World Food Supply: Growth in global food dema...
World Food Supply

Growth in global food demand overestimated

Imago / Panthermedia
The increase in global demand for food up to the year 2050 is likely to be much smaller than often cited.
The increase in global demand for food up to the year 2050 is likely to be much smaller than often cited.

THE NETHERLANDS, Wageningen. The study from Wageningen University comes to different conclusions than those previously published and known. The difference is mainly based on the data basis used as the base year.

The increase in global demand for food up to the year 2050 is likely to be much smaller than often cited. That, at least, is the conclusion of a recent meta-analysis by Wageningen University (WUR) scientists, who evaluated a total of 57 studies by other experts published from 2000 to 2018.

Big difference with FAO

According to this, the rate of increase in global caloric food demand for the period 2010 to 2050 is likely to be "only" in a range of 35% to 56%. In contrast, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome calculated as recently as 2009 that global food production would have to increase by 70% over the same period to meet growing demand. According to the WUR researchers, this figure is still cited most frequently today and used by companies and scientists for orientation. This has not changed even after the FAO lowered its growth projection by 10 percentage points to 60% in 2012.

An even higher growth forecast presented ten years ago by scientists led by Prof. David Tilman of the University of Minnesota is also frequently cited. It predicted an additional food demand of 100 % to 110 % for the year 2050 compared to 2005.

Where do the differences come from?

The main reason for the difference between the FAO forecast and their own projection, the WUR researchers say, is that the experts in Rome used the average for 2005 to 2007 as the base year, rather than the reference year of 2010.

The second reason, they say, is that the FAO rate of increase refers to the value of food instead of the calorie-based measure they prefer. The value-based measure tends to overestimate food consumption when diets shift from staple foods at low prices to higher-value products, which may have happened since 2005 to 2007.

According to the Wageningen experts, Tilman's projections are for total calorie-based consumption of food and feed, resulting in much higher per capita projections. Also, not taking into account potential efficiency gains in livestock production could explain why Tilman's projections are nearly twice as high as those in most other studies, they said.

Source: AgE
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