World Food Prospects: Critical Issues For the Early Twenty-First Century

About 73 million people will be added to the world’s population every year between 1995 and 2020, increasing it by 32 percent to reach 7.5 billion. Much of this population growth will occur in the cities of the developing world. While its rural population is expected to increase by less than 300 million during this period, the developing world’s urban population could double to 3.4 billion in 2020. Per capita incomes are expected to increase in all major developing regions over this period. Meeting the food needs of a growing and urbanizing population with rising incomes will have profound implications for the world’s agricultural production and trading systems in coming decades. IFPRI research suggests some of the major developments that will characterize the world food situation during the next two decades to 2020: Almost all of the increase in world food demand will take place in developing countries. Developing countries will account for about 85 percent of the increase in the global demand for cereals and meat between 1995 and 2020. However, a developing-country person in 2020 will consume less than half the amount of cereals consumed by a developed-country person and slightly more than one-third of the meat products. A demand-driven “livestock revolution” is under way in the developing world. Between the early 1970s and the mid-1990s, the volume of meat consumed in the developing world grew almost three times as fast as it did in the developed countries. Demand for meat in the developing world is projected to double between 1995 and 2020. In response to the strong demand for meat products, demand for cereals for feeding livestock will double in developing countries. Demand for maize in developing countries will increase much faster than for any other cereal and will overtake demand for rice and wheat by 2020. To meet demand, the world’s farmers will have to produce 40 percent more grain in 2020. Increases in cultivated area are expected to contribute only about one-fifth of the global cereal production between 1995 and 2020, so improvements in crop yields will be required to bring about the necessary production increases. However, it is worrisome that growth in farmers’ cereal yields is slowing from the heyday of the Green Revolution during the 1970s. Food production is increasing much faster in the developing world than in the developed world. By 2020, the developing world will be producing 59 percent of the world’s cereals and 61 percent of the world’s meat. Nevertheless, cereal production in the developing world will not keep pace with demand, and net cereal imports by developing countries will almost double between 1995 and 2020 to 192 million tons in order to fill the gap between production and demand. Net meat imports by developing countries will increase eightfold during this period to 6.6 million tons. About 60 percent of the developing world’s net cereal imports in 2020 will come from the United States. Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union are forecast to emerge as major net exporters, and the European Union and Australia are projected to increase their net exports as well. Food prices will remain steady or fall slightly between 1995 and 2020. The much slower decrease in food prices compared with past trends is due to the continued slowdown in crop yield increases, as well as strong growth in demand for meat in developing countries. With increased production and imports, per capita food availability in the developing world will increase to 2,800 calories per day by 2020, an increase of about 9 percent over 1995. In the scenario described here, food insecurity and malnutrition will persist in 2020 and beyond. We project that 135 million children under five years of age will be malnourished in 2020, a decline of only 15 percent from 160 million in 1995. Child malnutrition is expected to decline in all major developing regions except Sub-Saharan Africa, where the number of malnourished children is forecast to increase by about 30 percent to reach 40 million by 2020. With more than 77 percent of the developing world’s malnourished children in 2020, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia will remain “hot spots” of child malnutrition and food insecurity. When IFPRI prepared its last Food Policy Report on the world food situation two years ago, it highlighted recent developments and emerging issues influencing prospects for global food security. Many of these issues are still present, and some have escalated in importance. In this report, we identify and discuss six critical issues that, at the threshold of the next century, could significantly influence the world food situation. First, new information on nutrition is shedding fresh light on which policy-related variables could help improve the nutritional status of children; this could help refocus efforts to eliminate child malnutrition. Second, world market prices for wheat, maize, and rice, adjusted for inflation, are the lowest they have been in the last century. This situation may threaten producer incomes and future food production and stocks. Third, the next round of trade negotiations sponsored by the World Trade Organization will begin in November 1999. Poor countries and poor people risk losing out on the economic benefits embodied in further trade liberalization. To gain from trade talks, developing countries must participate effectively in the negotiations. The last three issues focus on approaches to increasing productivity on small-scale farms in developing countries, in particular on the potential of agroecological approaches, the potential role of modern biotechnology, and the relevance of new information technology and precision farming. These issues are hotly debated at present, and the outcomes of these debates may influence the food security of low-income people for many years to come.


Issue Date:
1999
Publication Type:
Report
PURL Identifier:
http://purl.umn.edu/42572
Total Pages:
30
Series Statement:
Food Policy Report
9




 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2017-08-25

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