Food system concentration was highlighted early-on in the COVID-19 pandemic. Breakdowns in the food supply chain exposed areas that can be improved and emphasized the effects of consolidation within the industry. A report from the Family Farm Action Alliance provides insight on the issues created by concentration in the agrifood system. The Food System: Concentration and Its Impacts report uses the latest data to detail the level of concentration within the industry and potential solutions for moving forward.
The report outlines areas of the food supply impacted by consolidation. The issue begins in the ag input sector. A handful of companies supplying an overwhelming percentage of inputs such as agrochemicals, seeds, and farm equipment. Farm-level concentration has also been increasing at a rapid rate. Acreage has been growing, along with livestock herd sizes over the past 30 years. The increased farm size has made it increasingly challenging for smaller and mid-sized farmers to compete.
The process of food system concentration has also been occurring within the processing sector. A small number of processing firms have increased their market share considerably. Acquisitions and consolidation within the grocery sector are also highlighted in the report. Combined, the overall level of concentration within the entire food supply chain has had a detrimental effect. One of the authors of the report, Dr. Mary Hendrickson said that “it’s not just a farm issue, it’s also an issue across the food chain and for consumers as well.”
The authors also provide various means for addressing the issues created by food system concentration. One of the central concerns for addressing the issue is limiting globalized concentration. Other recommended courses of action include increased support for local and regional food systems. The authors also suggest shifting priorities from efficiency to resiliency. A holistic approach to the food supply chain is recommended to prevent further consolidation and to move towards democratizing the food system.