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Agriculture productivity not accelerating fast enough

Global Harvest Initiative’s 2014 GAP Report highlights obstacles to meeting the needs of nine billion people in 2050

Source: Global Harvest Initiative

If the latest trend continues, the world may not be able to sustainably supply enough food and other agricultural goods to meet exponentially growing demand during the next three decades.

That is the stark conclusion of the fifth annual Global Agricultural Productivity Report (GAP Report) from the Global Harvest Initiative (GHI), released at the World Food Prize Symposium.

The 2014 GAP Report takes a critical look at the state of global agricultural productivity, and at the policies, innovations and investments needed to provide for a growing world, especially in the face of global climate change.

The report notes that for the first time in several years global agricultural productivity is not accelerating fast enough to meet the expected agricultural demand by 2050 through sustainable practices. That trend means a new global challenge is emerging: how to sustainably provide enough food, feed, fibre and fuel for a growing population by 2050, when the demands for food and agriculture will be nearly double that of today.

“This year’s report shows a clear gap that could dramatically impact people all around the globe,” said Dr Margaret Zeigler, Executive Director of GHI. “Raising productivity across all regions and for farmers of any size and scale requires long-term investments and sustained focus if we are going to have sufficient nutritious and affordable food and agriculture.”

Zeigler continued, “To realize the promise of new global revolutions in agriculture, we need greater investment in agricultural research and development, better trade agreements for facilitation of global and regional trade in agriculture, and a commitment to apply information and science-based technologies. We must also promote the empowerment of women in society and in agricultural production, as their contributions will be key to lifting up the nutritional status of the next generation.”

The GAP Index is based on the measurement of total factor productivity (TFP), the ratio of agricultural outputs to inputs. Total factor productivity rises when outputs increase and inputs remain constant. GHI has been focused on agricultural productivity and the importance of TFP since 2009, and released its inaugural GAP Report® in 2010 at the World Food Prize. The global rate of productivity growth is beginning to stagnate, and the GAP Report serves as a call to action to invest in proven strategies that boost productivity and conserve the natural resource base.

The 2014 GAP Report also examines promising new global revolutions beginning to emerge in agriculture and provides a spotlight on the special case of India. Some 50 years after the original Green Revolution began, India has made tremendous progress, becoming self-sufficient in food grains and initiating the “White Revolution” in dairy production. But today India faces new challenges: a rising middle class demands a more diverse diet, malnutrition continues to plague millions, and lower water availability and climate change pose significant threats. India is at a crossroads and must harness new policies and scale up innovation to realize its potential to provide food and better nutrition. The report traces this significant progress and delves more deeply into specific policies and innovations that can promote sustainable food and agricultural systems, not only in India, but around the world.

In addition, the GAP Report’s regional analysis uncovers significant productivity gaps:

  • In East Asia, only 67 percent of food demand by 2030 will be met from within the region if the current rate of productivity growth is maintained.
  • At current rates of productivity growth, Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to meet only 15 percent of food demand in 2030, which will require significant imports, or food assistance, or opening up new land to development that may not be suitable for sustainable production.
  • In Latin America, overall regional production is expected to exceed demand with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay leading this increase in productivity. This region will likely serve as a critical source of food and agricultural supply to meet the demand of Asia’s growing and more affluent and urban population.

Find the complete GAP Report here.

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