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Page added on June 17, 2012
Food production and demand are defining elements of the global food system. Changes in agriculture practice over the last 50 years have increased the world’s capacity to provide food through increases in productivity, greater diversity in foods and less seasonal dependence. Global demand for food is now changing rapidly at an unprecedented scale as emerging economies are getting wealthier and individual household can afford more varied diets, including more meat, dairy products and fish.
Central to the question of feeding nine billion or more people in 2050 is the potential of the global food supply to keep up with rising demand.
Although the global population has doubled over the past five decades, food consumption (as kilocalories/person/day) in the global population rose by 15 per cent between 1969 and 2005.
In terms of calories derived from major food commodities, large differences are apparent between the low-and high-income countries. Over the past four decades (19632003), low-income countries experienced increases in the consumption of calories from meat (119 per cent), sugar (127 per cent) and vegetable oils (199 per cent). In high-income countries, only the last has increased appreciably (105 per cent). China has shown more substantial increases, especially in vegetable oils (680 per cent), meat (349 per cent) and sugar (305 per cent).
Increases in food production have been accomplished with relatively modest increases in land used – around 8 per cent over the same 40-year period. The small overall increase in land used for food production, combined with the doubling of the global population and a small average increase in food consumption per person, demonstrates that much of the increase in global production has occurred through intensification, primarily the increases in fertilization and irrigation, as well as the improved breeds of crops and livestock.
Agriculture land, for growing food and feed crops for livestock and for pasture, occupies about 5,000 million hectares (38 per cent) of the total global land area.
The number of countries growing GM crops has increased steadily from six in 1996 – the first year of commercialization – to 25 in 2009. The eight countries that grew more than 1 million hectares in 2009 were: the USA, Brazil, Argentina, India, Canada, China, Paraguay and South Africa.
Cereals, the most important food source worldwide, contribute 50 per cent of global calorific consumption. Between 1961 and 2007, global consumption has increased for rice, wheat and maize. This has been achieved through higher yields of all three crops, all of which have more than doubled providing, more than 86 per cent of the total global grain production.
Growth in per capita consumption of livestock products has markedly outpaced growth in consumption of other major food commodity groups. In the last four decades, consumption of milk per capita in low income countries had almost doubled, meat consumption has more than tripled and egg consumption has increased by a factor of five. Livestock products not only provide high-value protein, but also important sources of a wide range of essential micronutrients, in particular minerals such as iron and zinc, and vitamin A.
The consensus from projections by the UN and World Bank is that the global population will increase to 8-10 billion by 2050.
Food price remains a major driver of demand. With a few exceptions, the price of food in high-income countries has steadily declined relative to earnings.
Patterns of food consumption have changed substantially in high-income and, increasingly, in emerging economies in recent decades. Particular drivers are associated with convenience foods, reduced cooking time, smaller households, and changes in supply chains and retail options. Much less food is purchased in raw form.
The UN FAO produced a baseline projection of the global food system in 2050 that has been widely cited. The projection suggested that, by 2050, the world’s average daily kilocalorie availability could rise to 3,130, an 11 per cent increase over its level in 2003. It was estimated that agriculture production would have to increase by 70 per cent (as compared to 2005/7) to cope with a 40 per cent increase in world population and the raise in average food consumption to 3130 kilocalories per person per day by 2050.
Annual cereal production will need to rise to about 3 billion tonnes from 2.1 billion today, and annual meat production will need to rise by over 200 million tonnes to reach 470 million tonnes.
This report has considered how past patterns of food consumption have changed and how demand for food could evolve over the next 40 years – both in terms of quantity and the type of food that consumers could demand.