Earlier this month saw the launch of the OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2012-2021 report, which provides market projections for different agricultural sectors – including biofuels, cereals, oilseeds, sugar, meats, dairy products, fish and seafood.
The Outlook report highlights how, over the next 40 years, agricultural production must increase by 60 per cent in order to meet the rising global demand for food – equating to one billion additional tones of cereals and 200 million extra tones of meat per year by 2050 compared with 2005/07 levels.
Price volatility still remains a concern, with weather-related yield variability being the main threat as long as food stocks remain low. Food commodity prices are expected to remain on a higher plateau over the next decade, underpinned by firm demand but a slowing growth in global production, and will feature prominently in policymakers’ agendas.
Population growth, higher per capita incomes, urban migration, changing diets in developing countries and rising requirements for biofuels are all contributing to increased demand for food. Meanwhile, more frequent and extreme weather events are affecting our food supply, our infrastructure and our livelihoods. Globally, the scope for area expansions is limited and by 2050, total arable land is projected to increase by only about 5 per cent (69 million hectares). Increasing productivity will be central in containing food prices and will be a key factor in reducing global food insecurity.
Agricultural growth is predicted to slow to an average of 1.7 percent annually over the next 10 years, which is down from a trend rate of over 2 percent per year in recent decades.
The Outlook report expects developing countries to be the main drivers of growth in global agricultural production through to 2021, as they have the greatest potential to increase land devoted to agriculture and to improve productivity. They will also account for the majority of exports of rice, oilseeds, vegetable and palm oil, protein meals, sugar, beef, poultry meat, fish and fish products by 2021.
Encouraging better agronomic practices, creating the right commercial, technical and regulatory environment, and strengthening agricultural innovation systems (e.g research, education, extension, infrastructure), including measures addressing the specific needs of smallholders are all highlighted in the Outlook report as essential policy challenges. Measures to reduce food loss and waste are also key to meeting rising demand and improving productivity in the supply chain.
During a press briefing at the launch of the Outlook report, Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General said:
Increased productivity, green-growth and more open markets will be essential if the food and nutrition requirements of future generations are to be met.
FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva went on to say:
For consumers, especially for the millions of people living in extreme poverty, high food prices have caused considerable hardship. We need to redouble our efforts to bring down the number of hungry people. We must focus on increasing sustainable productivity growth, especially in developing countries, and especially for small producers.
Angel Gurría outlined five steps to achieving sustainable agricultural productivity growth:
- Encourage better agronomic practices and promote the green growth potential of agriculture.
- Ensure increased efficiency on a global scale.
- Encourage agricultural innovation.
- Tackle wastage.
- Increase investment in infrastructure and close the gender gap in the developing world.
Read more about agriculture and a green economy.