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The Future Of Agriculture Appears Bullish

According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, this planet will have an additional 2.3 billion people by

According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, this planet will have an additional 2.3 billion people by 2050 (see “World Will Need 70% More Food In 2050”). FAO released the report ahead of the high-level expert forum set for Rome on Oct. 12-13 and entitled "How to Feed the World in 2050."

For all of us engaged in agriculture, that expert forum has to be seen as good news. It means agriculture is likely to be one of the fastest growing industries around.

However, there are some troubling aspects to the discussion paper published last week, as well. While the demand for food will increase dramatically (the amount of meat needs to increase by 200 million tons to reach 470 million tons by 2050), the number of people who understand agriculture and can identify with it will also be decreasing.

The report estimates that 70% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050, compared to 49% who do so today. The bulk of the population growth is also expected to be in developing countries, which raises additional issues about how the food will be paid for and distributed.

There are ominous statements in this discussion paper leading up to this forum. One is where they discuss managing the competing issues of raising 70% more food, and addressing social justice and natural resource issues. Agriculture, if it is allowed to, can reach the increased production levels. The question is how do we accomplish these goals when the hungry people may not have the means to pay for it, and how do we manage the need for increased production with environmental concerns?

Demand for food is also expected to rise and global incomes increase; 72% of food will be consumed by developing countries which compares to 58% today. How do biofuels fit into the picture?

Interestingly, increased yields and cropping intensity is expected to help drive the continued decline in acres committed to agriculture use in developing countries, while it increases dramatically in developing countries. And, water and land issues are expected to grow more intense as demand grows.