Description: the presentation features main findings and highlights of the report “The future of food and agriculture: Trends and challenges”. The report sheds some light on the nature of the challenges that agriculture and food systems are facing now and throughout the 21st century. It provides some insights as to what is at stake and what needs to be done.
Allow me to give some brief highlights of this report which reflects the knowledge and insights from all technical departments and divisions of FAO. The Agricultural Development Economics Division (ESA) and, in particular, the Global Perspectives Studies team, coordinated this Herculean effort. The report is rich in content and lays out huge challenges facing humanity into the 21st Century. I cannot possibly do justice to all aspects, but hope I can raise your appetite to study it and use its finding to search together for the most effective ways to address the challenges as formulated by the report.
The world population is expected to grow to almost 10 billion by 2050, This will boost agricultural demand – in a scenario of modest economic growth – by some 50 percent compared to 2012. Income growth in low and middle-income countries would hasten a dietary transition towards higher consumption of meat, fruits and vegetables, relative to that of cereals This will require commensurate shifts in output, adding pressure on natural resources. On historic trends, meeting demand growth may not look so challenging,
But it may not be that easy moving forward.
that yield growth for many staples has slowed to 1%, which is too slow for comfort; the needed acceleration in productivity growth is hampered by the degradation of natural resources, the loss of biodiversity, and the spread of transboundary pests and diseases of plants and animals, some of which are becoming resistant to antimicrobials; food losses and waste claim a significant proportion of agricultural output Climate change affects disproportionately food-insecure regions, jeopardizing crop and livestock production, fish stocks and fisheries.
Low- and middle income countries invest much less than high income countries relative to size of agricultural sector and investments in agricultural R&D are mainly concentrated in high-income countries, as shown in the graph here which measures the ‘agricultural research intensity’ (ARI), which indicates national public expenditure on agricultural R&D as a share of agricultural gross domestic product (GDP). There is adequate level but generally to make progress it is considered to be at least 1%. In low and middle-income countries it is well below that.
Hunger and extreme poverty have fallen significantly at the global level since the 1990s. Yet, around 700 million people, most of them living in rural areas, are still extremely poor today. Even where poverty has been reduced, pervasive inequalities remain, hindering poverty eradication. Almost 800 million people are chronically hungry, 2 billion suffer micronutrient deficiencies. Under a ‘business-as-usual’ scenario, without additional efforts to promote pro-poor development, more than 600 million people would still be undernourished in 2030. and the prevalence of overweight and obesity is on the rise in almost all countries.
Africa and South Asia will continue to have the highest concentration of young people in the years to come. In Africa, 200 million jobs will need to be created Agriculture and food value chains may still have an important role to play in new job creation, but, to absorb all these new labour market entrants, they will need to be complemented by the expansion of remunerative non-agricultural employment. If this does not occur, mass migration and youth unemployment may become new threats to food security and social and political stability.
While population growth increases the demand for agricultural products and stimulates farming activities, urbanization increases the demand of processed food, easily stored and transported. This leads to the standardization of agricultural output and, in many cases, the concentration of primary production and the consolidation of farmland. Food chains are becoming longer, with – on the downside – a greater ecological footprint and increasing concerns over the quality of ultra-processed food and its association with overweight and obesity. Critical parts of food systems, from input provisioning to food distribution, are becoming more capital-intensive, vertically integrated and concentrated in fewer hands. While more integrated food systems are strengthening rural-urban linkages and create new job opportunities, small-scale producers and landless households are the first to lose out. They increasingly seek employment opportunities outside of agriculture, thus accelerating urbanization and the ‘feminization’ of farming in many parts of the world.
Satisfying increased demands on agriculture with existing farming practices is likely to lead to more intense competition for natural resources, further deforestation land degradation. Increasing economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions, will exacerbate climate change. Agriculture emits one fifth of greenhouse gases, substantially contributing to climate change. Climate change, in turn, negatively affects agriculture, by: Negatively impacting on yields and reducing nutrient content of many crops Intensifying the frequency and intensity of natural disasters Enhancing risk of food borne diseases and transboundary pests and diseases
One clear message that emerges is that ‘business-as-usual’ is not an option. The 15 trends described in the report led us to formulate 10 key challenges. Let me phrase those in the form of questions to which we need to find satisfactory solutions. Looking ahead, the core question is: can we meet the needs of a sharply increasing global population while the pressures on scarce land and water increases and the negative impacts of climate change intensify? This raises further questions. Can agriculture ensure that the use of the natural resource base is sustainable? Can agriculture contain greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change?
