Global agricultural productivity will need to see an average annual increase of 1.73% if the world is to sustainably produce enough food, feed, fiber, and bioenergy for 10 billion people in 2050, according to an annual report. 

That’s a slightly higher figure than the 1.63% that the 2019 Global Agricultural Productivity Report shows as current agricultural productivity growth, defined as increasing the output of crops and livestock with existing or fewer inputs.

The GAP Report, released Wednesday at the World Food Prize symposium in Des Moines, Iowa, specifically says productivity growth is strong in China in South Asia but “alarmingly low” in low-income countries and slowing in “the agricultural powerhouses of North America, Europe, and Latin America.”

“These productivity gaps, if they persist, will have serious ramifications for environmental sustainability, the economic vitality of the agriculture sector, and the prospects for reducing poverty, malnutrition, and obesity,” said Ann Steensland, author of the 2019 GAP Report and coordinator of the GAP Report Initiative at Virginia Tech.

Absence of productivity gains, the report says more land and water will be needed to boost yields, “straining a natural resource base already threatened by climate change.”

The GAP report suggests several strategies for accelerating productivity growth including an investment in public research and extension, improved infrastructure, expanded trade, and reducing post-harvest loss and food waste.

The report also points to “widespread adoption of improved agricultural technologies and best farm management practices” increasing global output by 60% over the last 40 years; global cropland has increased by just 5% over the same time period.

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