Farm Foundation/ERS 'GAP Report' shows ag productivity lagging demand growth

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Des Moines, IA, Oct. 13 - With world population on track to double by 2050, an ominous report released Wednesday shows agricultural productivity failing to keep up with demand growth. The Global Harvest Initiative 2010 GAP Report uses a new “productivity compass” to show the annual increases required to meet escalating world food needs.

The report is the work of the non-profit Farm Foundation and USDA's Economics Research Service (ERS). Farm Foundation President Neil Conklin, author of the GAP Report, says doubling agricultural output to meet global demand by 2050 will require an annual average growth of at least 1.75 percent in total factor productivity (TFP). Total factor productivity is the increase in output per unit of total resources employed in production. Between 2000 and 2007, ERS estimates global agricultural TFP growth averaged 1.4 percent per year.

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Source: Global Harvest Initiative 2010 GAP Report

“To close the gap without additional land and resources, we must increase the rate of productivity growth an average of 25 percent more per year over the next 40 years,” Conklin warns. “And productivity will need to grow faster than that during the next two decades, when the population will be increasing more rapidly than it will as it levels off by 2050.”

Former USDA Chief Economist Bill Lesher, executive director of Global Harvest Initiative (GHI) which commissioned the GAP report, told a group of agricultural industry and governmental leaders assembled in Des Moines for the World Food Prize Symposium that GHI's new annual report highlights the urgent need to boost the rate of global agricultural productivity growth.

“We need to do more with less and we must start implementing measures and policies that increase productivity today,” Lesher said. “A ramp-up of this order is achievable, as the public and private sectors demonstrated during the Green Revolution. Now we must provide public and private support for an 'Evergreen Revolution' that is twice as long as and even more productive than the last - without drawing on additional natural resources and other inputs. Modern, productive agriculture has many new innovations in the pipeline. However, more must be done. With the right combination of smart policies and public/private sector investments around the globe beginning now, agriculture will be poised to sustainably meet the world's needs in 2050.”

The Farm Foundation developed the calculations in the report based on ERS total factor productivity data to provide a comprehensive understanding of long-run sources of agricultural growth.

“Assessing total factor productivity - the amount of output per unit of total factors, or inputs, used for production - for the entire global agricultural sector provides a more comprehensive picture of changes in resource requirements to produce farm commodities,” said Keith Fuglie, ERS branch chief for Resource, Environmental & Science Policy. “A 1% increase in TFP, for example, means that 1% fewer agricultural resources are required to produce a given bundle of crop and livestock outputs.”

“Most people cannot comprehend what it might take to meet the needs of an additional three billion people with increasing incomes,” Lesher said. “For world leaders in a position to impact policy and resource allocation to sustainably increase the rate of productivity, the GAP Report provides very real data globally and regionally upon which to make informed decisions on policies and research investments.”

The Global Harvest Initiative GAP Report will be updated annually and released each October to chronicle progress toward achieving sufficient and sustainable global production to meet the needs of 9.2 billion people by 2050. Each subsequent GAP Report will provide an updated benchmark and eventually prescriptive actions that will help to strategically increase productivity in selected regions of the world.

“Simply put, the challenge we face in 2010 and looking forward to 2050 is not unlike the challenge the late Norman Borlaug and others faced in the 1950s and 1960s when they tripled crop yields in India and increased yields six-fold in Mexico during the Green Revolution,” Lesher said. “We have 40 years in which to double agricultural output, but we have to do it in a sustainable fashion with the same amount of land, less water and reduced inputs. The GAP Report provides a metric to monitor our progress toward that goal.”

The Global Harvest Initiative focused on creating and sharing agricultural innovations with developing nations is supported by Archer Daniels Midland, Conservation International, Congressional Hunger Center, DuPont, International Conservation Caucus Foundation, John Deere, Monsanto, Nature Conservancy, TransFarm Africa Corridors Network, and the World Wildlife Fund.

For information on the Global Harvest Initiative and a link to read the 11-page GAP Report released Oct. 13, go to:

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