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Food Security in Mongolia: A System Innovation Perspective

Jae-Hwan Park, Jee-Yeon Choi, Tae-Hyung Kim, and Steve Evans


Mongolia covers a vast area of land, its terriroty being larger than the combined area of the UK, France, Germany and Italy. However, of the 80% of the land covered with grassland and arid areas, less than 1% is available for the cultivation of crops (FAO, UNICEF et al. 2007). The Mongolian population of 2.84 million (2013) is relatively highly

J.-H. Park (и)

The Burroughs, Hendon, London, Middlesex University Business School, London NW4 4BT, UK e-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

J.-Y. Choi • S. Evans

EPSRC Centre for Industrial Sustainability’, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB3 0FS, UK

T.-H. Kim

Ratchadamneon Nok Avenue, UNESCAP, Bangkok 10200, Thailand © The Author(s) 2017

G. Mergos, M. Papanastassiou (eds.), Food Security and Sustainability, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-40790-6_13

concentrated in cities, creating a low density of population in the country (1.7 people per sq. km). Most Mongolian households and communities in rural areas are isolated. The poor transport infrastructure and extreme weather conditions create further challenges for the food and agriculture industry. Traditional nomadic pasoral customs dominate the agriculture industry: Most Mongolians across the generations have a deep understanding of traditional animal herding and traditional food-processing practice, including slaughtering, processing of meat and storing of food through cold seasons. Only 7 % of milk production and 3 % of meat production follow an industrialised system (FAO, UNICEF et al. 2007). Such low levels of modern food processing create several issues in food safety. Moreover the industry cannot meet the country’s demand for food. The main crops of Mongolia which comprise the staple food of Mongolians are wheat, potato, vegetables, milk and meat. Domestic production supplies 98.2% of potato demand, 47.3% of vegetable demand and 25% of flour demand, respectively (Galanbuyan 2008).

Of the 38 % of the whole population living in cities, such as Ulaanbaatar, many people still go outside the cities on Friday afternoon to spend their weekend at yurts in the fields. In addition, most herders in the rural areas of Mongolia only keep animals without cultivating crops (FAO, UNICEF et al. 2007). Any loss of animals, therefore, results in a huge negative impact on most herders in Mongolia (FAO, UNICEF et al. 2007). For example, the 4.5 million animal heads in the period 1999-2002 worsened households in rural areas due to unfavourable water and weather conditions (FAO, UNICEF et al. 2007).

As in other low- and middle-income countries, food and agriculture industries represent a significant part of Mongolia’s gross domestic product (GDP). Employment in the food and agriculture industry is 40% of the total population (Galanbuyan 2008). The food and agriculture industry occupies 21.7% of the Mongolian GDP (Galanbuyan 2008). In particular, the livestock sector produces 80 % of the total agriculture and food industry production (Galanbuyan 2008). More than 170,000 households work for 364,000 herders. It has been estimated that this will result in 45 million heads of livestock (Galanbuyan 2008).

The total funding of “donor funded projects and programmes in the food and agriculture sector” is 77.5 million US dollars (Galanbuyan

2008). There are 3 soft loan projects and 19 grant aid and technical assistance projects in Mongolia (Galanbuyan 2008). The food sector of Mongolia comprises 27.6 % of total manufactured goods, more than 720 processing firms, with more than 7000 workers, and manufactured products worth over 117.7 billion tugriks (Galanbuyan 2008).

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