Forum Institutional

Three ways to reduce geopolitical risks in the global food system

food system

Countries are called to invest in renewable energy, recycle their surplus of nutrients, and close the regional yield gap to depressurize the food system. Image: Unsplash/Polina Rytova

Svein Tore Holsether
President and Chief Executive Officer, Yara International
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Forum Institutional?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Food Security is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Davos Agenda

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

Listen to the article

  • The ongoing war is exacerbating the global food crisis, as both Russia and Ukraine are major players in agriculture and food production.
  • Maintaining trade flows and reducing dependence on Russia is vital to offset the impacts of the war on the global food system.
  • Countries are called to invest in renewable energy, recycle their surplus of nutrients, and close the regional yield gap to depressurize the food system.

Both Russia and Ukraine are world powers in agriculture and food production, and the war in Europe is exacerbating a global food crisis. Subsequently, all efforts should be made to maintain trade flows of essential agricultural goods and inputs in the short term. We should also prevent isolated protectionist policies that will lead to new food price hikes, hitting the most vulnerable and causing further destabilization, and call on countries to release food stocks to decrease the pressure on the food system instead.

Have you read?

Contracting geopolitical risks in the global food system

However, it is clear that we must reduce our dependency on Russia in the longer term. Here are three concrete ways of doing so (that will simultaneously lead to a greener and more decarbonized food system):

1) Invest in renewable energy

Approximately half of the world's population has access to food due to mineral fertilizers, and today it’s produced by using natural gas. Considering Russia accounts for about 40% of the gas supply to Europe, a massive investment in renewable energy is needed to reduce the dependency on Russia. The shift will also enable the production of green ammonia, which can be applied to provide fossil-free fuel and fertilizers for shipping – a giant stride in the transition to regenerative agriculture.

2) Intensify efforts to recycle nutrients

Russia is one of the largest exporters of fertilizers and nutrients like potash. However, it's well-known that the food system has a significant surplus of nutrients that aren't being utilized but are instead harming the environment through, for example, leakage. By finding ways of producing organo-mineral fertilizer based on recycled nutrients, we will have taken another major step towards regenerative agriculture and nature-positive solutions – while reducing dependency on Russia.


3) Increase productivity in developing countries

There are enormous regional differences in global agricultural productivity, often referred to as the yield gap. Harvests are determined by many factors, including weather, optimised use of inputs such as seeds and fertilizers, and farming techniques. By using the right decision-making tools and having access to knowledge and quality inputs, smallholder farmers can significantly improve yields. If farming in many African countries, for example, reached the same productivity level as European countries, they would strengthen their resilience, enable many more livelihoods, and could finally be net exporters instead of major food importers.

By the way: We don’t need many scientific breakthroughs to achieve this. Most of the technology and knowledge are already in place and only need to be implemented. However, to do so, we must move with speed and urgency.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Forum InstitutionalFood and WaterSupply Chains and Transportation
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Institutional update

World Economic Forum

May 21, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum