Economía Agroalimentaria

Accounting for the hidden costs of agrifood systems in data-scarce contexts

Background paper for The State of Food and Agriculture 2023
Año: 2023
Autor(es): Markandya, A.
Editor: FAO

FAO Agricultural Development Economics Working Paper, No. 23-12.

This background paper to The State of Food and Agriculture 2023 reviews the methods used, as well as the data required, to estimate the hidden environmental, social and health costs associated with agrifood systems. The studies analysed are based on the true cost accounting approach, which can facilitate improved decision-making by policymakers, businesses, farmers, investors and consumers. The reviewed studies demonstrate that hidden costs of agrifood systems are considerable, and that action is needed at global, national and local levels.

To apply true cost accounting at the country level, the methods developed must be downscaled and the data limitations overcome. This review goes through each cost category – environmental, social and health – and proposes approaches to deal with them, with a focus on country-level estimates and analysis, especially in data-scarce countries. Where data are not available or time is limited, methods combining secondary data are suggested. In some cases, the suggestion is to collaborate with research centres.

The paper further argues that, when addressing hidden costs in agrifood systems, trade-offs may arise, which may require the use of more complex tools, such as partial and general equilibrium models, to analyse their impacts on different areas. In general, the extent of the compromise will be minimized if there are at least as many policy instruments as there are objectives. For example, if a country seeks to restore fish stocks and address rural poverty, restricting catch alone could increase poverty in the artisanal fishing community. Adding income support, however, could allow both objectives to be met.

Tipo de documento: Documento de trabajo
Región: Global
ISBN: 978-92-5-138292-9
ISSN: 2521-1838
JEL codes: C81, M41, M48, O57, Q18.