The Challenges and Opportunities Of Food Security
Feeding the world’s growing population and improving the nutritional quality of diets are long-term challenges, complicated by the increasing frequency and severity of weather shocks in key agricultural areas. With a limited amount of arable land available for farming, the need to ensure that soils retain their optimal nutrient balance has never been so crucial, and fertilizers are an important part of the solution.
Every day around 200,000 people are added to the global demand for food. United Nations estimates indicate that global agricultural productivity needs to rise by at least 15% by 2020 to maintain global food consumption per capita at today’s levels. The supply of high quality fertilizers will therefore be crucial to helping to sustain productivity.
Arable land per capita
As the demand for food rises due to global population increase, the amount of land available for cultivation is decreasing due to continuing urbanisation and industrial growth. Since 1960 the global population has increased by around 130%, whereas cultivated land has increased by just 10%. Thus the acre of land that fed two people in 1960 must now feed almost five people; fertilizers help to make that possible.
A greater proportion of the world’s population is now more prosperous. The increase in material wealth – particularly in emerging markets – has not only increased food consumption but also created greater demand for protein-rich foods such as red meat, poultry and dairy products, which are more resource-intensive to produce.
With a lower proportion of arable land available to meet the demand for food, output needs to increase significantly. It is estimated that farmland productivity needs to increase by at least 15% by 2020 to ensure that demand does not overtake supply, resulting in food shortages and a sharp rise in costs.
In addition to producing food, farms are becoming an increasingly important source of renewable fuels. Between 1980 and 2012 the share of US corn used to produce fuel ethanol rose from 0.3% to over 24% – and the 107 million tonnes of corn used by US ethanol distilleries in 2009 represented enough to feed 330 million people for one year. The rapid increase in biofuel production is therefore an important driver for fertilizer demand.