Increased productivity needed to improve food security – UN report

FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva (right) and OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría launch the OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook. Photo: FAO/Giulio Napolitano

11 July 2012 – Higher demand for food due to population growth, urban migration and other factors will require countries to increase their productivity, according to a new report co-authored by the United Nations, which warns that without more supplies, prices will rise significantly.

“Higher demand will be met increasingly by supplies that come to market at higher cost. With farmland area expected to expand only slightly in the coming decade, additional production will need to come from increased productivity, including by reducing productivity gaps in developing countries,” the Organization of Economic Co-operation (OECD) and Development and the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) state in the OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook.

The report estimates that agricultural output growth will slow to an average of 1.7 per cent annually over the next 10 years, increasing resource constraints and environmental pressures, as well as driving up food prices.

“For consumers, especially for the millions of people living in extreme poverty, high food prices have caused considerable hardship,” FAO’s Director-General, José Graziano da Silva, said in a news release. “We need to redouble our efforts to bring down the number of hungry people. We must focus on increasing sustainable productivity growth, especially in developing countries, and especially for small producers.”

The report calls for governments to implement policies to address productivity and sustainability, while also recognizing that the private sector will be crucial for agriculture in the future.

“Governments should encourage better agronomic practices, create the right commercial, technical and regulatory environment and strengthen agricultural innovation systems (e.g. research, education, extension, infrastructure), with attention to the specific needs of smallholders,” the report notes.

It also emphasizes that developing countries should promote agricultural infrastructure investment in rural areas to improve storage, transportation and irrigation systems, as well as electrification, information and communication systems.

In addition, investing in human capital will also be crucial and public spending on health care, education and training should be assigned for this purpose.


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