Global Ag Production Slipping
Chris Clayton DTN Ag Policy Editor
Wed Oct 15, 2014 01:32 PM CDT
(Page 1 of 2)

DES MOINES (DTN) -- Global agricultural productivity isn't increasing fast enough to meet the growing demand in the coming decades, the Global Harvest Initiative concluded in its latest report.

World Food Prize laureates from India, including this year's winner Sanjaya Rajaram, talked about agricultural production challenges faced by India at an Iowa-India Summit during the World Food Prize in Des Moines. (DTN photo by Chris Clayton)

The consortium made up of some of the world's largest agribusinesses and conservation groups released its fifth-annual Global Agricultural Productivity report on Wednesday at the World Food Prize Symposium. The report sounds alarms over trends in production globally compared to population trends through 2050.

"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 in the next three decades," the report concludes.

However, the Global Agricultural Productivity report shows that food production globally is rising at a rate of 1.69% per year, but needs to average at least 1.75% a year. While the gap seems narrow now, it becomes exacerbated over time, the report states. "When compounded over 40 years, output would grow by 94%, falling 6% short of the target."

The report adds that this productivity gap would hit poorest countries the hardest. Production globally lags the greatest in Sub-Saharan Africa where the trendline for food production appears to barely increase over the next two decades while demand for food continues to grow. Countries in East Asia also will be stressed to meet food demand.

The report notes that global population is projected to hit 9.6 billion people by 2050 while increasing incomes around the world will also raise demand for meat and dairy protein. Agriculture also will have to increase productivity while coping with climate change that will increase the risks in farming. Farmers will have to become more efficient globally to not only increase crop production, but reduce yield drag from more volatile weather that could reduce the growth in food production by 2% each decade.

The report takes a hard look this year at agricultural production in India, citing a population that could reach just under 1.5 billion people by 2030 with potentially 1.2 billion people considered middle class. At current production rates, the country would only satisfy 59% of the country's food demand.

One of the side events at the World Food Prize on Tuesday was an Iowa-India Summit that looked at agricultural production challenges in India. The event focused on analysis from four World Food Prize laureates from India, including this year's winner, Sanjaya Rajaram. He noted wheat production in India reached 100 million metric tons this year, but long-term productivity gains over the last 15 years have averaged only 1.1% per year, which Rajaram called "a little alarming to meeting the demands of the country" by 2030.

To meet India's production needs by 2030, the wheat harvest needs to increase from 3 metric tons per hectare (1.2 mt an acre or 44.1 bushels per acre) to closer to 4.5 mt per hectare (1.8 mt an acre or 66.1 bpa).

"You can see there are a lot of challenges for India scientists," Rajaram said at the Iowa-India event.

Rajaram also said improvements are needed in the quality of wheat seed and post-harvest storage of crops in India. "I think India will have to move to build more modern storage," Rajaram said. "They can't sit there and say everything is fine when it is not fine."

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