Total global agricultural productivity is growing at the rate needed to meet the demand for feeding more than 9 billion people by 2050, the Global Harvest Initiative said in a report released at a World Food Prize event in Des Moines, Iowa.

But the rate of food productivity gains in some of the fastest-growing regions of the world such as Africa and Southeast Asia are falling short of the 1.7 percent required to meet the ambitious goal of feeding those billions, analysts speaking at a briefing said.

“Based on the new FAO estimates, the current rate of global total factor productivity (TFP) is 1.7 percent, on target for the projected rate required each year to produce enough food to feed the world by 2050,” said Keith Fuglie, branch chief for resource, environmental and science policy of the Resource and Rural Economics Division of USDA’s Economic Research Service.

“But many parts of the world are falling short; Africa’s TFP rate, for example, is growing at less than 1 percent a year. A productivity measure like the GAP Report allows us to track TFP progress on both a global and regional scale, and gauge the capacity to feed a growing global population in the future.”

Skyrocketing growth

“Combined, Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia will account for nearly 90 percent of the population growth over the next 40 years,” says Neil Conklin, president of the Farm Foundation, NFP, who also spoke during the briefing.

“Looking past the necessary productivity improvements to meet future needs, even greater challenges to address hunger and food security lie in our ability to facilitate the movement of food through international trade and to develop the necessary infrastructure to support more food production such as roads, processing, and storage facilities.”

In those regions and throughout the world, Conklin said, countries are also seeing a notable increase in protein-based diets, which will increase overall demand on agriculture.

Those were some of the findings in the second annual Global Agricultural Productivity Report released by the Global Harvest Initiative at the World Food Prize Symposium. GHI was organized two years ago to address the problems of feeding a growing world population.

The report finds progress in the current growth rate of agricultural productivity worldwide but highlights the challenges that lie ahead to maintain the current growth rate over each of the next 40 years.

“The 2011 GAP Report sheds new light on the steps necessary to address the challenge of feeding the more than 9 billion people expected to inhabit the earth by 2050,” said William G. Lesher, GHI chairman of the board and former chief economist at USDA.