The prices of meats, milk and cereals are expected to increase in the coming decades, dramatically reversing past trends. This is driven by increasing demands for food. Although higher prices can benefit agricultural producers, a larger number of poor consumers will have reduced access to food.
This is the key finding based on new projections for global food demand, produced by the International Food Policy Research Institute's 'IMPACT' model, and linked to 'SLAM', the International Livestock Research Institute's livestock allocation model.
The growing demand for food
Population and economic growth in developing countries are increasing the demand for food, particularly meat and milk. The growth in food consumption is shifting from developed to developing countries. The IMPACT model (see Figure 1 below) projects that under a 'business-as-usual' scenario:
- annual meat demand will increase by 6 to 23 kilograms per person worldwide by 2050
- the absolute increase will be fastest in Latin America, East and South Asia and the Pacific, with demand doubling in sub-Saharan Africa
- the demand for maize and other coarse grains for animal feed will increase global cereal demand by 553 million metric tons between 2000 and 2050 – nearly half of the total increase in demand for that period.
Figure 1: Projected per capita consumption of meats, 2000 and 2050
Source: International Food Policy Research Institute – International Model for Policy Analysis of Agricultural Commodities and Trade (IFPRI IMPACT) projections, September 2007 (Larger version)
With this strong demand, the model projects that livestock populations will also increase rapidly. Between 2000 and 2050:
- the global cattle population will increase from 1.5 billion to 2.6 billion
- the global goat and sheep population will increase from 1.7 billion to 2.7 billion.
Impacts of growing food demand and supply
These changes will progressively constrain food production, causing adverse impacts on food security and the environment. The rising demand for meat and milk is expected to contribute to increased prices for maize and other coarse grains and meals used for animal feed. It will also divert agricultural production away from food crops and towards livestock feed, reducing cereals for human consumption. This particularly hits poor consumers, as the price of cheap staple crops will rise. Additionally, growing demands for bioenergy will increase competition for water and land.
The expected growth in demand and supply will also mean profound changes for livestock production systems. Expanded market activity, and a rise in exports of livestock and livestock products, could threaten food safety and increase the risk of animal disease transmission, if appropriate food standards and regulatory systems are not implemented. Declining resource availability could lead to the degradation of land, water and animal genetic resources in livestock systems. In grassland-based systems, grazing intensity is projected to increase by 50 percent globally as early as 2030, which may result in resource degradation in places.
Considerable opportunities for livestock growth exist, but there is a danger that smallholder producers and other poor, livestock-dependent people may not be able to take advantage. This is because their access to markets and technologies is constrained. Long-term policies will be necessary to ensure that the development of livestock systems plays a role in reducing poverty, as well as mitigating negative environmental impacts, encouraging income equality and supporting progress towards reducing malnutrition. For example, policies will be needed to ensure that small-scale farmers can produce safe livestock products and sell them in appropriate markets.
Mark W. Rosegrant
Environment and Production Technology Division, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), 2033 K Street NW, Washington, DC 20006, USA
Philip K. Thornton
International Livestock Research Institute, P.O. Box 30709, Nairobi 00100, Kenya