Knowledge for better food systems

Productivity growth for sustainable diets

The 2019 edition of the Global Agricultural Productivity Report from Virginia Tech University emphasises the systemic nature of the many challenges facing food, health and environment and calls for increased agricultural productivity as a way of meeting future food demand sustainably.

Some of the key messages of the report are:

  • Increasing productivity, particularly among small- and medium-scale livestock production, can help to meet consumer demand for animal-source foods while meeting both nutritional and environmental goals.
  • Environmental initiatives should focus on regions where there is rapid population growth, low current agricultural productivity and swift changes in consumption patterns.
  • Global agricultural productivity, measured by Total Factor Productivity, is not currently growing quickly enough to sustainably feed 10 billion people by 2050.
  • Total Factor Productivity growth is particularly low in low-income countries.
  • All scales of agricultural production can become more productive through a combination of new agricultural technologies, best farm management practices and consideration of ecosystem services.

Read the full report, 2019 Global Agricultural Productivity Report: Productivity growth for sustainable diets, here. See also the Foodsource Building Block What is sustainable intensification?

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While some of the food system challenges facing humanity are local, in an interconnected world, adopting a global perspective is essential. Many environmental issues, such as climate change, need supranational commitments and action to be addressed effectively. Due to ever increasing global trade flows, prices of commodities are connected through space; a drought in Romania may thus increase the price of wheat in Zimbabwe.

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