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Open AccessArticle

Cattle Production for Exports in Water-Abundant Areas: The Case of Finland

Water and Development Research Group, Aalto University, P.O. Box 15200, FI-00076 Aalto, Finland
Department of Agricultural Sciences, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 27, FI-00014 Helsinki, Finland
Ruralia Institute, University of Helsinki, Lönnrotinkatu 7, FI-50100 Mikkeli, Finland
Faculty of Social and Business Studies, University of Eastern Finland, P.O. Box 1627, FI-70211 Kuopio, Finland
Finnish National Defence University, PL 7, 00861 Helsinki, Finland
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2019, 11(4), 1075;
Received: 17 January 2019 / Revised: 9 February 2019 / Accepted: 11 February 2019 / Published: 19 February 2019
Water scarcity is a severe global threat, and it will only become more critical with a growing and wealthier population. Annually, considerable volumes of water are transferred virtually through the global food system to secure nations’ food supply and to diversify diets. Our objective is to assess, whether specializing water-intensive production for exports in areas with an abundance of natural resources, would contribute to globally resource-efficient food production. We calculated Finland’s virtual water net export potential (four scenarios) by reallocating the present underutilized agricultural land and combining that with a domestic diet change (three scenarios) to maximize the exports of cattle products. Assessed scenarios indicate that the greatest potential to net export virtual water (3.7 billion m3 year−1, 25-time increase to current) was achieved when local production was maximized with domestic and exported feed, and bovine meat consumption in Finland was replaced with a vegetarian substitute. This corresponds to annual virtual water consumption for food of about 3.6 million global citizens (assuming 1032 m3 cap−1 year−1). Therefore our results suggest, that optimizing water-intensive production to water-rich areas, has a significant impact on global water savings. In addition, increasing exports from such areas by decreasing the domestic demand for water-intensive products to meet the nutrition recommendation levels, saves water resources. View Full-Text
Keywords: cattle production; diet change; land use; reallocation; trade; virtual water; water-intensive products cattle production; diet change; land use; reallocation; trade; virtual water; water-intensive products
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Lehikoinen, E.; Parviainen, T.; Helenius, J.; Jalava, M.; Salonen, A.O.; Kummu, M. Cattle Production for Exports in Water-Abundant Areas: The Case of Finland. Sustainability 2019, 11, 1075.

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