“We can be cautiously optimistic about the new evidence of faster productivity growth revealed this year, but the long-term solutions to hunger and food security remain daunting. We must continue to pursue key policies with proven results in improving global agricultural productivity and development, such as investing in agricultural research, removing trade barriers, adopting new technologies and innovation and enhancing the role of the private sector.”

Factoring in new data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the 2011 GAP Report includes an updated GAP Index, which measures the difference between the current rate of global agricultural productivity growth and the rate required to meet future needs.

During the briefing, Laura Barringer, a John Deere economist on loan to the Global Harvest Initiative, discussed national-level case studies of the emerging market economies of Brazil, China, Indonesia, and Ghana. Those studies highlights how select policies can help address hunger and food security while also addressing poverty by empowering farmers with new technologies to boost productivity.

While each of the four profiled nations applied a different strategy with varying levels of success, active government support for the agriculture industry, investment in research, the adoption of science-based technologies and a shift toward more open markets enabled all four nations to achieve meaningful increases in agricultural productivity.

Fourfold return

“Oftentimes, the amount of investment in agricultural research and development is a key factor in the growth in agricultural productivity in a country,” she said. “We’re finding that a $1 investment can bring a $5 to $20 increase in economic activity.”

She said the study found that Brazil is increasing its investment in agricultural research and development by more than 1 percent of its GDP growth per year. China, meanwhile, is spending $4 billion a year on agricultural research.

“The study found that China has tripled the number of farm tractors it’s using in the last 10 years,” she said. “They are also making big strides in increasing the use of biotechnology and crop nutrients.”

The full 2011 GAP Report is available on GHI’s website.