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Exporting water through food

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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Exporting water through food

Food production is water intensive. This ‘virtual water’ both represents a challenge and an opportunity, since it can be exported worldwide, writes Lars Hvidtfeldt. Lars Hvidtfeldt is Vice-President of the Danish Agriculture and Food Council.
In comparison with other regions, the climatic changes will have limited effects on agricultural production in Northern Europe and Denmark, where we are expecting more water and a longer growing season as a result of the warmer climate.
Moreover, in a global perspective, our farmers and agro-industries are resource efficient in terms of water use. Whilst it takes some 650 litters of water to produce a ton of wheat in Denmark, the world average is about 1800 litters, and within the EU, the amount of water to produce one litter of milk in Denmark is a third of what it takes in Spain.
In the future, Denmark has the potential to play an even more central role in world food production than today, where the country is the world’s third largest food cluster. By producing and exporting more food, farmers and agro industries can play a pivotal role in securing a more sustainable water use within the EU and globally, by exporting the virtual water contained in our products to areas facing water scarcity.
In view of the global food supply chain and the increased pressure on Earth’s water resources it is important that production takes place where there is water, and where water is used most efficiently. Therefore the notion of sustainable intensive production ought to play a pivotal role in the debate on the EU’s future water policy.