Stalling population to slow ag production

Meat demand is also expected to decline, which would slow demand for cereals and protein meal used to feed livestock

A decline in population growth combined with slower demand for meat will weaken agricultural production over the next 10 years, said a report from the United Nations and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The lower demand for meat will also put the brakes on demand for cereals and protein meal used in animal feed, it said.

These are just some of the conclusions reached in the annual outlook, issued by the OECD and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

The report suggested agricultural growth in developed countries, particularly Western Europe, would be low, while strong growth is expected in developing regions with more rapid population growth, including sub-Saharan Africa, South and East Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.

Global agricultural production is growing steadily across most commodities, reaching record levels in 2017 for most cereals, meat types, dairy products and fish, while cereal stock levels have climbed to an all-time high.

The report, which is a forecast for agriculture over the next 1o years, stresses that agricultural trade plays an important role in promoting food security, underscoring the need for an encouraging trade policy environment.

It sees weakening growth in global demand for agricultural commodities and food, while anticipating continuing productivity improvements in the sector. As a result, prices of main agricultural commodities are expected to remain low for the next decade.

With slower consumption and production growth, agricultural and fish trade are projected to grow at about half the rate of the previous decade. Net exports are expected to increase from land-abundant countries and regions, notably the Americas. Countries with high population growth, in particular in the Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and in Asia, will see rising net imports.

“While overall exports from countries and regions abundant in land are set to increase, many poorer countries with rising populations and limited land resources will be increasingly dependent on food imports to feed their people,” said OECD secretary-general Angel Gurría. “It will be essential that exporters and importers alike have access to an open and predictable trade policy environment.”

FAO director-general José Graziano da Silva said: “The Green Revolution of the last century largely increased the world’s capacity to feed itself but now we need a sustainability revolution.

“This includes tackling high-input and resource-intensive farming systems that impose a high cost to the environment. Soil, forests, water, air quality and biodiversity continue to degrade. We need to adopt sustainable and productive food systems that offer healthy and nutritious food, while also preserving the environment and biodiversity.”

Demand for cereals and vegetable oil for the production of biofuels is expected to be largely unchanged over the forecast period, in contrast with the past decade, when biofuel expansion led to more than 120 million tonnes of additional cereals demand, predominantly corn.

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