While the global demand for food will continue to rise over the next decade, agricultural productivity is likely to increase at a faster rate, so keeping a lid on commodity values, predicts the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
The FAO, a United Nations body, has published its annual joint OECD-FAO Agriculture Outlook for the 2019-2028 period.
The Outlook projects a 15% rise in the global demand for agricultural products over the next decade. But it expects agricultural productivity growth to increase slightly faster, causing inflation-adjusted prices of the major agricultural commodities to remain at or below their current levels.
Technological innovation and higher production intensity will increase crop yields and production, despite global agricultural land use remaining broadly constant. There will also be a decline in carbon intensity – while direct greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture will grow by 0.5% each year over the next decade, this this is below the 0.7% rate of the last 10 years.
The FAO also identifies potential challenges to this growth. These include political trade disruptions; the spread of crop and animal diseases; the growing resistance to antimicrobial substances; regulatory responses to new plant-breeding techniques; and increasingly extreme climatic events.
Dietary shifts and “alarming” obesity trend
Other factors affecting food commodity demand are “evolving dietary preferences in light of health and sustainability issues” such as a rise in veganism and shift from traditional meat and dairy-based diets, and government policy responses to “alarming worldwide trends in obesity”.
The report forecasts that the global consumption of cereals – predominantly wheat and rice - as a foodstuff will rise by 13% or 150 million tonnes over the next decade. This will mainly be driven by population growth, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Consumption of sugar and vegetable oils will also rise, as urbanisation and growing affluence drives demand for more prepared and processed foodstuffs. But higher income countries will see more concern over health and wellbeing, which will lead to a reduction in red meat and a move from vegetable oils to butter.
Meat demand will remain string in the Americas and that for dairy products in South Asia – especially India and Pakistan.
Feed crop demand to rise
Apart from direct consumption, the FAO predicts that the demand for feed crops, particularly corn and soybeans, will outpace animal production growth in those countries where the domestic livestock sectors are evolving from traditional to more commercial production systems.
The use of agricultural commodities for biofuel manufacture is also expected to increase, but at a slower rate than seen in the last decade. It will be fastest in developing countries such as Indonesia, China and Brazil, using vegetable oils, cassava and sugarcane as feedstocks.
The FAO sees world trade in agricultural and fishery commodities growing at an annual 1.3% over the next ten years, compared to the annualised increase of 3.3% in the previous decade. While overall global import demand is expected to slow, the Organisation predicts that Latin America and Europe will increase export sales to foreign markets.
The Black Sea region will consolidate its position as the leading exporter of wheat and coarse grains, with most shipments going to the Middle East and North Africa.