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Agriculture Output Must Grow 70% to Meet World Demand, UN Says

June 13 (Bloomberg) -- Global agriculture production needs to increase 70 percent to meet food demand by the middle of the century as more people move to cities, the United Nations said.

Growers will have to increase yields on existing farms as the amount of land available for agriculture is shrinking, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization said in a book on farming, “Save and Grow.” About 70 percent of people will live in urban areas by 2050, up from 50 percent today, the FAO said.

“We have no option but to further intensify crop production,” the FAO said.

Demand for food such as wheat and rice will rise along with the global population, which is expected to jump 33 percent to 9.2 billion by 2050, according to the FAO. Between 2015 and 2030, “an estimated 80 percent of the required food production increases will have to come from intensification in the form of yield increases and higher cropping intensities.”

Environmentally Friendly

“More environmentally friendly agriculture will ‘‘help to reduce crops’ water needs by 30 percent and the energy costs of production by up to 60 percent,’’ according to the FAO.

Little spare land is available in South Asia and the Near East and north Africa and about 70 percent of the area that is available, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, suffers from soil and terrain constraints, according to the FAO.

The use of agricultural commodities in the production of biofuels including ethanol and biodiesel will grow, the UN said. Food costs rose to a record in February this year, UN data show. Corn has more than doubled in the past year, wheat is up 75 percent and rice has gained 37 percent.

‘‘Changes in demand will drive the need for significant increases in production of all major food and feed crops,’’ according to the book. ‘‘The food price spike of 2008 and the surge in food prices to record levels early in 2011 portend rising and more frequent threats to world food security.’’

-- Editor: Sharon Lindores

To contact the reporter on this story: Tony C. Dreibus in London at tdreibus@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Claudia Carpenter at ccarpenter2@bloomberg.net

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