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Recently, the EU Commission made public a new report on the medium-term outlook for major EU agricultural markets to 2030. It includes: analysis of uncertainties, trends and macroeconomic factors that can have an impact on the sector in the EU. Two years before, in 2017, FAO published a report identifying the main global trends and challenges that would define the future of food and agriculture in the coming decade.

The mentioned reports are:

  1. EC (2019), EU agricultural outlook for markets and income, 2019-2030. European Commission, DG Agriculture and Rural Development, Brussels.
  2. FAO (2017), The future of food and agriculture – Trends and challenges. Rome.

In this post, we are going to present some of the main trends identified by these two studies.

5 Common global trends for the agricultural sector

1. Labour outflow from the agricultural sector to industrial or service sectors will continue.

This is taking place at various degrees and paces across regions. Regions are responding to this shift differently and some economies are more affected than others.

2. Changes in global consumption patterns will affect trade flows.

Income growth in low to medium-income countries generates a dietary transition towards a higher consumption of meats, dairy, fruits and vegetables.

This can affect trade flows and create export and import opportunities and shifts.

3. Social demands will continue to impact food market development.

Social perceptions impact consumption and demand.

Main trends are the increasing demand for less-processed products and a negative perception of GMOs.

4. Technology and innovation will play a key role in the sustainability of agricultural and food systems.

The use of new technologies will be key to boost productivity and growth of the yields. Especially, in a setting marked by a decline in the land used for agriculture and in the active working population in the agricultural sector.

5. Environmental issues affect all: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

To the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we are all “developing countries”.

Important issues identified: GHG emissions caused by cattle production (ruminants’ digestion), resources degradation, the spread of pests and diseases for plants and animals or the loss of biodiversity.

Climate change, in general, will have an impact on the agricultural sector and increase the uncertainty of predictions.

5 Trends that apply specifically to the EU agricultural sector

1. Labour outflow from the agricultural sector is expected to slow down. 

The nature of the agricultural work is expected to change in the coming years: this will attract a new set of professional profiles —knowledge, technical and digital-driven—.

For example, the EU Commission foresees an increase in the number of professionals in charge of the management of new machinery or able to control decision-making technologies.

2. Not all arable land in the EU is set to decrease. 

When the net land use in the EU will decrease, some crops are expected to grow. For example, protein crops and fodder. Combined with bigger yields, this could lead to an overall increase in agricultural production.

3. Farmers’ income increases in the forecast. 

The EU Commission analysis forecasts a general farmers’ income increase due to an increase in both the production and the prices of the output.

4. Social demands in the EU point to preferences for organic locally sourced foods and a shift towards a more plant-based protein diet.

Demand for organic products will promote conversions to organic farming. Besides, the general preference for less-processed foods can also lead to further market shifts and to the appearance of other environmentally friendly alternatives to non-organic products.

Plant-protein demand is strong and will boost the growth of protein crops. Consumers are showing a preference as well for locally sourced proteins, which could also affect the trade flows.

5. The EU and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The 10 of December of 2019 the EU Council adopted and made public the final conclusions on the Agenda:

“The conclusions stress the need to accelerate action both within the EU and in other parts of the world in order to fulfil the vision and goals of the 2030 Agenda.”

Council of the EU, press release - 10 of December 2019.

One of the ways in which the EU supports the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is through the Research and Innovation Programmes. Currently, we are in the last year of the H2020 Programme, which will lead in 2021 to the next 7-year initiative: Horizon Europe.

You can check the type of projects funded under these Programmes in our projects section!

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