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Global food security in 2050


The book, “Who Will Feed China?: Wake-up Call for a Small Planet,” authored by Lester Brown in 1995, was a surprising wake-up call about world food security.

Brown claimed that food production was not growing fast enough to feed China’s increasing population, which could result in rising food prices in China and the rest of the world.

However, his claim has not been realized. As a result of advances in farming technology for the last two decades, the world has produced enough food to feed the increasing population in China and other nations, even though food shortages have been experienced on a regional basis due mainly to unfavorable weather.

Food production has increased fast enough to meet the increasing demand for food on a global scale. This is due mainly to significant increases in crop yields since 1980. From 1980 through 2011, there has been a 24.2 percent increase in corn yields, 21.8 percent in soybean yields, 22.7 percent in rice yields and a 10.5 percent increase in wheat yields.

However, how about the next 40 years? Can we produce enough food to feed the world population so the people can lead an active and healthy life? The world population is expected to grow by about 30 percent by 2050 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011). The population is expected to grow from 7.2 billion in 2011 to 9.3 billion in 2050. Developing countries are projected to grow much faster than those in developed countries. In addition, the average consumption of calories or food per person is expected to increase with income growth in the future, according to the World Bank.

Calorie intake differs by region, with the highest in North America and the lowest in Africa. According to World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization estimates, there are 848 million undernourished people worldwide, with 98 percent of these people living in developing countries and 62 percent in Southern Asia or sub-Saharan Africa.

Short- and long-term food security can be measured globally and regionally.

Regional food security depends upon regional supply and demand for food and the capability of importing excess demand from surplus regions. Meanwhile, global food security depends upon aggregate supply and demand for food on a global scale. A food shortage will bring about famine and higher prices. Main demand factors are population growth and changes in per-capita income.

Supply factors are changes in arable land and crop yields that are affected by weather conditions and farming technology.

Short-term food security depends upon the volatility in food supply stemming mainly from weather conditions, such as drought, flooding and temperatures, during the growing season.

Long-term food security depends upon general trends in food supply and demand caused by arable land, farming technology and alternative uses of agricultural commodities.

According to an econometric estimation, the total calorie consumption in 2050 is projected to be 33 trillion calories, which is based on a projected world population of 9.3 billion. Calorie consumption by region also is estimated by using the same model for each region. The percentage increase in calorie consumption is highest in Asia (103 percent), followed by North America (54 percent) and Latin America (38 percent). The projected percentage increase in calorie consumption in Europe and Oceania is less than 4 percent.

Based on expected changes in arable land and farming technology, the world production of calories is projected to be 31 trillion calories in 2050. However, the calorie production will not be large enough to satisfy the aggregate consumption of calories to lead active and healthy lives (33 trillion calories) in 2050. Furthermore, food shortage estimates are more severe in Africa and Asia than other regions.

In addition, global warming may be a major uncertainty in crop and livestock production. Global warming may affect crop and livestock production negatively and also bring increasing price volatility in agricultural products.

Regional and/or global food shortages can be eliminated or reduced by adopting certain policies:

* Assume that global warming will affect agricultural production negatively, so it is important to develop crop varieties that are adaptable under severe weather conditions. In addition, all nations should develop a policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to prevent continuous global warming. This effort should be global rather than regional.

* All countries, especially developed countries, should invest in research and development to improve agricultural productivity and make the technology available to developing and food- deficit countries and regions.

* It is important to develop a global carryover stock policy to reduce uncertainty in agricultural production stemming from the weather.

3 Comments on "Global food security in 2050"

  1. GregT on Tue, 26th Mar 2013 3:14 pm 

    2025 could very well be the new 2050. If current trends continue, a food and water crisis is looming for not only China, but for the entire world.

    The current Chairman, President, and CEO of Exxon Mobil Corporation, Rex Tillerson, believes that instead of ending our dependance on fossil fuels, we should adapt to the resulting climate disruptions that they are causing.

    Well, I say, we’d better get a move on, because the adaptation required will be an historic undertaking, and billions of people’s lives are on the line.

  2. Kenz300 on Tue, 26th Mar 2013 5:19 pm 

    Every country needs to develop a plan to balance its population with its resources, food, water, energy and jobs.

    The UN should produce a sustainability index to show how many countries are under stress due to their populations being out of balance with their resources.

    Unless countries tackle these problems internally they will be exporting their people and their problems as resources become scarce.

    It is a problem that will impact all of us no matter where we live. Sustainability needs to become a bigger part of our planning processes.

  3. GregT on Tue, 26th Mar 2013 8:35 pm 


    You are correct, it IS a problem that will impact all of us no matter where we live. The earth is under stress due to it’s population being out of balance with it’s resources. Many of which are already “scarce”.

    There is no “country” that can do anything to make this go away. The UN can produce all of the reports that it wants, it will not solve anything. We are in mass population overshoot. If we ever had any hope of rectifying our situation, it was 40 years ago, and it isn’t going to get better as we move forward.

    Plan for your own self sustainability, get out of the city, grow a garden, raise chickens, ride a bike. Start your own planning process now, while you still can. No one else going to do it for you. No one else is responsible for you.

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