DES MOINES, Iowa, Oct. 18, 2017 – Agriculture productivity is expanding around the globe, but it’s not accelerating fast enough to sustainably feed the world by 2050.

That’s one of the key takeaways from the Global Harvest Initiative’s (GHI) eighth annual Global Agricultural Productivity Report (GAP report), released here today to a packed audience of public and private industry leaders attending the World Food Prize. It's the fourth straight year that total factor productivity (TFP) has lagged behind need, according to the report.

Global agricultural productivity must increase by 1.75 percent annually to meet the demands of the nearly 10 billion people who are expected to inhabit the planet by 2050. But GHI’s GAP index shows the current rate of growth is only 1.66 percent, explained Margaret Zeigler, executive director of GHI.

For low-income countries, the rate of agricultural productivity growth is only 1.24 percent annually.

“If agricultural productivity growth continues to stagnate, there will be significant ramifications for the economic vitality and environmental sustainability of food and agricultural systems,” Zeigler said. “The availability of affordable, safe and nutritious food will be undermined.”

"We are very troubled that the decline is continuing, particularly for the low-income countries,” said Zeigler. “For the fourth straight year, the low-income countries' productivity is declining for the region of Africa."  And that could lead to "opening up new land in areas that are not really sustainable production areas, like tropical rain forests," Zeigler added.

Panelists presenting the report noted that farmers are key drivers of agricultural productivity, but they face several challenges including volatile markets, shifting consumer demands, extreme weather, uncertainly over regulations and a mixed outlook for export opportunities.

“We must prioritize public and private agricultural research and development and improvements to regulatory systems to stimulate innovations that improve productivity and reduce costs for farmers,” said Doyle Karr (pictured above), director of biotechnology at DuPont and chair of GHI’s board of directors.

Zeigler also focused on the importance of research.

"We know there are a few key things that will help with productivity, including investing in public agricultural research and development," she told Agri-Pulse in an interview. "Investments in public research and development have really been stagnant for the last 10 years. We’d like people to talk to their policymakers and advocate in the next farm bill for an increased investment in the research and development."

In addition, Zeigler said that "conservation matters and we want to make sure that conservation investments are increased" in the next farm bill.

Overall, she hopes that people look at the report and learn more about how farmers face and surmount these productivity challenges, enabling consumers to understand what farmers are facing, as well.

To view the entire GAP report, click here.


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