The world’s population is growing every day, posing significant challenges to global food security. A number of other factors have strained the world’s food supply and distribution systems, such as increased consumption patterns, agricultural practices and production methods, biotic (diseases), and abiotic (climate) stresses among others.

The European Union relies heavily on imports to ensure food security. Approximately 60% of the EU’s food needs are imported, while only 33% of its food production is exported. This situation is made worse by the factors mentioned above, in addition to population growth, which will require increased imports in order to provide enough food for the region. Due to mentioned and other factors, Europeans are faced with a challenge: how can they maintain their current levels of agricultural productivity without risking national security?

In the wake of recent crises, ensuring global food security was a central focus of the forum’s opening panel. The honorary guests of the discussion were Vidmantas Janulevičius, the President of the Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists, Jaroslav Neverovič – Chief Adviser to the President of the Republic of Lithuania, and Marius Vaščega- Head of the European Commission’s Representation in Lithuania.

The panel discussion was moderated by Kristina Šermukšnytė-Alešiūnienė, Director of AgriFood Lithuania, who clarified the current situation and future plans in food systems.

The unprovoked invasion of Ukraine – the breadbasket of Europe – has caused huge human losses and destruction along with energy and food shortages, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, which already weakened the food systems. With the blockade of Ukrainian exports and record price levels for energy and basic commodities, several nations adopted export restrictions as a result of the supply shock, fuelling speculative operations and market shocks, creating a lack of predictability in global food supply.

According to Marius Vaščega, an increase of 1% in food prices will push tens of millions into poverty. However, the European Commission has adopted strategic plans for each country related to agriculture for achieving the most sustainable farming practices. The Commission discusses with each country separately how these strategic plans should be carried out. Furthermore, the Green Deal has already begun transforming towards renewable energy and many things have already been accomplished.

One of the key solutions to problems in the agricultural sector can be new smart equipment. Working with digital solutions in the processing sector frees up more hands. Thus, higher added value can be created by continuing to work in other areas. The focus should also be on ensuring energy independence and taking advantage of crisis situations.

In the discussion, all speakers agreed that Lithuania has the potential to export high-value food products to third countries and that digitalizing our agricultural sector and making our food system more accessible is necessary to achieve this. There are a lot of possibilities for agriculture, including the development of novel projects, looking at bigger added value, and taking part in other areas with financial instruments.

As a closing statement to the live discussion, Jaroslav Neverovič shared one of his desires – “I would like to believe that sustainable healthy food is the future of Lithuania, the future of the agricultural sector “.