a strong role in the achievement of the SDG2 targets by providing rural income, employment, food security, and poverty alleviation, and thereby contribute to the overall industrial and economic development of any given country.

Food Loss and Waste

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), approximately one third of food produced for human global consumption is lost or wasted annually; this amounts to approximately 1.3 billion tons per year (FAO 2011). Food is lost and wasted at every point along the food chain: on farms and fishing boats; during processing and distribution; in retail stores and restaurants; at home; and after it enters the waste disposal system as municipal solid waste and fills landfills. The notion of food loss measures the decrease in edible food mass, occurring at the production, harvest, post-harvest, and processing phases. This is more important in developing countries where there is generally poor food-chain infrastructure, low levels of knowledge or investment in storage technologies on the farm, and low investment in food production systems. Food losses contribute to high food prices by removing part of the food supply from the market.

Food waste can be defined as food loss occurring during the retail and final consumption stage due to the behavior of retailers and consumers, that is, the throwing away of food. Food waste is more of a problem in industrialized countries. Here, large quantities of food are wasted due to quality standards which exaggerate “perfect” features: food waste is the component of food loss which occurs when an edible item is not consumed. This occurs when food is discarded by retailers due to its color or appearance, including plate waste by consumers. Food loss and food waste are an evident measure of inequality. In poor countries, the vast majority of food loss occurs: on the farm or during transportation to market or because refrigeration is insufficient, in addition to poor infrastructure in the country in question and low levels of technology. Consumers in poor countries discard very little food. This is in stark contrast to the situation in wealthier countries (North America, Oceania, Europe, Japan, South Korea, and China) where approximately 30–40% of wasted food is discarded by consumers (HLPE 2014).

365体育网站Moreover, food loss and waste often translate into economic losses for farmers and other stakeholders in the food value chain and higher prices for consumers; both these factors directly affect food insecurity by making food less accessible to vulnerable groups. Thus, it can be stated that minimizing global food waste would facilitate satisfying the food needs of future global populations. Of no lesser impact of reducing waste is the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The author of this research would, therefore, contend, that, in effectively addressing SDG2, the agribusiness sector should contribute to reducing waste in developed countries by strengthening food supply chains. In turn, this would encourage the diversification and upscaling of the production and marketing of the production of small farmers and assist them in connecting them directly to buyers. Concomitant to this would be enhanced investment in infrastructure, transportation, packaging, and processing. Alternative viable solutions for avoiding food loss in developing countries include the use of storage containers, hermetically sealed bags, and metallic silos, all of which could minimize food loss. Further improvements in this sphere include investing in infrastructure such as roads (to facilitate the commercialization of food, electricity, and water with which to process food).

Food Miles

The term food miles describes the geographical distance from the farm to the consumer of a given food item. Food supply chains have lengthened dramatically over the years, as the physical distance from farm to plate has increased, and consumers and producers have become more remote from one another. A marked degree of power has, therefore, been consolidated in a small group of key actors. Retailers have developed ever more extensive and sophisticated food outlets and distribution systems, importing an increasing volume of produce. And consumers have become accustomed to convenient, relatively comfortable shopping facilities and a large range of quality produce.

Foodstuffs can be transported hundreds or even thousands of kilometers/miles. The average distance from the location of production to the point of purchase or consumption by the end user is estimated to be approximately 1,500 miles (Trevors and Saier 2010). However, the vast distances involved in transporting many foodstuffs renders them vulnerable to oil supply and prices, inefficiency on a per calorie basis, all of which make this practice (of transporting goods over huge distances) unsustainable in the long run. The greater the distance traveled by a given foodstuff, the less sustainable and the less environmentally friendly will be that foodstuff. In combination with fair trade systems, many of these challenges can be overcome by developing regional and local food systems which encourage and use local produce.

Threats to Small Farms

A serious threat to small farms is their destruction due to limited access to capital, technical assistance, and a low degree of mechanization and production specialization. This can be a result of competitive, large, agricultural enterprises, as well as the asymmetry of the food supply chain, which predominates in the commodity-processing sector (Bojar et al. 2017). The modern concept of agribusiness emphasizes agriculture as big business, to the detriment of the contribution of small family farms. This identification of agribusiness with large-scale, commercial, agricultural operations invariably ignores the fact that it also includes small, organic farms, as well as other agriculturally related operations. Indeed, it has been suggested that solving some of the problems associated with large commercial agriculture would involve the recognition of unique forms of niche farming (Hamilton 2009; Stanton 2000). Growth in agriculture in low-income and agrarian economies has a doubling or quadrupling impact as regards reducing poverty, greater than in any other economic sector (Townsend 2015365体育网站). Such an opportunity is a significant economic opportunity for the agribusiness sector in prioritizing smallholders’ operations in achieving the goals of SDG2. As smallholders become more productive, they will be able to invest in new business opportunities, thereby increasing their purchasing power, building resilience, and saving economic resources for investing in the future.

