THE AGRICULTURAL ECONOMICS SOCIETY Newsletter, December 2023
Letter from the President - Dedication
At the beginning of December, Defra hosted the annual Defra-AES one day conference, on fairness in the agricultural supply chain. We had a very good set of speakers and a lot of interesting discussion, and I thoroughly enjoyed chairing the morning session. Reflecting on the day, I am very mindful of all the work that went into preparing the conference and ensuring that the day ran as smoothly as it did; but not by me. All I had to do was make sure I was in place, on time, and didn’t talk too much when chairing. So I want to express my appreciation to Euan Gilchrist and his colleagues at Defra who did so much to make the one day conference a success. And what is true for the one-day conference is also true for the Annual Conference and the AES more generally. Again, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time this year as President, but I am painfully aware that all the hard work is done by others. In recent years Frederic Ang has done a great job as Programme Secretary before passing the baton to Hervé Dakpo. And we have been so fortunate as a society to have the dedication and continuity provided by colleagues holding the core positions on the Executive Committee; Stephen Ramsden (and before him, Paul Caskie), Wilfrid Legg and Derek Shepherd. And then there are the beating hearts of the Society: the JAE and (jointly with the EAAE) EuroChoices. John Davis has played a central role as Editor in Chief of EuroChoices, since its inception over 22 years ago, whilst Jonathan Brooks has just taken over as Editor in Chief of the JAE following David Harvey’s 18-year tenure. These are roles that are core to the AES’s purpose and make a huge difference to the Society and its standing. Moreover, the Society would not function so smoothly and effectively without the expertise and efficiency of Katy Thorne, the Society’s Administrator. So, I want to sign off by recognising the dedication of colleagues who have given so many years’ of service to the AES. Thank you!
Defra-AES One-Day Conference – Is the Food Chain Fair?
The theme of this year’s one day conference on 8 December in London was Fairness in the Agricultural Supply Chain, a topic that has received considerable media coverage, with UK food price inflation peaking at 19% in May 2023. Following an introduction from Michael Archer, Defra Agri-Food Chain Economist, speakers from the University of Portsmouth, Defra and the Competition and Markets Authority addressed recent evidence on food and commodity prices from farm to retailer. In the afternoon session, speakers from the European Commission’s Economics of Agriculture Unit (Joint Research Centre), and from SRUC addressed ‘fairness’ from different perspectives, including assessments of unfair trading practices in EU agriculture and the effect of remoteness on food prices in Scotland. Nicholas Saphir of the AHDB gave a wide-ranging industry and personal perspective on supply chain fairness. The day concluded with a panel discussion that built ably on the theme and the presentations. Overall this was an excellent and well-attended event that left one attendee wondering whether there is any ‘fairness’ at any stage of the food supply chain: the retail sector is intensely competitive, with little evidence that the retail sector is earning excess profits, farm business incomes – although relatively favourable according to the latest Farm Business Survey data – will return to their equilibrium levels, while risk will remain as an inherent factor throughout. Indeed, a better understanding of risk in its various forms is one key to better agricultural supply chain fairness. “Fairness” has many dimensions and the ability of farmers to add value surely means there is potential synergy with agri-environment policy such as the Sustainable Farm Incentive, as well as learning from experiences in other countries. Thanks are due to Defra for once again providing an excellent venue, and to Euan Gilchrist and team for the original idea for the event and for its smooth and efficient organisation. Presenters have been invited to make their presentations available on the AES website.
Mid-Term meeting of the AES Executive – recognizing excellence.
Every year the Executive holds a one-day meeting in London in October to reflect on the outcome of the Annual Conference and to plan for the coming period. Among the standing items this year the Executive proposed Professor Paul Wilson (Nottingham) to be its President-Elect for 2024-25 (and President in 2025-26), Outstanding Awards for Excellence to Tahir Rehman (Reading), Trevor Donnellan (Teagasc), and Cesar Revorado (SRUC). The Executive is delighted that all have accepted, and award recipients will receive their recognition - as will David Harvey after retiring as Chief Editor of the JAE - at the next Annual Conference in Edinburgh (18-20 March 2024).
EuroChoices – strengthening policy relevance
EuroChoices has received a very encouraging first-time Clarivate Impact Factor of 2.8. Wiley, our publisher, commented that “this was an excellent result reflecting the quality of the papers and indicates that the journal has strong academic support, as well as being a great resource for evidence-based policy decisions, which reflects the quality of research and outreach that EuroChoices has delivered over many years”. We were pleased, during the year, to recruit David Orden from Virginia Tech, now very active as our co-editor for North America, replacing David Blandford (Penn State). I have been encouraged by the growing contributions from early career authors and we aim to develop their involvement in writing for the journal. A special issue of the journal on the emerging European Bioeconomy sector in its various dimensions has just been published. We begin 2024 with a special issue, ROADMAP; Rethinking of Anti-Microbial Decision Systems in the Management of Animal Production, planned for publication in Spring 2024.
The European Association of Agricultural Economists held its XVII Congress during late August 2023 in the lively and picturesque city of Rennes, the regional capital of Brittany, France. With over 1200 delegates in attendance, the Congress was the most popular to date. I am always a little surprised and pleasantly reassured to see so many at these major international gatherings, not least since a good proportion were PhDs and ECRs. Their fresh and innovative perspectives made a long-lasting impression on me. The conference theme Agri-food systems in a changing world: Connecting science and society was apposite with topics such as health, climate change and geopolitical events interlocking neatly with more traditional topics of trade, agricultural policy and the environment. The thought-provoking plenaries by David Just (on relevance) and Tomas Heckelei (on risk) exemplified why such conferences are so rewarding intellectually. Both underscored that the work of agricultural economists has rarely been so relevant and needed in a world where misinformation and opinion often shout louder than data and objective analysis.
Finally, Rennes was the last of the EAAE’s triennial meetings. In 2025, the congress will move to a biennial basis, the first one of which will be in Bonn, Germany. Hopefully, I will see you there!
Check the EAAE website for details of upcoming events: eaae.org
OECD Publication – data and analysis on support to agriculture
The OECD 2023 Monitoring and Evaluation report provides a consensus assessment of the ten-year prospects for agricultural commodity and fish markets at national, regional, and global levels, and serves as a reference for forward-looking policy analysis and planning. Global food consumption is projected to increase by 1.3% per year over the next decade, a slower pace than the previous decade due to the foreseen slowdown in population and per capita income growth. A 10% increase in fertiliser prices is estimated to lead to a 2% increase in agricultural commodity prices while GHG emissions from agriculture are expected to increase by 7.5 percent to 2032, less than half the projected output growth – indicating a significant fall in the carbon intensity of agricultural production. The livestock sector is projected to account for 86 percent of the increased emissions. This year’s Outlook also provides improved estimates for food consumption by incorporating methods to estimate food loss and waste. More information at www.agri-outlook.org
In Memoriam Emeritus Professor Anthony Kent (Tony) Giles 1928-2023
The Society is saddened to report the death of Tony Giles, who made an immense contribution to agricultural economics in the UK, to the Agricultural Economics Society as AES Programme Secretary (1970-1981) and President (1987-88) and was the UK representative of the International Association of Agricultural Economists (1971-1986). A full obituary will be published in a future edition of the Journal of Agricultural Economics.
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