Parsing an increasing population

When AGT Food and ingredients’ Murad Al-Katib mentioned the expected growth in world population at Grain World last week, I got curious. I’ve heard the number several times, but I wondered what more there is too it.

Understandably, Al-Katib sees tremendous opportunity for Canada’s agricultural sector.

Indeed, it’s not just the growth in population that presents this opportunity, but where it will happen. A report prepared for the United Nations’ economic and social affairs department expects the current 7.7 billion population to increase to 9.8 billion by 2050 and to 11.2 billion by 2100.

Let’s stay with 2050, since there’s a chance some of us will still be around to observe. (I’ll be 89. I’m an optimist.)

Population in the developed regions will remain unchanged, which means total demand for food won’t change much in those areas, but shifting cultural patterns will likely change the demand for food ingredients.

However, the 49 least developed countries are projected to double in size to more than 1.8 billion.

The UN notes that India will overtake China’s population around 2028, when both countries will have about 1.45 billion people. India’s population is expected to keep growing after that, while China’s is expected to decline.

Nigeria’s population is expected to surpass the United States before 2050.

Nigeria has the 10th largest oil reserves in the world. Well run, it could cultivate a robust middle class, with an expected rise in consumerism, often including more demand for meat.

Europe’s population is projected to decline by 14 percent, which means it will have to find a way to support a rapidly aging population.

Meanwhile, a different study shows Japan faces a population decline from its current 127 million to about 107 million by 2050. Officials there are already designing developments to help keep seniors working, such as placing senior-friendly businesses in apartment buildings.

Al-Katib says in the next 40 years the world will have to produce equivalent of all the food produced in the last 10,000 years.

So opportunities abound, providing we can figure out what the demand will be and how to produce it.

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