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Sustainability Team Discussion Paper

Food Scarcity Trends, Challenges, Solutions
May 2010

Contents
Executive Summary

2

1.
1.1
1.2
1.3

What exactly is food scarcity? Defining food scarcity
Is there enough food?
Why is food demand increasing?
Is food supply slowing down?

3
3
4
5

2.
2.1
2.2
2.3

Global impact of food scarcity
Rising cost of food
Hunger is onthe increase
Environmental stress is growing

8
8
9
10

3.
3.1
3.2
3.3

Current actions to reduce pressures on food supplies
Investments & policies
The race to food and land reserves
Changing consumption patterns

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11
12
14

4.
4.1
4.2
4.3
4.4

Opportunities for businesses
Agricultural technologies
Genetic Technology
Fertilisers & pesticides
The sustainabilitydilemma

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14
15
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17

5.

Implementing strategies to feed the world sustainably

19

Money does not perform. People do.
1

Food Scarcity Trends, Challenges, Solutions

Executive Summary
Food scarcity is set to define food production in the coming decades, putting food security issues at the top of the global agenda.
The demand for food is growing, due in particular to twofactors: population and income growth. However, supply growth is likely
to lag, because of, for example, slowing agricultural yields, limited land availability and the increasing demand for biofuels,
all of which leads to competition for available land. Also, in recent months, the phenomenon of land-grabbing – the buying-up
of agricultural land by foreign investors – has intensified, and this islikely to exacerbate supply concerns.
It is clear that, if there is to be enough food to feed the growing population, agricultural production has to increase.
Consumption patterns also need to change: the reduction of meat intake, for example, is to be encouraged. These political and
social issues can lead to business opportunities in the domain of fertilisers, biotechnology and irrigation. Inparallel, conventional
intensive farming methods, which can cause environmental damage, should motivate the move towards more sustainable
agricultural systems.
While the concept of ‘sustainable agriculture’ can be viewed from a number of perspectives, there is consensus that it should
represent an agricultural system which, productive and efficient, also safeguards the environment. While thereis no single solution
to ensure food security in a sustainable manner, a combination of sustainable farming practices has to be employed to increase food
supplies while at the same time protecting the natural resources on which they depend.
The aim of this paper is thus to identify the drivers behind the issue of food scarcity, illustrate previous and potential conflicts,
examine currentactions being taken to address the issue and highlight opportunities for companies involved in increasing
agricultural productivity. Finally, the question of sustainable agriculture as a way of improving intensive agricultural production1
will be addressed.

2

Food Scarcity Trends, Challenges, Solutions

1.

What exactly is food scarcity?
Defining food scarcity
• The world’s population isset to almost double between now and 2050, which will
inevitably place considerable pressure on food supplies. Concurrently, more affluent
societies and the shift towards increased meat consumption are placing increased stress
on agricultural production
• The ability to supply food is being hampered by a number of factors. Current agricultural
land is facing degradation (due to industrialpollution) and, therefore, decreased yields.
Potential farmland for expanding agricultural production is increasingly being restricted
due to competing land uses such as biofuel production, urbanisation and, in the longer
term, climate change. The inefficiency of agricultural distribution systems is further
compounding the supply-side issues

1.1
The FAO estimates that there
are more...
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