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The Resource Outlook to 2050: By How Much Do Land, Water and Crop Yields Need to Increase by 2050?

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
Year Published:
Resource Type:
Technical Guidance

This paper discusses the natural resource implications of the latest FAO food and agriculture baseline projections to 2050 (FAO, 2006a). These projections offer a comprehensive (food and feed demand, including all foreseeable diet changes, trade and production) and consistent picture of the food and agricultural situation in 2030 and 2050. The main purpose of this paper is to provide an indication of the additional demands on natural resources derived from the crop production levels in 2030 and 2050 as foreseen in the FAO 2006 projections. It does not deal with additional demand for agricultural products used as feedstock in biofuel production or the impacts of climate change, nor the additional production needed to eliminate (or to accelerate the elimination of) the remaining undernourishment in 2050.

The conclusion that the world as a whole produces or could produce enough food for all is small consolation to the persons and countries (or regions within countries) that continue to suffer from undernourishment. The projected increases in yields, land and irrigation expansion will not entirely come about spontaneously (i.e. driven by market forces) but require huge public interventions and investments, particularly in agricultural research and in preventing and mitigating environmental damage. In the problem countries, public intervention will continue to be required on the one hand to develop agriculture and to adapt agriculture to local circumstances and on the other hand to establish social safety nets.