We’ve heard it before:
- In 2050, we’ll have 9 billion people to feed (Source: The Economist)
- One in eight people currently goes hungry (Source: United Nations World Food Program)
- And, around one-third of the food produced goes to waste (Source: United Nations Food and Agriculture Program)
Yet while hunger is taking its terrible toll, we’ve also got a problem with obesity.
While the proportion of the world’s population who go hungry hasn’t actually increased since the 1970s, the CIGAR Fund Council Chair and World Bank Group Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change Rachel Kyte told last week’s Crawford Fund conference Ethics, Efficiency and Food Security: Feeding the 9 Billion, Well that more than 60% of obese or overweight people are in developing nations.
Our problem is not hunger. It’s nutrition.
So, how ironic is it that at its core Australia’s agriculture is hard-wired to a need to produce more, to feed more?
While climate has meant that over the past decade, we’ve not been able to repeat the productivity growth of the ‘60s and ‘70s, our R&D investment remains focused largely on finding ways to produce more.
Still catching up – at least from an R&D point of view – is a focus on profitability. It’s become the catch-cry of an industry tackling a cost of production that is on an ascending trajectory.
But for many – particularly on farms – there is little separating the two. At very best, profitability has been shoe-horned. It’s considered either the result of value-adding to a basic commodity, or diversification into a niche market.
Yet, what any business in Australia’s agriculture supply chain can take from last week’s Crawford Fund conference is that a real -and hopefully profitable opportunity – lies in producing nutrition.
The world doesn’t necessarily need more food – even when we do hit the 9 billion mark. What we need is better food, in the right places, at the right times. Although Australian agriculture will never grow enough to be the food bowl of Asia, it has at least two opportunities:
- Through organisations like ACIAR, it can help transfer knowledge and technology to support small landholders throughout the developing world; and
- As a whole supply chain, it can position itself as a producer of nutrition, exporting better food to a burgeoning middle class across north and southeast Asia.
To understand the World Bank’s perspective, read more here.