The days of agricultural plenty are over and it’s going to keep getting harder for everybody to afford enough food to eat.
That’s the somber conclusion of a new international report, which warns that low food prices “seem now a feature of a bygone era.” Blame climate change, degraded land, growing populations, and increasing energy costs.
“[W]ith energy prices high and rising and production growth declining across the board, strong demand for food, feed, fibre and industrial uses of agricultural products is leading to structurally higher prices and with significant upside price risks,” states the 10-year agricultural outlook [PDF] published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization.
The report notes that “increasing environmental pressures” — which include climate change-fueled storms, drought and flooding — will be one of the main factors slowing the growth of food production around the world. In China in particular — a country the report focused on, with a fifth of the world’s population and steadily rising income levels — water shortages will be one of the key problems facing food production as rainfall becomes more variable. And there will be other risks for China as well. As the report notes: “Food availability will be impacted by changes in temperature, water availability, extreme weather events, soil condition, and pest and disease patterns.”
But China’s not the only country that faces threats to food production from climate change. Last year, a report from Oxfam warned that extreme weather events would cause food prices around to world to soar in the coming decades. The report projected worldwide corn prices to spike by 500 percent by 2030, and that another U.S. drought in 2030 could raise America’s corn prices 140 percent on top of that.
Even as population growth slows in the next decade, the world will still have an additional 742 million people to feed by 2022, according to the report. …
Global yield growth for crops, particularly grains, has been slowing for at least two decades, partly due to reduced investment in crop research, according to the report. That trend is expected to continue in the next decade.
“Measures to reduce food loss and waste will be important in meeting rising demand and for increasing productivity,” the organizations wrote.
It’s almost enough to make you lose your appetite.