The global food supply chain’s main problem is not that it will not produce enough to feed a burgeoning world population, rather it is the need to enhance the sustainability of its production systems.
This was the conclusion of a major study undertaken by the Dutch Rabobank Group into the sustainability and security of the global supply chain up to 2050.
Researchers at the bank, which is renowned worldwide for its work in the agriculture and horticulture sectors, found that rising incomes and lifestyle changes are causing a shit in diet and eating habits in the developing world. The result is that a growing number of consumers in these countries on middle and higher incomes will be increasing their consumption of fresh produce as well as meat and dairy products and processed foods.
Rabobank’s report authors found that 70 per cent more food will be needed to feed the world in 2050 but there are several uncertainties such as the level and speed of income growth, which will increase food demand and dietary shift, and global warming and climate change will lead to greater fluctuations in food production.
The report also identified limited and unevenly distributed land and water around the world as major constraints on the chain and the fact that although crop yields will continue to grow, this will be at a slower rate than in the past.
Rabobank also believes that the valuation of scarce natural resources will eventually have to be factored into companies’ balance sheets. And there will be a role for government in creating the conditions for sustainable food systems and supervising the results in order to enable the market to operate.
In a departure from the swing back to preference for locally produced foods to the exclusion of imports that is in vogue for some UK consumers, Rabobank forecasts that the local food supply chain of an individual country should be integrated into a sustainable global food supply system. The report finds that the food gap between individual countries or between individual regions will grow and international food trade will have to expand further so that local and global chains will have to be connected and function as one system in order to achieve security in a sustainable manner.