Thursday, July 19, 2012

The challenge of feeding the world

The urgent need to increase farm production in order to feed a growing global population was a recurring theme last week with a number of reports and opinions published on the subject.

The words ‘productivity’ and ‘sustainability’ were the key elements of the latest Agricultural Outlook report from the OECD and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), covering the years 2012-2021. The UN predicts that the population of the world will increase by around a third from current levels, which will mean farm production will need to increase by 60 per cent over the next 40 years.

This translates into an additional one billion tonnes of cereals and 200 million tonnes of meat a year by 2050 compared to 2005-2007 levels. In order to achieve this level, the report suggests a number of ways that this can be achieved, particularly in developing countries, including supplemental irrigation, improving storage and transport links and the more efficient use of nutrients.

Whether or not this level of production can be reached is another matter and one that many analysts feel is not possible without a considerable overhaul of agricultural policy, the rapid introduction of new technology and in a way that meets the rather loose term of ‘sustainable’ or the contested term 'sustainable intensfication'.

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