PR 96/29 - REPORT FOR WFS ON POPULATION GROWTH


PR 96/29

REPORT FOR WORLD FOOD SUMMIT ON POPULATION GROWTH AND FOOD REQUIREMENTS: SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA WILL HAVE TO INCREASE FOOD PRODUCTION BY 300 PERCENT TO SATISFY POPULATION DEMANDS BY YEAR 2050.

Rome, July 21 -- To satisfy its population demands by year 2050, Africa will have to increase food production by 200 percent, Asian countries and Latin American and Caribbean countries by 69 and 80 percent respectively, and North American countries by 30 percent, according to a recent study by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). In Europe, demand for food produce will diminish, says the report which is part of a series of technical papers for FAO's World Food Summit to be convened in November this year.

Worldwide, the effects of population changes will mean a 75 percent increase in food supply needs by 2050, according to the report.

According to UN projections, the world's population will increase by 72 percent, or from 5.7 billion to 9.8 billion inhabitants between 1995 and 2050, at which time it is expected to stabilize.

The FAO/UNFPA report states that, while globally food supplies have more than doubled in the last forty years resulting in food supplies increasing faster than the population, the figures conceal important regional variations. Food production increases were especially noteworthy in Asia which fully exploited the Green Revolution and in Latin America, which benefited from technolgical progress in the form of hybrid varieties of maize. However, no such revolution took place in Africa, where many countries experienced reduction in their food supplies during the same period.

Food supplies in developed countries increasingly exceed their energy requirements, according to the report. In North America, supply now exceeds requirements by almost 50 percent.

Developing countries will have to increase their diets to eliminate chronic undernutrition, notes the report. This process could require a 30 percent increase in food energy requirements in Africa (40 percent for sub-Saharan African populations), 15 percent in Asia and less than 10 percent in Latin America. In order to reach a well-balanced diet, people will have to diversify their food intake. According to FAO projections for the year 2010, Africa would have to improve its plant-derived energy by another 26 percent (46 percent for countries consuming mainly roots and tubers), and 21 percent for Asia.

The report says that it is not only African countries that face serious food shortages at a national level. Asian countries like Afghanistan, Nepal and Mongolia also have shortages. Countries such as Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Cambodia suffer from chronic undernourishment. India and China suffer chronic food deficits at regional levels. Overall, East Asia and South Asia continue to be, by far, the two regions most seriously affected by malnutrition worldwide.

The FAO/UNFPA report notes that fairer distribution of food supplies would probably eliminate most cases of undernourishment. The latest available figure for the chronically undernourished worldwide is 841 million for the period 1988-90.

The report points out that the root of the food problem is poverty and the lack of access to food for the poor. It predicts that distribution problems will remain in 2050 but that hopefully, by then, "populations will be coming to grips with these serious inequalities in order to reduce them further. The health of a large proportion of the world's population and its ability to take its future into its own hands depends on this," says the report.

The World Food Summit is the first-ever gathering of Heads of State or Government on the subject of food security. With its theme "Food for All," the Summit will be held at FAO Headquarters in Rome, November 13-17.