ROME, ITALY — With the world population expected to reach 8.3 billion by 2030, global cereal production will need to increase by 1 billion tonnes to meet the increased needs, according to a study by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
The F.A.O. report "World Agriculture: Toward 2015/2030," placed special emphasis on the need to reduce tariffs on processed agricultural goods.
Population growth will be slower in the decades ahead, the F.A.O. said. Anticipating population growth averaging 1.1% per year up over the coming three decades, the organization forecast world population in 2030 of 8.3 billion, versus 6 billion today. The growth rate would be considerably slower than the 1.7% annual growth seen over the past 30 years.
A growing percentage of the world population will be well fed during the years ahead: "As a result, the growth in world demand for agricultural products is expected to slow further," the report said. In developing countries the slowdown will be particularly dramatic, falling to 2% annual growth in demand for agricultural products in 2030 from 3.7% over the past 30 years.
The report says a significant decline in world hunger is likely by the end of the study period. By 2030, the number of hungry people in developing countries is projected
to decline to 440 million from 777 million today. In 1990-92, the figure was 815 million. Of concern though, hunger in sub-Saharan Africa was projected to decline only slightly, with the number of chronically undernourished at 183 million, versus 194 million today.
The summary noted that patterns of food consumption increasingly are becoming uniform throughout the world, with shifts toward higher quality and more expensive foods such as meat and dairy products. "Cereals are still by far the world’s most important sources of food, both for direct human consumption and meat production," the summary said. "An extra billion tonnes of cereals will be needed by 2030." Current world production of cereals is about 1.9 billion tonnes annually.
The F.A.O. said that increased agricultural productivity would account for much of the increase in food production. In developing countries, nearly 70% of the increase will come from higher yields with 20% from expanded planted area and 10% from multiple cropping.
While highly supportive of liberalized trade, the F.A.O. cast a negative light on the role of multinational food companies. "International trade plays an important role in improving food security and further agricultural trade liberalization could boost incomes," it said. F.A.O. projects that the agricultural trade deficit of the developing countries will increase drastically by 2030. The report calls for better access to OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) markets, the elimination of export subsidies and the reduction of tariffs, in particular on processed agricultural goods in developed and developing countries.
"The benefits of globalization in food and agriculture could outweigh the risks and costs. For example, globalization has generally led to progress in reducing poverty in Asia. But it has also led to the rise of multinational food companies with the potential to disempower farmers in many countries. Developing countries need the legal and administrative framework to ward off the threats while reaping the benefits."
Agricultural biotechnology may enhance food security in coming years, the F.A.O. said. With a number of qualifiers, the summary was supportive of the future role of biotechnology. "If the environmental threats from biotechnology are addressed, and if the technology is affordable by and geared toward the needs of the poor and undernourished, genetically modified crop varieties could help to sustain farming in marginal areas and to restore degraded lands to production," the F.A.O. said. To address the concerns of consumers, F.A.O. called for improved testing and safety protocols for genetically modified organisms.