FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Landlocked states face unique food challenges

Many countries face a tough challenge in their drive to achieve food security – a challenge often overlooked by outsiders. They are geographically landlocked.

From Armenia to Uzbekistan, nearly a third of the world’s landlocked developing countries are in Europe and Central Asia. Many people in these countries rely on farming for their livelihoods, but lack of access to the sea imposes additional burdens on agriculture and trade.

It costs twice as much to ship cargo from a landlocked developing country as from one of its coastal neighbors, according to a study by the World Bank. Tariffs, border crossings and poor infrastructure cause transport delays and drive up the cost of trade even further.

Costs are often passed on to consumers. Domestic food prices in these countries are three times more volatile than in their coastal counterparts.

This unique geographic challenge also brings urgent environmental concerns to the fore. Landlocked developing countries typically have less arable land and less agricultural land under irrigation, leaving them particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Recognizing that these challenges threaten food security, FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva reiterated FAO’s support for landlocked countries at the Second United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries, which took place last month in Vienna, Austria.

In Europe and Central Asia, FAO helps these countries address environmental and economic challenges – from improving irrigation and water management to facilitating trade for landlocked countries that are not members of the World Trade Organization.

To boost resilience and stem the impact of high food import bills, FAO recommends that countries support their domestic agriculture. By investing in state-of-the-art technology and conservation practices, governments can increase the efficiency of production and generate a stable supply of food from local producers. Smart policies like improving access to credit and streamlining trade will help producers reach new markets at home and

But even with a strong domestic agricultural sector, regional cooperation is essential for landlocked developing countries to thrive.

“Limitations in infrastructure and political disputes can cause trade delays that threaten food security,” said Guljahan Kurbanova, an agricultural economics expert based at FAO’s regional office in Budapest. “For example, storage capacity shortages at Ukrainian shipping terminals may limit the amount of wheat that Kazakhstan can export, risking damage and decay to idle wheat stockpiles.”

Multilateral initiatives like the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation  Program and Transport Corridor Europe-Caucasus-Asia also bring landlocked countries together to foster regional dialogue, finance investments in transportation infrastructure and revive vibrant trade routes that are now the modern-day successors of the Silk Road.

Despite the challenges, landlocked developing countries in Europe and Central Asia are pressing ahead and demonstrating results. Climate-smart policies and sustainable agricultural practices are growing more common in the region. In a particularly noteworthy milestone, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan have already reached the ambitious World Food Summit goal for 2015 – reducing the number of undernourished people by half.

05 January 2015, Budapest, Hungary