Editor's Preface

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This book is a revised and somewhat expanded version of the official FAO document Agriculture: Toward 2010 prepared in 1992 and early 1993 for, and considered by, the Twenty-Seventh Session of the FAO Conference in November 1993. It is the latest forward assessment by FAO of possible future developments in world food and agriculture, including the crops, livestock, forestry and fisheries sectors. The assessment is no mere exercise in world food demand and supply projections but rather the product of multidisciplinary work covering the many technical, socioeconomic and policy facts of food and agriculture. The focus is on food security, natural resources and sustainability. The book contains the most comprehensive evaluation of the agricultural potential of the land resources of the developing countries available anywhere.

The time horizon is the period to the year 2010 (in practice and for most variables the period from the three-year average 1988/90 to 2010). The assessment is cast, in the first instance, in terms of a number of key variables, e.g. per caput food supplies and state of nutrition, development of food surpluses and deficits of the different regions and how they may be matched, future gains in crop yields, rate of exploitation of natural resources for agricultural production, etc. Future values for these variables provide the background for exploring the extent to which humankind may be making progress, or otherwise, towards a future free of the most pressing problems related to food and agriculture, e.g. food insecurity for significant parts of world population, threats to the environment and development failures in the low-income countries which depend on agriculture for their development.

In attempting to sketch out the likely evolution of key variables, a (notionally) "positive" approach has been followed, i.e. the objective is to give an idea of the future as it is likely to be rather than as it ought to be from a normative perspective. For example, the conclusion that undernutrition is likely to persist results from this approach to looking into the future. Therefore, the prospective developments presented in, mainly, Chapters 3 to 6 are not goals of an FAO strategy. But they can provide a basis for action to cope with the problems likely to persist and new ones that may emerge. Selected policy issues relevant to such action are discussed in broad terms in the other chapters. The alternative of sketching out a normative scenario in which all problems would be solved in the next 20 years, or in which any predetermined desirable rate of progress would be attained, would not be useful because it would have to be based on assumptions, some of which would be clearly very unrealistic. Some key constraints are likely to stand in the way of achieving desired objectives and cannot be ignored, e.g. the near certainty that population growth rates will be "too high" and the high probability that the rates of overall development will be "too low" in many low-income countries with severe food security problems; or that for large groups of such countries achievement of "required" high agricultural growth rates (e.g. over 4.0 percent p.a.) for long periods is an unlikely prospect.

The field of inquiry is vast, as it covers issues ranging from those in the domain of natural sciences (e.g. biotechnology, soil erosion-crop productivity interactions) to the socioeconomic and political ones useful for understanding why hunger persists in the midst of relative plenty. It is not possible to cover all relevant issues in equal depth and specialists in particular fields may find that their topics arc dealt with only in passing or not at all. But the length of the book bears witness to the effort to cover as many aspects as practically feasible. Naturally, the availability or otherwise of systematic comprehensive data was an important criterion in the decision regarding which issues to cover and at what depth. In these circumstances, it is a practical necessity to be selective, treading between the desirable and the feasible. Beyond data availability and the need to keep the overall undertaking within manageable limits, the main criteria used for selecting issues on which to focus in priority were: (a) the relative importance of such issues from a world viewpoint; and (b) the extent to which the 20-year time horizon of the study was appropriate for addressing them.


The 20-year time horizon is perhaps too long for some purposes, in particular for defining with some acceptable degree of confidence the paths of major "exogenous" variables that have a decisive influence on the development of things agricultural, e.g. how foreign debt issues may evolve or what would be the rate of success of the structural adjustment programmes, including their agricultural policy components, now in place in many developing countries. Both condition the prospects for resumption of sustained growth in these countries as well as the capability of governments to invest in agriculture. The situation is complicated further by the uncertainties surrounding the time profile of the reformn process in the ex-centrally planned economies, e.g. when would the contraction of their economies bottom out and growth be resumed? It is obvious that developments in this latter group of countries can exert a decisive influence on world markets of agricultural products (will they continue to be major net cereal importers? will their demand for tropical products expand rapidly, stagnate or continue on a slow path?). In relation to the above, it is noted that this study did not, in principle, formulate its own forecasts or assumptions about the overall development outlook for the different countries and regions. It rather relied on the work of other organizations for such forecasts and then attempted to define the probable evolution of food and agriculture, given such exogenously defined overall development environment. Such forecasts are normally not available for periods longer than 10 years, at least not forecasts with the minimum required level of country or country group detail. The exogenous assumptions used for the overall economic outlook are presented in Chapter 3.