Can the world secure access to adequate and nutritious food for all, especially in the low-income regions where population growth is the most rapid? Can economies be transformed in ways that provide more and better employment and income-earning opportunities, especially for youth and women, and help stem mass urbanization and migrations? Can the impacts of conflicts and natural disasters, both major disrupters of food security and the causes of vast migrations of people, be contained and prevented? Can we overcome ‘wickedness’ in policy-making, where often the response to one aspect of a problem (e.g. incentives to raise productivity) risks exacerbating others (e.g. depletion of natural resources)? Can we engage all stakeholders, in better decision-making, through more inclusive governance? Major transformations of agricultural systems, rural economies and natural resource management will be needed if we are to meet the multiple challenges before us and realize the full potential of food and agriculture to ensure a secure and healthy future for all people and the entire planet. The purpose of this report is not to present a menu of solutions, but rather to increase understanding of the nature of the challenges that agriculture, rural development and food systems are facing now and will be facing into the 21st century.
The future of food and agriculture: Trends and challenges
of change in
the 21st century
• Demand of agricultural
products is expected to rise by
50% from 2013 to 2050
• Demand shifts towards fruits,
vegetables, meats and dairy
• On historic trends, meeting
demand growth should not be
Population growth, income growth and urbanization
will push up and change food demand
World High Income
Low & Middle
SAS & SSA Latin America
Agricultural output growth and demand projections
Will we be able to feed the world by 2050?
• Yield growth is slowing down
• Competition for land and water
resources is intensifying
• Yield growth is hampered by the
degradation of natural resources, and
spread of transboundary pests and
• Food losses and waste claim a
significant proportion of output
• Climate change affects
food-insecure regions the most
Will we be able to feed the world by 2050?
… but it will likely be challenging
• Low- and middle income
countries invest much less
relative to the size of
• Also, most investment in R&D
for agriculture is concentrated
in high-income countries
Insufficient investment in agriculture
Agricultural investment is rising, but insufficiently and mostly
concentrated in high income countries
• Around 700 million people are
extremely poor today
• Almost 800 million people are
and 2 billion suffer
• Under a ‘business-as-usual’
scenario more than 600 million
people would still be
undernourished in 2030…
• ... while overweight and obesity
would rise further
Poverty, inequality and food security
Hunger and extreme poverty declined globally since the 1990s, but…
• In the coming decades, 200
million jobs will need to be
created for young people in
• Agriculture may still have an
important role to play in
new job creation
• … and many more along the
food chain and through
Agricultural employment shares are declining.
Where will be the jobs for hundreds of millions of youth?
• Large scale input markets and
distribution systems are more
• Food chains are getting longer:
- larger ecological footprint
- concerns over food quality
• More integrated food systems are
strengthening rural-urban linkages
and creating new employment
opportunities, but also induce:
- more migratory flows
- feminization of agriculture
Food systems are changing
Food production is changing along with retail channels
• Agriculture, forestry and land use
contribute one fifth of them
• Dietary transition exacerbates
pressure on natural resources
• Climate change is:
- reducing nutrient content of crops
- intensifying natural disasters
- enhancing risk of foodborne
diseases and transboundary pests
Business as usual is not an option
Global greenhouse gas emissions are on the rise
• Sustainably improving agricultural productivity to meet
• Ensuring a sustainable natural resource base
• Addressing climate change and intensification of natural hazards
• Preventing transboundary and emerging agriculture and food
“Business as usual” cannot be an option: transformative changes are needed
Challenges for food stability and availability
• Eradicating extreme poverty and reducing inequality
• Ending hunger and all forms of malnutrition
• Improving income earning opportunities in rural areas and addressing the
root causes of migration
• Building resilience to protracted crises, disasters and conflicts
Challenges for access and utilization
• Making food systems more efficient, inclusive and resilient
• Addressing the need for coherent and effective national and international
is available at
Global Perspectives Studies