Environmental Issues

Agriculture in the developed world has changed dramatically since the industrial revolution. These changes have been characterized by a notable transformation due to the application of intensification technologies and the globalization of agro-food markets. Food and fiber productivity have soared due to innovative technologies, the use of mechanization, increased chemical use, specialization, and government policies favoring the maximization of production. Although these changes have had many positive effects (improving total material wealth, food availability, and the well-being of humanity) and reduced many risks inherent in farming, there have also been significant environmental costs affecting production and access to food. Some of these are:
  • Soil erosion: due to population pressure, farmers in many regions attempt to grow food at faster rates, not leaving sufficient time for the soil to recuperate from the previous harvest prior to commencing a subsequent harvest (i.e., allowing a fallow period). This practice inevitably leads to the loss of rich topsoil.

  • 365体育网站Desertification: a loss in habitable land leading to the expansion of deserts, in turn due to excessive, human exploitation of the land.

  • Deforestation: a loss in forested areas, which is caused by humans chopping down forests at such an exorbitant rate that the forests are unable to regenerate itself.

  • Climate change: caused by excessive anthropogenic pressure on the environment, climate change undermines global food security and the livelihoods of the world’s most vulnerable people, threatening the earth’s ecosystems.

  • A loss in biodiversity: modern agriculture relies on a small number of highly productive crops, leading to a significant loss in global biodiversity. Maintaining the genetic diversity of plants and animals is crucial to agriculture and food production since it makes it possible to raise farm animals in a wide range of environments, thereby providing the basis for diverse products and services.

Other critical issues related to the development of agribusiness, beyond the scope of this entry, to describe in detail, include: price volatility; malnutrition and health problems; working conditions; social security; competition for land, water, and energy; forced land appropriation; food security and safety; scientific innovations and new technologies and methods (shelf-life, proliferation of genetically modified organisms, cloning, etc.); release of greenhouse gases; water shortages; aquatic ecosystem disruption, to name but a few.

Conclusion

365体育网站The agribusiness sector is responsible for the production and distribution of food worldwide. The SDG2 calls for the world to rethink how food is produced, distributed, and consumed and places great emphasis on facilitating an inclusive and sustainable global food supply chain. As promulgated by the UN, achieving the SDGs requires a paradigm shift in global development, moving away from current attitudes and approaches, which typically conceptualize social, economic, and ecological development as separate entities. The SDG2 could be supported by an agribusiness sector which is more adept at serving the communities in which it operates and evolving by respecting the limited natural resources of the planet earth.

The author of this entry contends that the agribusiness sector can play a role in addressing hunger and take a lead in making a significant contribution to achieving the SDG2 targets while prioritizing and addressing sector-specific challenges, specifically, by:
  • Adopting a market-driven approach to food nutrition and accessibility

  • Empowering smallholder farmers and enhancing the livelihoods of farming communities

  • Encouraging more inclusive business models in the agricultural value chains, in which farmers improve quality and productivity, thereby increasing their own incomes while providing healthy and affordable food

  • 365体育网站Strengthening public–private partnerships in the agribusiness sector, as well as promoting global and local partnership with farmers who adopt sustainable practices

  • Reconceptualizing how supply chains are managed, working in partnership with other actors throughout the agricultural value chain (including input, production, distribution, and retail)

  • Demonstrating transparency in the agricultural supply chain by upholding the highest standards of sustainability in sourcing practices, enhancing the traceability of commodities, and demonstrating transparency in the agricultural supply chain

  • Raising the consumer awareness of hunger and the consequences of their dietary choices on the market

  • Funding research and investment in resource efficiency and the implementation of more sustainable agricultural practices

  • 365体育网站Implementing policies which minimize unsustainable land use and degradation

This enormous task will only be possible by joining forces and creating long-term collaborative, multi-stakeholder partnerships between governments, the private sector, and agricultural communities. The right to adequate food and good nutrition is universal: it is a political issue concerning not only the economic factors of production and consumption, but it also relates to relationships between this generation and the next (Morrone 2016). Making progress toward SDG2 will also depend on concomitant progress made toward several of the other SDGs. That is, policy-makers and other stakeholders will need to consider interlinkages and critical interactions, both in terms of synergies and trade-offs, between SDG2 and all inherent goals.

Cross-References

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Agricultural, Food and Forest SciencesUniversità degli Studi di PalermoPalermoItaly

Section editors and affiliations

  • Mohammad Sadegh Allahyari
    • 1
  1. 1.Dept. of Agricultural ManagementRasht Branch, Islamic Azad University, RashtRashtIran