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The agricultural and food value chain

Entering a new era of cooperation

The agriculture and food sector remains one of the few bright spots in an otherwise troubled global economy. With strong underlying growth drivers such as population, urbanization, and the rise of the middle classes, it is expected to remain so. Not only are the economic fundamentals strong, but so is the level of political support, as food security tops government agendas.

At the same time, the sector is facing challenges driven by climate change, rapid technological innovation, and new demands for biofuels and access to information. These forces are manifesting themselves through increased volatility, complexity, and scrutiny throughout the value chain.

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The goal of the global agribusiness value chain, which spans input companies through to the final consumer and has a total value of around US$5 trillion, is to provide sustainable access to affordable food, feed, fiber, and, more recently, fuel. However, this goal is getting harder to achieve every year due to several prominent challenges.

On the demand side, the growing global population and economic growth combine to generate more need for increased levels of crop and food production. Policies promoting biofuels have also added a significant new source of demand to the equation. Apart from such considerations affecting the quantity of demand, there are also drivers affecting its quality, as the food chain and consumers increasingly consider the environmental and social dimensions of how food is produced. On the supply side, there is concern about declining levels of yield gain, whether due to the laws of diminishing returns or the effects of water shortages and global warming.

The agribusiness sector’s complex value chain spans input companies, farmers, traders, food companies, and retailers, all of whom must ultimately satisfy the varying demands of the consumer sustainably. The sector encompasses huge diversity and variety at each stage, from R&D-based input companies to generic manufacturers, subsistence farmers to high-tech agro holdings, biotech boutiques, and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to multinational corporations.