How to feed 9 billion people

SELF-SUFFICIENCY is considered key to sustainably feeding growing populations, but scratch the surface and it doesn’t really stack up.

Global meat consumption is forecast to almost double by 2050, when there will be a projected 9.1 billion people to feed.

Populations are rising and so are incomes in developing countries. Industrialisation in India, China and in developing South East Asian nations is mirroring the earlier paths of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

However, the biggest challenge is that the already developed countries represent 4 per cent of the world’s population, while the currently industrialising countries represent almost 50pc.

This has significant implications for the way the world’s resources are used to sustainably meet the growing demand for food.

The problem

On a global level, there are signs that the supply of agricultural products is constrained. Both developed and developing countries are running out of land to devote to agricultural production.

Water for agricultural production is becoming increasingly limited and agricultural productivity growth rates are falling across most geographical regions and countries. The growth rate of average crop yields has been slowing since 1990.

Declining productivity growth rates, combined with increased demand, have driven global food prices higher since the turn of the century.

Sustainably feeding 9 billion people will require action at global, national, regional and local levels. It will involve shifting perceptions, separating fact from fallacy and encouraging countries with the right resources and environments to focus on what they’re good at – sustainably producing food.

Government and consumer preferences towards self-sufficiency, buying local produce and using food for non-food purposes (such as corn-based ethanol production) all place constraints on the ability to feed nine billion people.