Increasing global food production

Enhancing world food production
From 1961 to 1994 global production of food doubled. Global output of grain rose from about 630 million tons in 1950 to about 1.8 billion tons in 1992, largely as a result of greater yields. Developing countries from 1974 to 1994 increased wheat yields per acre by almost 100 percent, corn yields by 72 percent, and rice yields by 52 percent. The Worldwatch Institute reported that the generation of farmers on the land in 1950 was the first in history to double the production of food: "By 1984, they had outstripped population growth enough to raise per capita grain output an unprecedented 40 percent.

Overall there was a substantial reduction in global food production in 1993 compared to the previous year. Nevertheless, developing and low-income food-deficit (LIFD) countries increased estimated production of staple foods by nearly 2 million and 3 million tonnes respectively. Wheat supplies gained marginally, up to 709 million tonnes. Asia registered the only significant increase in wheat production where the harvest included above-average to record crops. Roots and tubers, which rank second to cereals in importance as staple foods, have continued to grow in importance as sources of energy intake for many developing countries. Their global production was up by 2% (almost 4% in LIFD) in 1993, reaching 150 million tonnes in grain equivalent. Among the roots and tubers, cassava showed the greatest growth in production, by 7% compared with 1992. In particular, record cassava harvests were recorded in Nigeria following a significant increase in plantings and continued adoption of pest resistant, high-yielding varieties. In Africa, harvests of yams and other minor roots and tubers increased. In 1993, world production of pulses, the most important high-protein staples for food security, increased nearly 4% over the previous year, to reach almost 58 million tonnes. Most of this gain was accounted for by Asia. In the same year, milk production increased slightly in the developing countries. India, as the largest milk producer in the developing world, increased its production by 4% from 1992 to 1993. Over the same period, world meat production grew by just 1%, and the global output of fats and oils increased by 2% to 87 million tonnes, including an estimated 6% in the developing countries. This includes significant increases in the Brazilian soybean harvest, Indian groundnut crops, and Indonesian and Malaysian palm oil.

1. Real food prices have been falling steadily in the face of increased demand, and output per hectare has been increasing in advanced countries despite the use of irrigation, artificial fertilizers and biocides which can degrade soil productivity over time. Assuming world population levels out below 20 billion, and better practices are introduced to conserve soil, adequate food production should not be a problem. However, it should be noted that most farmers in developing countries currently lack the resources to improve soil conservation.

2. Some nations will have to increase food production, in order to have always available what is needed for subsistence and daily life. In the modern world-where starvation claims so many victims, especially among the very young-there are examples of not particularly developed nations which have nevertheless achieved the goal of food self-sufficiency and have even become food exporters. (Papal Encyclical, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 30 December 1987).

Planetary initiatives
Type Classification:
B: Basic universal strategies