OECD Says Developing Countries to Boost Farm Productivity

Increasing yields on farms in developing countries may help meet rising global demand for food in the next 10 years, according to Wayne Jones of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Closing the “productivity gap” between farms in developing and developed countries by 20 percent in the next decade would increase world grain output by about 5 percent, Jones, the OECD’s division head for agri-food and trade markets, said today at an agriculture conference in London. Rising output would spur a 5 percent to 20 percent drop in prices, he said.

“Both for developing countries and developed countries, productivity growth is continuing,” Jones said. “Developing countries are catching up. They have the largest productivity gap, so it’s easier to close those productivity gaps than it is to invent new technology.”

The world will need to increase food and feed production by 60 percent by 2050 to meet rising demand, as populations grow, more people move away from rural areas and into cities, and consumers eat more meat in their diets, Jones said. The amount of land in agricultural production is likely to increase by about 5 percent in that period, he said.

Environmental regulations, water availability, access to credit and rising input costs may inhibit the world’s ability to increase productivity, he said. Biotechnology, including the use of genetically modified crops, “is not a silver bullet,” to increase production, he said.

“The attitudes toward not only GMO specifically but biotechnology in a broader sense are changing,” he said. “Concerns are declining over time. Many of the concerns were legitimate because they were based on a lack of information. It makes sense to me that you need to understand something before you accept something, and I think the industry is working on that.”

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