DES MOINES, Oct. 15. 2014 – A new report by the Global Harvest Initiative (GHI) indicates that global agricultural productivity is not accelerating fast enough to meet the expected agricultural demand for sustainable production by 2050.
“This year’s report shows a clear gap that could dramatically impact people all around the globe,” said Margaret Zeigler, executive director of GHI, speaking at the World Food Prize Symposium. “Raising productivity across all regions and for farmers of any size and scale requires long-term investments and sustained focus if we are going to have sufficient nutritious and affordable food and agriculture.”
The GHI’s fifth annual Global Agricultural Productivity Report (GAP Report) shows that, for the first time in several years, global agricultural productivity is not keeping up with trend lines.
The GAP Index is based on the measurement of total factor productivity (TFP), the ratio of agricultural outputs to inputs. Total factor productivity rises when outputs increase and inputs remain constant.
In 2010, GHI first calculated that global agricultural TFP must grow by an average rate of at least 1.75 percent annually in order to double agricultural output through productivity gains by 2050.
But since 2002, TFP has been rising by an average annual rate of only 1.69 percent.
While Zeigler says that rate may not seem much lower – when the rate is compounded over the next 40 years, output would grow by 94 percent – falling short of the target by 6 percentage points.
If these trends continue, the impact would hit hardest on low income, food-deficit countries and their consumers.
“Such countries lack the income to produce and import sufficient food to meet nutritional needs and, consequently, stagnant or declining productivity will raise prices and the proportion of income required to buy food,” the report notes. “Poor urban households bear the brunt of higher prices in those countries and rural populations suffer, too, since they are typically net food buyers.”
The lack of productivity growth can also lead to less sustainable production, as growers expand farmland, potentially endangering fragile tropical forest zones and placing greater demands on existing water resources.
Zeigler says the report serves as a “call to action” for public and private sector investments in “proven strategies that boost productivity and conserve the natural resource base.”
Several agriculture experts joined Zeigler in presenting the 2014 GAP Report at today’s release event, including: Keith Fuglie, branch chief of USDA’s Economic Research Service; Dilip Kulkarni, president of Jain Irrigation Systems Agri-food Division; Thomas J. Herlehy, practice area manager for crops, Land O’Lakes Inc. International Development Division; and Jesus Madrazo, vice president, corporate engagement, Monsanto, and GHI board chairman.
Several speakers emphasized the importance of public and private sector investments in agricultural research and extension in order to educate growers and increase innovation.
Some 50 years after the original “Green Revolution,” the 2014 GAP Report also provides a spotlight on the special case of India.
India has made tremendous progress, becoming self-sufficient in food grains and initiating the “White Revolution” in dairy production, the report notes.
“But today India faces new challenges: a rising middle class demands a more diverse diet, malnutrition continues to plague millions, and lower water availability and climate change pose significant threats. India is at a crossroads and must harness new policies and scale up innovation to realize its potential to provide food and better nutrition.”
In addition, the GAP Report’s regional analysis uncovers significant productivity gaps:
- In East Asia, only 67 percent of food demand by 2030 will be met from within the region if the current rate of productivity growth is maintained.
- At current rates of productivity growth, Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to meet only 15 percent of food demand in 2030, which will require significant imports, or food assistance, or opening up new land to development that may not be suitable for sustainable production.
- In Latin America, overall regional production is expected to exceed demand with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay leading this increase in productivity.
The full 2014 GAP Report is available on the GHI website, www.globalharvestinitiative.org
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