Platform for African – European Partnership in Agricultural Research for Development

Monday, November 6, 2023

The State of Food and Agriculture 2023

FAO (2023) The State of Food and Agriculture 2023. Revealing the true cost of food to transform agrifood systems # 150 p.

FAO. 2023. In Brief to The State of Food and Agriculture 2023. Revealing the true cost of food to transform agrifood systems. Rome. # 28 p.

This year's edition looks into the true cost of food for sustainable agrifood systems. The report introduces the concept of hidden environmental, health and social costs and benefits of agrifood systems and proposes an approach – true cost accounting (TCA) – to assess them. To operationalize the TCA approach, the report proposes a two-phase assessment process, first relying on national-level TCA assessments to raise awareness and then moving towards in-depth and targeted evaluations to prioritize solutions and guide transformative actions.
  • Globally, the dominant quantified hidden costs are those arising from dietary patterns which lead to diseases and lower labour productivity. These health-related costs exhibit considerable variation across countries, but are most prominent in high- and middle-income countries.
  • The environmental hidden costs, while not exhaustive, constitute over 20 percent of the quantified hidden costs and are equivalent to almost one-third of agricultural value added. They are mostly associated with greenhouse gas (GHG) and nitrogen emissions and are relevant across all country income groups.
  • Hidden costs appear to be a greater burden in low-income countries, where they are estimated to amount, on average, to 27 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), compared with 11 percent in middle-income countries and 8 percent in high-income countries. 
Targeted true cost accounting assessments that also look at the cost of different abatement actions – the focus of next year’s report – are needed to inform decision-makers on how to leverage policy, regulation, standards and private capital for a transition towards sustainable agrifood systems.

The report urges governments to use true cost accounting to transform agrifood systems to address the climate crisis, poverty, inequality and food security. It notes that innovations in research and data, as well as investments in data collection and capacity building, will be needed to scale the application of true cost accounting, so it can inform decision-making in a transparent and consistent way.

The preliminary results suggest there is considerable variation from country to country in the relative importance of environmental, social and health hidden costs, underscoring the need to produce national estimates of hidden costs and improve them with country-specific information, so they can be a useful input in decision- and policymaking processes.

Read online the full digital report
Read the In Brief
Press release: Hidden costs of global agrifood systems worth at least $10 trillion

6 November 2023. 12:30 Rome time Launch of The SOFA 2023

This event presents FAO’s flagship report on “The State of Food and Agriculture 2023”. This year the topic is “Revealing the true cost of food for transforming agrifood systems”. The Report presents an initial national-level assessment that quantifies, to the extent possible, the hidden costs of national agrifood systems in a consistent and comparable way, for 154 countries. The results are a starting point to stimulate debate and dialogue. With input from in-country stakeholders and experts, the initial quantification and analysis can be improved based on country-specific information and be a useful input into decision-making.

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