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Consuming local... not that simple!

10.5.2022 18:02:00

Consuming local... not that simple!

Consuming local agricultural products is becoming more and more popular in our life. But adopting an eco-responsible gesture is not so simple. In this blog post, we discuss the pros and cons of international agricultural trade.
Consuming locally growth agricultural product has been increasingly popular in our life. The main motivation behind this is the perception of that local products have lower contribution to the environmental pollution. This perception is particularly more widespread among the buyers of the organic products. However, the perception does not reflect the reality entirely. Yes, when you prefer locally grown produces over those imported, let’s say from overseas, you reduce drastically the carbon footprint due to transportation but this is only half of the big picture. In terms of the carbon footprint, there are two major contributors: Transportation and production. And sometimes the carbon footprint of production can overweight that of transportation especially if the production takes place in greenhouses. A recent report showed that the maritime transportation of an agricultural product that are cultivated in their season has lesser environmental impact compared to those cultivated locally but off-season. Of course the environmental cost of transport depends on the type of the agricultural product as well.  The carbon footprint of importing grape from south America is considerably higher compared to importing banana because of the refrigeration requirement of grape during transportation (5°C vs 14°C).The transport of fragile products also requires plastic overpacking, another negative point of transcontinental trade.

Still, caring on the environmental impact is not sufficient to set our policy towards importation of agricultural products. The socio-economic impact of the international trade is not to be neglected. Today, the export of agricultural products in developing countries constitutes a significant part of their gross national income, for example it constitutes 40% of Ghana's total export. Provided they come from fair trade practices and respect biodiversity, agricultural products contribute significantly to the well-being of millions of farmers in these countries.

The bottom line is that we have to prioritize local products in their season and check the carbon footprint of the imported ones. Yet, while we wish to minimize the environmental impact of our consumption behavior, we should not forget the social impact of our behavior. The trade-off is not easy to overlook.

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