Returning to the issue of the 20-year period, it is noted that it is perhaps too short for addressing issues which have in recent years leapt to the forefront of the development debate: environment, sustainability, degradation of natural resources, climate change, longer-term capabilities of the earth to cope with increasing demographic pressures, etc. The time horizon of 20 years is just about right for addressing issues of the possible development of a number of variables most directly related to technical agriculture, e.g. the rate of diffusion of improved technology or changes in the natural resources environment of the sector, e.g. expansion of irrigation. The same goes for the time required to bring about significant upgrading of human resources in agriculture, e.g. through education and training. However, the rates of uptake by farmers of the opportunities offered by the evolution of agricultural technology to increase productivity and to shift agriculture on to a more sustainable path or the rates at which the opportunities to augment resources through investment in physical assets and in human resources will be exploited are crucially conditioned by overall developments in the economy, society, politics and institutions. It follows that the higher confidence with which one can glean the potentials for technological and resource developments over a 20-year period is watered down when it comes to speculating about their impact on actual food, agriculture and sustainability outcomes. The above are important caveats to be borne in mind when considering the conclusions of this study.


There are a multitude of interdependent issues one would want to address in a 20-year assessment of prospects for world food and agriculture. The relative weight of each issue or set of issues in the total problematique varies greatly with the standpoint of the observer. In the developing countries the dominant issues relate to reducing undernutrition, enhancing food security, combating rural poverty and achieving rates and patterns of agricultural growth that would contribute to overall economic development. In the developed countries more relative weight is attached to managing the transition to a slow-growing agriculture, more responsive to market forces, while economizing on budget costs and safeguarding farm incomes and the livelihoods and life styles of rural communities. The lively debate on the regimes that should govern the conduct of agricultural trade must be essentially seen as a prime external manifestation of these underlying issues in the majority of the industrialized countries plus, of course, as reflecting the more conventional economic concerns (market shares, etc.) of the major exporting countries.

For the ax-centrally planned economies (CPEs) the dominant issues in the short to medium term relate mostly to the process of transition to market oriented economies and are exemplified by such aspects as the reform of the land tenure systems and the shedding of excess lab our while minimizing the adverse effects on the social situation associated with the changes affecting the large multi-function socialized units. Of more immediate concern is the need to ensure food supplies to consumers at affordable prices and overhaul the long neglected downstream sector of agriculture (transport, storage, processing, distribution). For the longer term, however, the dominant issues relate to the role visualized for agriculture in the post-reform market-oriented economies. In these countries, the "normal" pain of agricultural adjustment associated with the transition to mature or semi-mature industrial economies is magnified by the process of systemic reform. Policies to cope with this problem may well determine the kind of agricultural sector that will emerge as part of the post reform market-oriented economies. The empirical evidence as to what the role of agriculture should be in a market-oriented economic system is not very helpful. In the great majority of the market-oriented developed countries, agriculture is far from being a market-oriented sector, though recent policy reforms point in the direction of allowing an enhanced role for market forces in agriculture. Such reforms and their impact on the rules governing trade are important for the ex-CPEs because they define the external environment within which their own transition to market- and, possibly, trade-oriented agriculture will be made.

Cross cutting over all country groups are issues relating to the use made of agricultural and other environmental resources in the developing process and how such use relates to the objective of moving towards /long-term sustainability of economies and societies. Universal as such issues are, they manifest themselves in very diverse forms in the different countries and societies and, what is more important, different people assign them widely differing weights in their hierarchy of objectives when it comes to considering development priorities. The wide ecological and socioeconomic diversity existing in the world ensures that these issues present themselves in the form of a complex mosaic which can easily defy generalizations.

