Global food production to slow following boom: UN report

Fri, 07 December 2012

ROME -- Global food production will slow over the coming decade following an exceptional but unsustainable rate of growth in developing countries, with more investment needed in the sector, the UN's food agency said yesterday. "The average annual growth in global agricultural production through 2021 will slow to 1.7 per cent, down from the 2.6 per cent of the previous decade," the Food and Agriculture Organisation said in its yearly report.

"Agriculture in many countries has grown at a pace that cannot be sustained," it said, adding that production shot up by over 50 per cent over the last 12 years in Latin America as a whole and by 70 per cent in Brazil alone. Production had also increased by over 40 per cent in Sub-Saharan Africa, eastern Europe and central Asia, and by 20 per cent in the United States and western Europe, the Rome-based agency said.

Biofuel production has also expanded rapidly over the past 10 to 15 years, particularly in the United States, Brazil and the European Union (EU), it said. Ethanol production in the United States shot up by 780 per cent over the last 12 years while in Brazil it grew by 140 per cent. This year, it absorbed over 37 per cent of coarse grain crop in the United States and over 50 per cent of Brazil's sugar cane crop. Biodiesel production absorbed almost 80 per cent of the EU vegetable oil production. In countries such as Australia and Canada, growth in the biofuel sector has been strong, although less than in the primary producing countries.

"The sector has proved the largest source of new demand for agricultural production in the past decade, and represents a new 'market fundamental'." According to the report, most of the best land is already being used globally for agriculture, and what is left is either in remote locations inaccessible without infrastructure development or is wanted for urban use. Furthermore, the existing land is under threat from creeping degradation. "Approximately 25 per cent of the world's agricultural land area is highly degraded. These pressures have reached critical levels in some areas, and climate change is expected to worsen the situation," the report said.

© Oman Daily Observer 2012

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