GAP Report: Agricultural productivity growth stalls

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

DES MOINES, Iowa, Oct. 12, 2016 - Global demand for agricultural products is skyrocketing, but for the third year in a row, the rate of global agricultural productivity growth has failed to meet its target. That's according to a new report by the Global Harvest Initiative (GHI), “Sustainability in an Uncertain Season,” that was released just prior to the World Food Prize events kicking off here today.

The seventh-annual GAP report warns that unless this trend is reversed by embracing innovation, new technologies and other strategies, the world may not be able to sustainably provide the food, feed, fiber and biofuels needed for a booming global population.

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According to GHI, global agricultural productivity must increase by 1.75 percent annually in order to meet the demands of an estimated 9.7 billion people in 2050. GHI's annual assessment of global productivity growth, the GAP Index, shows the current rate is only 1.73 percent. The rate of productivity growth for low-income countries - at only 1.3 percent annually - is far below that required to meet food and agriculture needs in a sustainable manner.

To deliver highly productive agricultural systems, the GAP report makes recommendations in five strategic areas:


1. Invest in public agricultural research, development and extension.

2. Embrace, customize and disseminate science-based and information technologies.

3. Enhance private-sector involvement in agriculture and infrastructure development.

4. Cultivate partnerships for sustainable agriculture and improved nutrition.

5. Foster capacity for regional and global agricultural trade.

The GAP report point out that improving agricultural productivity is not just about producing more or achieving higher yields, but it allows more to be produced while maximizing the use of and impact on natural resources.

Agricultural productivity lowers the cost per unit of output, helping producers succeed in today's competitive business cycle, and helping consumers by producing food, feed and fuel at lower prices.

“Participants in every part of the value chain need to be able to manage their costs, by investing for innovation and growth,” said Margaret Zeigler, executive director of GHI. “Public sector investments in agricultural R&D coupled with sensible, efficient regulatory systems provide the foundation for innovation and ensure it gets into the hands of the farmers and producers who need it.”

For the first time, this comprehensive report (available by clicking here) also focuses on how the “booms and busts” of the business cycle impact policy needs and long-term investment cycles.

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“A focus on sustainability must include the sustainability of farmers' businesses as well as the sustainability of natural resources,” noted Zeigler.

Zeigler also said that “agriculture has the potential to be a climate-change mitigation powerhouse,” and that “climate mitigation technologies and practices also improve agricultural productivity, lowering the cost per unit of output and helping producers succeed in today's competitive business cycle."

For example, farmers will need access to crops that can tolerate extreme drought and precision agriculture systems to help apply inputs, such as fertilizer, more efficiently. Livestock farmers need genetically improved breeds and products such as protease enzymes that reduce greenhouse gas emissions from livestock.


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