Tuesday, October 11, 2011

FAO: World Food Costs Declined from 1961 to 2002

K.M.: Industrialized agriculture production methods, along with increased efficiencies in transport, distribution, and storage, has led to lower world wide food prices while requiring much less labor to produce crops. While idealists trump the "cheap food policy," the fact is that few in the developed world will work as farm laborers and here in America, we complain if any food price category rises at all.

As China's cities grow, its young people are turning their backs on agriculture numbering in the hundreds of thousands per year. Ditto every other developing nation.

Since industrial Ag methods are fossil fuel dependent, we might likely expect to see a reversal of this forty year downward price trend as fossil fuel prices go up, especially as climate change increases weather volatility affecting crop production. Research successes should be able to address some of the challenges we face, but overall, I expect a combination of further increased productivity through industrial methods in combination with more acres world-wide returning to less fossil fuel intensive, sustainable farming practices to attempt to answer these challenges.

What the FAO says we need to do:
Investment in agriculture remains critical to sustainable long-term food security. For example, cost-effective irrigation and improved practices and seeds developed through agricultural research can reduce the production risks facing farmers, especially smallholders, and reduce price volatility. Private investment will form the bulk of the needed investment, but public investment has a catalytic role to play in supplying public goods that the private sector will not provide. These investments should consider the rights of existing users of land and related natural resources.

source: FAO [pdf]