Agrifood transformation, economic recovery and SDGs

#13, June 2021

Maika Díaz

Project Manager, Foundation FUNDECYT Scientific and Technologial Park of Extremadura

The agrifood sector moving towards sustainability, digitalisation, greener and more resilient in post-Covid-19 times.

Without having afforded supply problems after the Covid-19 crisis, the sector is facing the challenges of sustainability and digitalisation, which will be the key to its future. Undoubtedly, European Union (EU) aims to promote its economy and thus, the agrifood sector with resources and strategies that will transform it into a greener more digitised, and resilient sector.

The European Funds for the agrifood sector are the best endowed and reinforced with additional Next Generation EU funds. Moreover, funds are received from the framework of the Common Agricultural Policy financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF) to provide adequate intervention, according to the needs of each EU region.

We should remind that agrifood transformation must follow the roadmap of the EU Green Deal. This plan focuses on the transformation of the EU economy towards recovery and a sustainable future, and aims to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050.  The EU Green Deal has 50 initiatives, including two central strategies: the "Farm to Fork Strategy" and the "Biodiversity Strategy", challenges that the agri-food sector will have to achieve for its transition towards the sustainability, digitalisation and, finally, the economic recovery of the sector.

It should be noted that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been the EU's mirror for the EU Green Deal as the implementation strategy for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Although, the agrifood sector is a sector whose actions globally contribute to all of 17 SDGs but as further pointed out by Food and Agriculture Organization at the United Nations (FAO), it is specially positioned as key sector in the following SDGs:

  • SDG2 "Zero Hunger": the rural development and investment in agriculture are tools to end poverty and hunger and achieve sustainable development.
  • SDG3 "Good Health and Well-being”: good health starts with good nutrition.
  • SDG8 "Decent Work and Economic Growth"; agricultural growth in low-income economies can reduce poverty by half.
  • SDG9 "Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure": innovation opens up new markets for smallholder farmers.
  • SDG12 "Responsible Consumption and Production”: food security means reducing waste.
  • SDG13 "Climate Action": agriculture plays an important role in combating climate change.
  • SDG17 "Partnerships for the Goals": cooperation can help make the voices of the hungry heard.

Additionally, there are other noteworthy funds which are directly managed by the European Commission such as: the Horizon Europe programme, with their Cluster 6: Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment, or the Interreg Europe and Interreg V Sudoe both programmes financed by European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). These funds are co-financing agri-food projects on topics in cooperation between different EU countries.

It is important to emphasise that the regions of the EU are redefining their Smart Specialisation Strategies and next S4 must be aligned with these policies and strategies and prioritise initiatives in the agro-industrial sector. A good example is our Research and Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialization of Extremadura (RIS3 Extremadura 2027) which will allow Extremadura to continue moving towards a green transition and digital transformation for generating value through a sustainable use of its resources and capabilities, the orientation of its activities towards internationalisation, and the attraction of investment and talent from the region and around the world.

The RIS3 Extremadura 2027, Extremadura has the mission to transform the region into a global node generating creativity, diversification and open innovation in the design, production and export of agri-food products and services, green energy and its storage, and welfare and quality of life, based on the sustainability and valorisation of its biodiversity and its cultural and heritage resources, on collaborative R&D&I and on the application of digital technologies.

In conclusion, the agrifood sector is a priority for most EU regions that have been very resilient in the pandemic. Even more with its transformation, the sector could become the economic motor for the recovery of rural areas, generating employment and improving quality of life.