A new report from the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) details some sobering news on the agricultural front.
Many industry organizations have been critical of FAO, principally for the infamous “Livestock’s Long Shadow” report in 2006, which blamed the “rapidly growing and intensifying livestock sector for severely damaging the environment” and attempted to outline “decisive measures at the technical and political levels for mitigating such damage.”
Plenty of criticism was heaped on that report, much of it right here in this space.
But OECD is a different story. Founded more than 50 years ago, the organization is comprised of some 34 mostly democratic countries that (theoretically, anyway) have banded together “to stimulate economic progress and world trade and promote the growth of a market economy.”
When such an institution weighs in on the challenges of global food production, it’s worth tuning in to review its findings.
The joint report, titled, “OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2103-2022,” noted a pair of sobering predictions:
- Slower growth. Global agricultural output across all sectors is predicted to increase at a rate of only 1.5% annually in the next 10 years, compared with 2.1% per year on average during the previous decade. The reasons? “Rising input costs, growing resources constraints, and increasing environmental pressures, which are anticipated to inhibit supply response in virtually all regions,” the report stated. Not good.
- Consumption growth. The consumption of all agricultural commodities is projected to increase, especially in developing countries, driven, the report explained, by “growing populations, higher incomes, urbanization and changing diets.” Coupled with the projected slowdown in food productivity, it’s clear that a potential crisis in terms of global food sufficiency may be developing, even in the next few years.
In addition, the report noted that “rising oil prices are an important but unpredictable factor in [food] price projections.” (Ya think?) Not only that, but “the depreciating U.S. dollar is expected to reduce the relative competitiveness of other exporters, while increasing the purchasing power of many importers.”
Translation: The United States is likely to slide further toward the status of a Third World country that exports its commodities (corn, wheat, beef, poultry) and raw materials (gasoline, coal, lumber), while importing more and more of its finished goods. Again, that’s not exactly cause for rejoicing.