Most of the above issues and many more are addressed in this study in varying degrees, some with the full backing of quantitative analysis, e.g. the evolution of food consumption and nutrition, others in more qualitative terms, e.g. the principles that may, or should, guide policy making for agriculture in the future. However, this being a global study, it endeavours above all to provide the reader with sufficient insights on the few issues in food and agriculture which are of truly global import. There are two such issues that would seem to dominate all others: (a) the persistence of undernutrition and food insecurity for large parts of the developing countries' population; and (b) the process of increasing scarcity and degradation of agricultural and other environmental resources as it relates, directly or indirectly, to the process of meeting the food and income needs of a growing world population. This latter aspect assumes particular significance not only because more food must be produced but also and mainly because a good part of the additional population will continue to depend on the exploitation of agricultural resources, often of poor quality, thus augmenting the pressures on them and heightening the risk of unsustainable exploitation.


Chapter I is an extended overview or summary and conclusions. Chapter 2 focuses on the two main themes singled out in the preceding discussion. It starts by taking stock of the broad historical developments and evaluates them from the standpoint of achievements and failures in the quest for improved food security. It moves on then to discuss selected aspects of natural resources and sustainability which are most relevant to analysing food security and agricultural development prospects. Throughout this discussion, as well as in other chapters, an effort is made to highlight the extent to which developments in the main variables at the world level (e.g. per caput production, natural resource scarcities) are relevant to the problem at hand, i.e. the prospects for progress in the countries and population groups with food security problems. Chapter 2 is not a systematic presentation and analysis of historical developments in all variables, or a complete account of the issues relating to the nexus natural resources/sustainability/environment/development/food security. Discussion of these aspects is interspersed in several chapters, as indicated below.

Chapters 3 and 4 present the quantitative projections to year 2010 for the crops and livestock sectors. Chapter 3 presents the possible outcomes for the year 2010 in terms of the main commodities (production, consumption and net trade positions by major region) and draws inferences as to their implications for progress, or failure to make progress, towards the objective of improving food security. The relative emphasis is on the possible future outcomes for the developing countries. The corresponding outcomes for the developed countries are also presented, but in less detail and mostly from the perspective of how they may relate to those for the developing countries in a world which is set to move towards enhanced interdependence in food and agriculture. The less detailed presentation of the developed countries is by and ]large sufficient to delineate the broad trends which may characterize their agriculture over the time horizon of the study. But the reader will not find here more than passing references to some of the most prominent agricultural policy issues of the developed countries, e.g. budgetary and farm income issues. These issues were the subject of an earlier FAO study on European agriculture (Alexandratos, 1990). Chapter 3 ends with a section on issues relating to the world food-population balance and sustainability in the longer term (beyond 2010). The aim is to provide a framework for thinking about these issues rather than extend the projections to beyond 2010.

Chapter 4 is exclusively on the developing countries and endeavours, as far as possible, to quantify and comment upon the most important variables of technical agriculture underlying the production projections, e.g. land use, irrigation, yields, use of inputs, etc. For reasons explained in the text, this analysis could not be carried out for China. Similarly, it was not carried out for the developed countries mainly because it was considered that natural resource and technology aspects are unlikely to be significant constraints in raising their output (for own consumption and for increasing their net export surplus to the developing countries) at rates that will likely be very low and generally lower than in the past. It is not that the issue is not important. It is very much so, both for the developed countries themselves and for those developing countries with actual or potential high degree of dependence on agricultural trade with the developed countries or the world as a whole. The issue is rather that the resources for this study could not be stretched to cover the natural resources, technology and sustainability issues of the developed countries without cutting down the part devoted to the relevant work for the developing countries. The latter drew on earlier and ongoing work in FAO on the agroecological evaluation of land resources of the developing countries.

Chapters 5 and 6 are on forestry and fisheries. No treatment of food and agriculture futures, particularly one focusing on food security and natural resources and sustainability, would be complete without covering these two sectors. The forest and agriculture are in competition for land use in many countries, particularly those in which the population dependent on agriculture continues to grow. Agricultural expansion has been the major cause of deforestation and pressures for this process to continue will be present in the future. The projections of agricultural land expansion together with rough estimates of the overlap between forest areas and the land with agricultural potential (given in Chapter 4) provide some elements useful for judging the risk of continuation of deforestation.

