The gap remains persistent between global growth of agricultural production and the expected need for food, feed, fiber and bioenergy demands for 10 billion people in 2050.
The Global Agricultural Productivity Index, released annually at the World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue, shows a spread between projected production and demand. Agricultural Total Factor Productivity (TFP) is growing globally at a rate of 1.63% annually yet the growth needs to rise 1.73% annually to sustain the needs of a larger population at mid-century.
The Global Agricultural Productivity Index was created by a consortium of several major agricultural input companies that formed the Global Harvest Initiative. The group turned the report and related work over this year to the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
The challenge, as consistently measured in these GAP reports, remains with “alarmingly low” TFP growth in low-income countries. Agricultural growth in these low-income countries is projected to rise about 1% annually, but the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals state productivity from low-income farmers needs to double by 2030.
“These productivity gaps, if they persist, will have serious ramifications for environmental sustainability, the economic vitality of the agriculture sector, and the prospects for reducing poverty, malnutrition, and obesity,” said Ann Steensland, author of the 2019 GAP Report and coordinator of the GAP Report Initiative at Virginia Tech.
More Land, More Water, More Strain
The report states that without intervention, current agricultural productivity trends “will produce significant negative consequences for environmental sustainability, economic development and human nutrition.”
Farmers will use both more land and water to boost production, which will put more strains on the natural resources already threatened by climate change, the report states.
The United Nations shows roughly 822 million people are malnourished, a number that has been rising since 2015. Due to higher global population, the percentage of people malnourished around the world declined for more than a decade but has leveled off since 2015, between 10.6% and 10.8% of the population.
Globally, agricultural stocks of staple crops remain high at the moment. Global wheat ending stocks are projected for the 2019-20 crop at a record 287.8 million metric tons, according to the October World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) released by USDA.
Rice world ending stocks are projected at 175.1 million metric tons, also a record volume. 2019-20 global ending stocks for corn and soybeans are both projected to be down slightly from recent years.
The GAP report with its history tied to global input and production companies, often repeats similar themes and this year’s report reiterates past messages.
Strategies – Technical And Political
Strategies for higher production revolve around more investment in public-sector agricultural research and development, as well as extension services.
Science and information technologies should be expanded to enable producers of all scales to manage environmental and economic risks, the report states. More investment should occur in infrastructure such as transportation, communication and financial services.
Countries should expand trade agreements that improve regional and global trade. And more effort should be invested in post-harvest losses and food waste.
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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