Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

Dear fellow Agents, for the past week or so we have been discussing different ways we can grow enough food to feed the globe sustainably and affordably.

In many developing countries smallholder export horticulture is aleady proving to be a powerful new engine for growth in rural economies. My country Kenya has been one of the quickest to develop as a supplier of air-freighted fresh vegetables from smallholder fields to consumers in Europe. More than a 1 million livelihoods have been created in farm production and a further 3 million in associated employment. Now other African countries including Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia want to follow suit.

However with rising concerns over climate change, consumers, environmentalists and politicians in the developed world are debating whether it makes environmental sense to continue to import foodstuffs with high food miles. The debate on if emissions caused by the airfreight of our fresh produce from Africa v/s this growth in rural economies is HOT.

Please share - are you FOR air-freighting of fresh produce from one country to or another or AGAINST?

Views: 123

Comment by UWIHANGANYE Israël on March 16, 2010 at 4:05pm
no no ,I am against that blog of air-freighting of fresh produce because u can not feed others while yours are still suffering.
So what i am likely to say about Rwanda ,i know it is adopted but first the main objectif is that Rwandans have to feed themselves and not focus on foreign Aid. the fight against foreign Aid is due to proverb which states that < Do not feed me fishes but teach me how to fish them>. So I would like to mention that Rwandan government have vision that all people may satisfy first their basic needs and the rest for the market either internal or external.
Comment by Comelia Tang on March 16, 2010 at 4:33pm
I am against it considering the emission and the food security issue, I could see economic being the main reason here but providing a part of the crops remain in Kenya and not being output totally. But all in all, it still doesn't sound feasible. +local insight!
Comment by Patricio Buenrostro-Gilhuys on March 16, 2010 at 4:58pm
How could all the money spent on air-freighting could be used to teach agriculture and for seeds?
Comment by Jane A.W. on March 16, 2010 at 5:08pm
You wanna talk about mixed emotions?
My gut reaction is to say price fuel so that it reflects true externality costs (carbon, etc.) and THEN let the market sort it out - would Europeans and Americans buy such a variety of specialty and out-of-season goods if they paid the real costs of the transportation... BUT - wow - if we priced transportation costs incorporating externality costs, the wh*** global system will RADICALLY change. Corporate Agriculture would change, shipping bulk grain might go down leading to markets for these local African farmers to supply grains to their own communities.

If it weren't for Air Freight my wh*** town would shrink and starve. Much of Alaska isn't ON a road system and after the oceans and harbors freeze up - air freight is the only way in or out (sorry dogsleds and snow machines aren't gonna suffice). And if frozen/fresh/pickeled fish, caribou, seal, etc. plus some plants and berries were all that was available to eat - I'm thinking you'd have only some serious die-hard traditional lifestyle folks still up here.

Which means no Prudhoe bay, probably less North Sea oil too. So, it's a far more complicated question since it gets fundamentally at how our global economy has evolved with cheap oil and hence cheap transportation.
Comment by Rahul Dewanjee on March 16, 2010 at 5:25pm
The only way Africa will export less food commodity is when they will export more of non-food commodity...they will have to export something or else their existing trade imbalances due to negative balance of payments (BOP) will spiral causing further deficits on top of existing deficits that are already there. Do we want Africa to go bankrupt? Do we want to create another Iceland? Do we want anarchy to prevail further in Africa? How else can we even dream of not trading with Africa on pretext of carbon credits expended? at least now they are eating one meal in the present circ***tances. when we will stop buying, they will simply starve. African dictators and sham fractured coalition governments notorious for printing money (Mugabe of Zimbabwe being the prime example) will cause inflation and unaffordability of staples will further rise....if we need to help Africa, embrace african goods more, provide high end technology transfers, provide human capital support (similar to what United States did for Japan after WWII by sending experts like Alfred Deming to spearhead quality revolution in Japan), policy makers in EU and US stop providing subsidies to rich farmers in EU & US and on the contrary, provide incentives to European and American businesses to set up agro-processing facilities in Africa, help build linkages and transport infrastructure under World Bank & IMF soft loan process to 'contain' post harvest losses which if contained can rise the crop yield and productivity, ask design giants like Landor and IDEO to come forward and create design led innovative product packaging, and so many other things.....
Comment by Bongumusa on March 16, 2010 at 6:30pm
You have summarise for us and provided good qualty information. With no doubt, I will give you +2 more points on knowledge share. I believe that you desrve them. No more than that. Keep it up.
Comment by Linda Holt on March 16, 2010 at 6:37pm
Lynn, you nialed it for me when you mentioned "fair trade". Rahul, you are also correct. There is merit in every point of view represented here. But the issue of fair trade is what stands in the way of my yay or nay. When Kenya (and the rest of us) begin to value the producer and methods of production as much as the convenience and availability of the product, all weighed on a scale with sustainability and social impact as counter weights, then we can air freight with confidence that our trading systems are awesome. I love how Umair Haque defines this:

