A Dutch circular agrifood system does not stop at the border either*

Part two: Trade, labour and knowledge systems in global food value chains

Image source: Pixbay

An uneven playing field

Lower-income countries are increasingly relying on imports for key commodities like grains, as buying from the world market becomes cheaper than domestic production. Image source: Unsplash

The Netherlands: A case in point

The Netherlands plays a crucial role in global agricultural trade. Image source: Unsplash

Modern slavery and other issues in agrifood chains

An estimated 1.56 million children work in cocoa production in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. Image source: Pixbay

Inappropriate technologies and solutions

Precision agriculture promises more efficiency gains for farmers, but to what extent are the innovations it relies on suitable for the global majority of smallholder farmers? Image source: Pixbay

Circular food trade today and in the future

High-income countries increasingly rely on lower-income countries for the export of often toxic plastic waste for further treatment, disposal or recycling. Image source

A role for the Netherlands: evening the playing field

Decision makers face a choice today: continue building on the inequitable legacy of the linear economy or picture a different way forward: a globally inclusive and just circular economy that delivers socio-economic and environmental benefits for all. Image source: Circle Economy
  • International impact assessments of circular agri-food systems could be built, early on, into the design and implementation of circular agrifood policy. These could look at impacts on equity and multidimensional wellbeing, for example, and make use of material flow analyses to understand where the largest opportunities and risks are.
  • Actively involving low- and middle-income countries in the design and implementation of circular economy and (circular) trade policy will be especially crucial to ensure value is fairly distributed in future value chains.
  • The Dutch government could create conditions for producers — both at home and abroad — to earn a living income, improve stability and guarantee better working conditions.
  • Setting stricter social and environmental standards for companies to improve labour conditions and increase transparency and traceability — both through national legislation and at EU level — could be a good start.
  • Education, too, will play an important role. The skills required to accelerate a transition to a circular agrifood system are different from the skills that support today’s unsustainable food production, distribution and waste management practices. Understanding what these skills are and how, exactly, a circular agrifood system will impact jobs — both locally and abroad — will be crucial to make provisions for the people that will be most impacted and support them in the transition.
  • Finally, the Netherlands could play a key role in making funding for agricultural research and development available to focus on solutions that are designed together with the people they are meant to serve and that leave room for a plurality of circular agrifood visions.

Further reading and resources

About Circle Economy

About the Circular Jobs Initiative



We empower businesses, cities and nations with practical and scalable solutions to put the circular economy into action.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Circle Economy

We empower businesses, cities and nations with practical and scalable solutions to put the circular economy into action.