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Press Release 00/43

FOOD SUPPLIES SET TO GROW FASTER THAN POPULATION, BUT UNDERNOURISHMENT WILL REMAIN WIDESPREAD, ACCORDING TO NEW FAO REPORT


Rome, 24 July - The world population of around 8 billion people by 2030 will be better fed and more people will have adequate access to food, but the number of hungry and undernourished people will remain stubbornly high, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated in a new technical interim report, entitled: "Agriculture: Towards 2015/2030", published today. "In 2015 there could still be about 580 million people suffering from chronic undernourishment," FAO said.

It is expected that population growth will continue to slow down and food consumption levels will be higher in an increasing number of countries. "This causes world agriculture to grow at a slower pace, from an annual 2.1 percent over the last two decades to 1.6 in the period to 2015 and to 1.3 percent up to 2030; but growth in agriculture will continue to outstrip world population growth of 1.2 percent up to 2015 and 0.8 percent in the period to 2030," FAO said.

Cereals will remain key source of food supplies

Cereals will remain the principal source of food supplies, accounting for about half of daily calorie intakes. World production of cereals is projected to increase by almost one billion tonnes by 2030, from the current level of 1.84 billion tonnes. "This increase even exceeds that of the past three decades," FAO said. Around half of the increase will be for food, and about 44 percent for animal feed. Feed use, especially in developing countries, will be the most dynamic element driving the world cereals economy.

Developing countries will become increasingly dependent on imports of cereals. Their net cereal imports are expected to rise from 107 million tonnes in 1995/97 to 270 million in 2030. Traditional exporters such as North America, Western Europe and Australia would need to increase their net exports from 142 million tonnes in 1995/97 to 280 million tonnes by 2030.

Intensification will be more important than land expansion

By 2030, crop production in the developing countries is projected to be 70 percent higher than 1995/97. About 80 percent of this increase would continue to come from intensified crop production (higher yields, higher cropping intensities). The rest will come from a further expansion of arable land.

Arable land in the developing countries is projected to increase by 12 percent (120 million ha) until 2030, most of it in South America and sub-Saharan Africa, with an unknown but probably considerable part coming from deforestation. Irrigation will play an increasingly important role in developing countries. At present, it contributes some 40 percent of total crop production (nearly 60 percent of cereal production). This share is expected to increase to 47 percent by 2030. The irrigated area in developing countries is expected to grow from 197 million ha in 1995/97 to 242 million ha in 2030.

Continuous pressure on the environment

The pressure on the environment will continue to increase but at a lower pace because of the slow down in agricultural production. Deforestation, for instance, is expected to slow down as growth in land used for agricultural production and growth in livestock production is expected to diminish. In addition, the overuse of pesticides is likely to decline as better technologies become available, stricter regulations are enforced, and more emphasis is placed on organic agriculture.

Overall, growth in world meat demand and production is also expected to slow down, according to FAO: it could reach 1.9 percent annually in the next two decades compared with 2.8 percent in the past 20 years. Meat consumption per person in the developing countries went up from 11 kg a year in the mid-70s to 23 kg at present, and it could reach 35 kg by 2030. Consumption is still very low in sub-Saharan Africa. In other countries like China and Brazil, growth in demand is forecast to decelerate as consumption has already reached relatively high levels (in China 39 kg and in Brazil 62 kg per person in 1995/97).

There are well-known environmental dangers from uncontrolled expansion of highly intensive animal production, FAO said. With increasing intensification of livestock production, higher stocking densities, and changing animal feeding practices, there is a growing concern about food safety of livestock products and about transmission of animal diseases to humans.

Furthermore, in the developing countries, there is a danger that large-scale commercial operations could displace small-scale livestock farmers, thus exacerbating rural poverty, FAO warned.

Forest management objectives will increasingly shift from wood production to safeguarding the environmental functions of forests, the report said. The role of industrial forest plantations in the provision of roundwood is expected to increase strongly, with its share reaching one-third of total supply by 2015. Use of fuel wood is expected to continue to grow over the next two decades before stabilizing or even declining marginally. More than 60 percent of the wood harvested globally in 1995 was used as fuel.

Average world consumption of fish per person could grow from 16 kg a year in 1997 to 19-20 kg by 2030, raising total food use of fish to 150-60 million tonnes. The proportion of fish reduced to fishmeal and oil, at present some 30 million tonnes, is likely to fall. The yearly sustainable yield of marine capture fisheries is estimated at no more than 100 million tonnes. "The bulk of the increase in supply therefore will have to come from aqua-culture".

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The final report will be published by early 2002. The interim document is available on the Internet at http://www.fao.org/es/ESD/gstudies.htm For more information please contact: Erwin Northoff, Media Officer, tel: 0039-06-5705 3105, e-mail: Erwin.Northoff@fao.org


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