Food from the sea and inland waters is an important component of total food supplies in many countries, particularly supplies of animal protein in the low income ones. The fisheries sector is a prime example of a natural-resources based food production activity whose capacity to increase or even maintain production levels has been stretched to the limit on a global scale. Both forestry and fisheries share characteristics of natural resource property regimes (open access, common property) which are important for analysing issues of sustainability.

Chapter 7 deals with two major themes. The first one encompasses what may be broadly termed economic policies having a bearing on agriculture, with particular reference to the significance for agriculture of the recent thrust of reforms aimed at "structural adjustment", i.e. stabilization and resumption of growth in the many developing countries that had experienced growth collapse variously related to unsustainable trends in their macroeconomic equilibria. The second theme concerns the proposition that in the low-income countries with food security problems and high dependence on agriculture, relative shift of emphasis towards agricultural and rural development holds more promise than other strategies of generating benefits both for food security and poverty alleviation as well as for putting the whole economy on to a higher growth path.

Chapter 8 is on issues of agricultural trade. No attempt is made to narrate the policy and political background that had led to what has been termed disarray in world agricultural markets. The reader can find many specialized works on the subject, e.g. Johnson, D. G. (1991) and Tyers and Anderson (1992). It suffices to repeat what was mentioned earlier., i.e. that such disarray and severe distortions were more often than not the result of policies oriented predominantly towards achieving domestic objectives. Such objectives were pursued up to quite recently with vigour and with little regard to their international repercussions by mainly, though not only, the industrialized countries. The focus of Chapter 8 is rather on policy adjustments affecting agricultural trade, in particular those related to the implementation of the Final Act of the recently completed Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations. It also discusses more general trade issues of interest to the developing counties and the possible interface of trade policy with that for environmental conservation and sustainability.

Chapter 9 deals with the problem of rural poverty and its possible links to the rate and modalities of agricultural growth. Such links are conditioned by a number of structural characteristics of agriculture and the rural economy as well as by the type and efficiency of policies aimed at promoting agricultural growth and maximizing its poverty-reducing effects. The chapter concludes with a brief survey of the lessons of experience from selected direct anti-poverty interventions.

Chapter 10 concentrates on the important issue of human resources development in agriculture. The focus is on general and technical education and training as well as on extension systems.

Chapters 11 and 12 are in many respects complementary to, and to some extent overlap with. the issues of technical agriculture covered in Chapter 4. But here these issues are examined in a more focused way from the standpoint of impacts on the environment and sustainability and the potential offered by technology to minimize such impacts. Finally, Chapter 13 examines the possible responses to existing and emerging problems of environment and sustainability not only from the standpoint of technologies but also those of institutions and those related to the international aspects of these problems. These last three chapter may be read together with Chapter 4.


An overview of past developments in world food and agriculture leading up to the present situation is presented in Chapter 2, but only in summary form and in terms of the variables most directly relevant to the task of highlighting the nature and significance of the issues which constitute the main themes of the book. The historical trends are presented in more detail together with the projections in, mainly, Chapters 3 and 4, e.g. production, consumption, trade, yields, land use, etc. This approach reduces duplication and permits direct comparisons to be made between the past and the future for most variables for which projections were made. While such comparisons are useful, they should not lead one to interpret the projections of the many and interdependent agricultural variables as being some form of trend extrapolations, which they definitely are not, as explained in Chapter 3. Use of the term "trends" to describe and interpret the projections can be misleading.


The predecessor of this study (Alexandratos, 1988) contained projections to 2000 made in 1985-86 from base year 1982/84. The actual outcomes for selected aggregate variables for the period 1982/84-1992 are compared in Chapters 3 and 4 with the trajectories projected for these variables in 1985-86 for the period 1982/84-2000. These comparisons are offered in response to queries about the record of earlier projections. They are not offered as a validation of the projections' methodology.


The discussion of policy issues in Chapter 7 onwards is not strictly linked to the quantitative projections presented in the earlier chapters. For example in Chapter 7 the general case is made that overvalued real exchange rates discriminate against agriculture but no attempt is made to specify the exchange rates of the different countries that would be compatible with their projections of food and agricultural production, consumption and trade. Likewise, the examination of the role of agriculture in development strategies cannot go beyond the discussion of the general criteria relevant for considering this issue. More specific consideration of such a role can only be attempted in studies for individual countries, not in a study covering the whole world. Even the limited generalizations attempted in the policy chapters should be interpreted with care because they do not apply in equal degree to each and every country situation, and in some cases they may well not apply at all.

