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Private investment requires public support: FAO

A new report from the FAO of the United Nations warns that agricultural yield gaps in lower-income countries are likely to widen further because public and private investment is concentrated in high-income countries.

A new report from the FAO of the United Nations warns that agricultural yield gaps in lower-income countries are likely to widen further because public and private investment is concentrated in high-income countries.

The report notes that private sector ownership of new agricultural technologies meant to boost yields often restricts their diffusion into countries that are least able to afford them.

In order for this to change, the FAO states that broader public and governmental agricultural policies — addressing everything from landscape preservation to water conservation, poverty, climate change, infrastructure and input subsidies — are needed to attract private investment.

“Governments’ catalytic role in mobilizing private investment in the sustainable development of agriculture and food systems depends not only on public investments in infrastructure and R&D, but just as much on the policies and regulatory frameworks that influence the incentives and support measures that help strengthen farmers’ resilience and risk-coping capacities,” according to the report.

“Much of the public resources needed for such support structures will come from domestic sources, although low-income countries may be unable to make sufficient headway without external support.”

The report, The Future of Food and Agriculture: Trends and Challenges, more broadly addresses the global challenges that exist as the population is expected to grow to almost 10 billion by 2050, boosting agricultural demand by some 50 percent compared to 2013. Nearly 800 million people still suffer from hunger today, and more than two billion from micro-nutrient deficiencies or forms of over-nourishment.

“Although agricultural investments and technological innovations are boosting productivity, growth of yields has slowed to rates that are too low for comfort,” according to the report. “Food losses and waste claim a significant proportion of agricultural output, and reducing them would lessen the need for production increases.”

In addition, the FAO notes that more must be done to address age, gender and income inequalities in low-income countries and farming communities.