* Global farm productivity edged up in 2011 but uneven
* Challenge in Sub-Saharan Africa remains “daunting”
* Group estimates $90 bln/year needed for agriculture
By Christine Stebbins
DES MOINES, Iowa, Oct 12 (Reuters) - Global agricultural productivity is rising but more effort is needed to meet the world’s long-term food needs, a group of agribusiness leaders advised on Wednesday.
“While the new evidence of faster productivity growth for this year is welcome, it does not alleviate the concern or urgency about addressing the pace of agricultural development in parts of the world where much of the population increase will take place, especially Sub-Saharan Africa,” the group, called the Global Harvest Initiative (GHI), said.
Funding needed to boost agriculture in all developing countries was estimated at $90 billion a year, it said.
The group, founded in 2009 by crop processor Archer Daniels Midland , seed giants DuPont and Monsanto , and farm equipment maker John Deere ; issued its annual report at the World Food Prize Forum that opened here on Wednesday.
The United Nations in May projected world population to rise to more than nine billion people by 2050 from seven billion today. About 49 percent of that growth is projected in sub-Saharan Africa and another 41 percent in Asia.
“Both of which are low income areas with relatively low levels of agricultural productivity,” the report said.
At present, the report added, there are nearly one billion people who lack access to safe and adequate daily food and 20 percent of the world population lives “on less than $1.25 a day.”
The group calculates that an index, called Total Factor Productivity, needs to grow 1.75 percent a year until 2050 to meet food needs based on population projections. A 1 percent increase in TFP means that 1 percent fewer ag resources are required to produce a given output of crops or meat.
The index rose 1.74 percent in 2011 compared with 1.4 percent in 2010, GHI said. But it spotlighted uneven regional trends. TFP for sub-Saharan Africa was averaging 0.85 percent, for instance, compared to above 2 percent in Brazil and China.
Current food production trends “indicate the need for a substantial increase in food production, as well as improvements in both domestic agricultural production patterns and trade flows, in order to meet the needs of changing dietary patterns,” including more meat and dairy consumption, it said.
Removing trade barriers was key because by 2050 a larger fraction of agricultural production will need to move through trade since the world population distribution by region is not the same as the distribution of arable land, the report said.
“Regions like North America, South America, Europe and Oceania have a higher proportion of arable land and will continue to be a source of agricultural output for other regions, including Asia,” the GHI report said.
The report cited the economic multiplier effect of poor countries investing in rural agriculture and the problems caused by laborers migrating to cities rather than staying on the land. About 50 percent of world population now lives in cities, which is expected to rise to 70 percent by 2050.
China and Brazil were examples where an embrace of farming technology, infrastructure like new roads, enhanced private sector involvement and rural investment were boosting productivity.
“Countries across the globe, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, must actively invest in agricultural research, reduce trade barriers, and embrace science-based technologies and innovation while working to establish a business environment to attract private capital,” the report concluded.