M. Torero Cullen: The Need of a sustainable Digital Transformation of Agri-food value chains

Bio Information

Máximo Torero Cullen is the Chief Economist of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) since January 2019. Prior to joining FAO, he was the World Bank Group Executive Director for Argentina, Bolivia, Chile Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay since November 2016 and before the Bank Dr. Torero led the Division of the Markets, Trade, and Institutions at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). His major research work lies mostly in analyzing poverty, inequality, importance of geography and assets (private or public) in explaining poverty, and in policies oriented towards poverty alleviation based on the role played by infrastructure, institutions, and on how technological breakthroughs (or discontinuities) can improve the welfare of households and small farmers. His experience encompasses Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia.

Dr. Torero, a national of Peru, holds a Ph.D. and a Master’s Degree in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of the Pacific, Lima, Peru. He is a professor on leave at the University of the Pacific (Perú) and an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow at University of Bonn, Germany and has also published in top journals (QJE, Econometric Theory, AER-Applied Microeconomics, RSTAT, Labor Economics and many other top journals).

Dr. Torero has received in 2000 the Georg Foster Research Fellowship of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, won the Award for Outstanding Research on Development given by The Global Development Network, twice, in 2000 and in 2002 and received the Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mérite Agricole in 2014.

Presentation Abstract

Digital technologies are revolutionizing agriculture and can address multiple market failures by increasing access to information, reducing transaction costs, provide access to financial markets, and in using artificial intelligence in agricultural robotics, soil and crop monitoring, and predictive analytics. Although the opportunities offered by digital technologies are vast and profoundly transformative, there are also underlying risks. Their impacts on agriculture can give rise to economic, social and ethical challenges and risks that should be addressed by policymakers. In spite the rapid take up of digital technologies, there is a digital divide between countries, between urban and rural areas and between men and women.

On average, in rural Africa, only 10 percent of households have access to the internet. We need to include everyone in the digital economy. Issues related to the ownership and use of data that are collected by digital tools have raised concern. And this slows down the development of digital agriculture. There are also risks related to market structure and competition. Digital technologies will also have an impact on agricultural labour. In the short and medium terms, we will have work on upgrading the digital skills of farmers.  To include them in the digital economy. In the long term, there is no doubt that the technology will result in less demand for labour. Digital applications will accelerate the structural transformation of the developing economies.


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