Awesomeness happens when thick — real, meaningful — value is created by people who love what they do, added to insanely great stuff, and multiplied by communities who are delighted and inspired because they are authentically better off. That's a better kind of innovation, built for 21st century economics.


So I guess my answer is yes, as we continue to work towards a new paradigm in how the economics of trade are perceived by the powers that be.
Comment by Radhika Darbari on March 16, 2010 at 7:37pm
This is a tricky one like many have mentioned. I am going to keep my response short and sweet as agree with so many above no point explaining the same points extensively again. Agriculture is one of the main competitive a****t African countries have currently; enviromentally,etc. I support Food Airmiles to help the economy of those countries. However as said the country should be feeding its own people first. TO be honest economically if they did this using theories of supply and demand they would have less supply for their western counter parts, yet still lower prices in many cases even if carbon admission was considered as that is just something we as the world need to find better ways to transport without damaging the environment, in regards to the economic proof that with less supply yet higher demand prices increase slightly, they would as a result increase their GDP, feed their own people and beable to after develop in other areas by investing in knowledge and so eventually reduce their carbon emission on food airmiles. Our problem in many cases is governments and pressures they are recieving at home from focus groups. I believe in Adam Smith's theories. All in all as a result right now foodmiles are needed so I am FOR. Governments from both side, farmers on ground and supermarkets etc in the Europe,etc. need change their negotiations and make it FAIR. Then my above vision can happen and in the long term all benefit, then foodmiles can be reduced and emissions can also change..more to say but will start writing my own blog.lol.

So vote: Currently Shakwei; FOR on conditions - some business and country income definately better than none.
Comment by Claire Moylan on March 16, 2010 at 7:52pm
Interesting debate! Food or fuel? Growth or pollution?
Comment by Ken Truhan on March 16, 2010 at 7:58pm
While I am certainly not against the growth and development of the Kenyan economy (when it truly benefits the average Kenyan citizen), I'm more in the camp of being against air-freighting produce over such long distances - as the global fuel supply continues it downward "peak oil" decline, I genuinely believe we need to be more aware and more vigilant about how this diminishing resource is being used.

And as other posters (like Murray Sterley) have asked out loud, is it surplus food that is being exported from Kenya? Or (more likely), is this "commodity food" being sold while many Kenyans struggle to simply feed themselves? (I fear a vicious cycle of Kenyan food being sold to outside markets, and then food has to be imported back in to make up the difference)

Someone made a comment about coffee, which is not grown everywhere (and as an avid coffee consumer myself, I certainly benefit from such freighted imports!) - so how to deal with such "regionally unique" food commodities? In a perfect world, the price tag of such items would indeed reflect ALL of the real costs of getting it to outside consumers (production, transport, carbon offset fee, etc.) - so from that standpoint, I would support the air-freighting of food items if A) it wasn't readily available/grow-able in the destination country, and B) its final price truly reflected its complete production & global cost.

But as it stands now, I would rather see Kenya feed ALL of its citizens first, and then see what sort of surpluses it might have to sell internationally. (I'm no clairvoyant, but I see a future where we're all going to have to rely more on food that is produced locally - the "luxury" of imports is going to become a bigger and bigger issue as fuel/energy sources continue to be strained)

Obviously, we live in a global economy, and each country going completely "isolationist" with its salable resources isn't practical - so if airfreighting is going to be a sustainable reality, we really need to ramp up our development and production of alternative energy sources.


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