In a global study, the validity, or otherwise, of statements on policies and strategies must be judged against the criterion of how well and how objectively they manage to distil and synthesize knowledge and lessons of experience coming from very diverse situations and often from anecdotal sources. The way such evidence is interpreted to draw inferences is often influenced by the existence of particular events at the time of writing. It is not uncommon for current events or those of the recent past to dominate perceptions about problems and required policy responses, e.g. interpreting as a durable change of trends the post mid-]1980s declines in world per caput production of cereals or the recent upturn in commodity prices; and, of course, interpretation is subject to influences or biases originating in dominant currents of thinking about development at the time of writing, e.g. the scope for public sector involvement in the economy. No person is free from such influences. It is for the reader to judge whether the objective of interpreting recent events in a proper perspective and of minimizing influences of biases from dogmatic partisan positions has been attained. The conclusions certainly provide no comfort to either the extreme pessimists (impending doom) or to extreme optimists (radical solutions can be had by 2000 or thereabouts).


The book differs from the original FAO document in that a number of revisions were made after its consideration by the FAO Conference in November 1993. The revisions were made in response to the comments received at the FAO Conference and from several other persons as well as in order to take into account more recent developments, e.g. the conclusion of the Uruguay Round. It did not prove possible to respond in this revision to all requests for including analysis of additional issues, e.g. energy and agriculture or projections of food aid requirements.

Wholly new material includes Section 2.2 in Chapter 2 and Section 3.8 in Chapter 3. The former takes stock of the decline in world per caput production of cereals after the mid-1980s and explores its nature and significance. The latter attempts to provide a framework for thinking about the often raised question of longer-term (beyond the year 2010) developments in the world population food balance. Chapter 4 has been largely rewritten in response to the many requests for more detailed presentation of the material concerning the natural resources and yield growth paths of the developing countries. The same goes for Chapter 8 in order to take into account the latest information on the Uruguay Round. Significant changes and additions were made in Chapter 7. The methodological note, Appendix 2, is new as is its summarization in Chapter 3. For the rest, revisions were in the main editorial in nature.


The basic data of production, trade and utilization available at the start of the work (early 1992) were for up to 1990. Data for 1991 and 1992 as well as revised data for the preceding years became available in the course of the revisions (first half of 1994). For obvious reasons, it was not possible to change the quantitative material of the study to incorporate the new data. But some changes were made when the new data had a significant impact on the argument, e.g. the cereals data and projections of Table 3.17 and those in the Annex to Chapter 3 were adjusted for the shift in reporting the historical production data of the former USSR from bunker to clean weight; and in some tables the data for the 2-year average 1991/92 are shown next to those used for 1988/90, the base year of the study, e.g. Tables 4.7 and 4.15. Otherwise, selected new data, both revised for the base year 1988/90 and for the subsequent two years, are shown for country groups in supplementary tables in the statistical appendix (Appendix 3).

Revisions of the demographic projections need particular mention. Those used in this study come from the Medium variant of the 1990 UN projections. They had a 2010 projected world population of 7.2 billion (a growth rate of 1.55 percent p.a. for 1990-2000) and 915 million for sub-Saharan Africa (3.2 percent p.a.). The latest revision of 1994 reduced the 2010 projected populations to 7.0 billion (1.44 percent p.a.) and 834 million (2.87 percent p.a.), respectively. The drastic downward revision of sub-Saharan Africa's projected population reflects in part the lower rates of improvement of life expectancy due to the impact of the AIDS pandemic (see Chapter 3, note 2). As such, it is far from being the positive evolution that would relax the development constraints represented by rapid population growth in the low-income countries with unfavourable initial conditions. No attempt has been made to revise the agricultural projections following these changes in the population projections, the latest of which became available in late 1994. Obviously, any such revision would be no mean task as it would need to address analytically the complex population-development relationships. Quantification of such relationships for each country (e.g. how the assumed economic growth rates would be affected by the changes in projected population) could well be an impossible task.

N. Alexandratos

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