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Farm Ministers Say World Faces ‘Immense Challenges’ to Feed All

Farmers Inspect the Soil
Farmers inspect freshly planted corn seeds in a field outside of Henry, Illinois. Food production will have to rise 60 percent between now and 2050 as the world population expands to 9 billion, the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization estimates. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Jan. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Efforts to rid the world of hunger face “immense challenges” as farmers deal with resource scarcity, climate change and loss of soil fertility, agriculture ministers from 65 countries said.

Economic and financial crisis and “excessive” price swings create uncertainty that endangers investment in agriculture, the policy makers gathered in Berlin wrote in a joint statement published by the German agriculture ministry and dated yesterday.

Food production will have to rise 60 percent between now and 2050 as the world population expands to 9 billion, the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization estimates. The FAO estimates about 870 million people were undernourished in 2010-12. International food prices in the past three years have been higher than ever before, FAO data show.

“We know that we are facing immense challenges,” the ministers wrote. “We regard the eradication of hunger and malnutrition, and the realization of the human right to food, as one of the greatest goals in the world.”

The ministers wrote their mission is “to highlight how fundamental agriculture is in contributing towards eradicating hunger and malnutrition.”

Agricultural Investment

As uncertainty puts further agricultural investment at risk, that may in turn reduce the efficiency of the entire food system, the ministers wrote.

“We must enable agriculture to adapt to new conditions, deal with risks and recover quickly from crises.”

Eradicating hunger and malnutrition will require “deeper” national and international cooperation, according to the statement. Government, civil society, companies and academia will need to share responsibility to achieve that goal, the ministers wrote.

“Progressive scarcity of natural resources, the negative impacts of climate change, extreme natural disasters, and the loss of genetic diversity and soil fertility prevent agricultural potential from being fully realized,” according to the statement.

The countries represented in Berlin included France, Brazil, India, Japan and Canada. The U.S., the world’s biggest farm exporter, wasn’t represented at ministerial level, a list of participants showed.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rudy Ruitenberg in Paris at rruitenberg@bloomberg.net

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

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