World Food Supply is Increasing Faster Than Population Growth for a Better World

The world population is growing at about 1.1% each year and world food production is increasing at a faster rate.

FAO’s latest forecast for 2019 world cereal production is pegged at an all-time high of 2.7 billion tonnes, up some 0.4 percent from the November figure and now almost 57 million tonnes (2.1 percent) above the reduced outturn in 2018. The month-on-month increase primarily reflects an upward revision of the
world coarse grains production forecast, associated with higher-than-previously predicted yields in China (Mainland), the Russian Federation and Ukraine.

In 1996, World cereral production was 1.87 billion tonnes (including rice in milled equivalent), up 23 million tonnes from the end 1996 forecast and more than 8 percent above 1995’s reduced level. The ratio of end-of-season stocks to forecast consumption in 1997/98, although nearly reaching 16 percent, would still be below the 17 to 18 percent range that FAO considers the minimum necessary to safeguard world food security, according to the report from FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS).

There was 5.8 billion people in 1996 and there was 7.7 billion people in 2019.

If we only were able to have food production keep pace with population growth from 1996 then we would have 2.48 billion tons of cereal production. There was an 8.8% increase in food levels compared to 1996.

Per capita food supply rose from about 2200 kcal/day in the early 1960s to more than 2800 kcal/day by 2009. This was a 27% increase for each person.

At the current level, the forecast for world production of coarse grains stands at nearly 1 433 million tonnes, 1.7 percent (24.5 million tonnes) higher year-on-year and marginally short of the record high level registered in 2017.

Here is a comparison of prices and wages from 1975 against 2015. US Wages went up over four times. Food is, in general, more affordable. Housing and new cars are less affordable.

The world is not perfect but it is getting better than it was.

It is mainly African and some middle eastern countries that need to import food.

103 thoughts on “World Food Supply is Increasing Faster Than Population Growth for a Better World”

  1. There is a difference between bidding up the prices of an already existing resource and causing the production of a new resource. Consumption is limited by what there is to consume and my the limit of a human body to consume. The point is there are billionaires worth more than $10 billion and yet I see no attempt to consume anywhere near a $billion at anyone point.

  2. I think that every thing you mention is over
    engineered or programmed to break to keep
    the economy near full employnent.

  3. Last catalytic converter I bought was nearly $400. But that was a high flow, high temp one for a modified turbo car. And it was too many years ago.

    Rear cameras are now mandatory where I live, but these rules vary from place to place.

    Now THAT is a pure waste of money. The rules varying, so the manufacturer has to adjust the exact spec depending on which actual dealer this particular vehicle is going to be retailed from.

  4. I don’t think there is any evidence that people would not be spending the money otherwise. The average person spends almost all they earn, this just redistributes the spending. Another $1000 on the car means $1000 less on a new bike, or a holiday, or a kitchen remodel (because … err I dunno, modern food needs hotter ovens or something?)

  5. I think newer American cars have to have 6 digits of whole miles/km or more to reduce this fraud. Texas, Arizona, and Nevada still have quite a bit of odometer fraud because the cars don’t rust much, so the age can be hidden better by the crooks.

  6. They did find a nanotech alternative to platinum in catalytic converters. They are not nearly as expensive as they used to be. Even with California emissions mine only costs $150. That is not going to break the bank on a $15,000 car. And you can bet they got a much better deal than I did. Airbags? I doubt car makers are paying much for those. I think there are just a handful of companies making millions of them to keep the price low. Interesting. Never heard that backup cameras are now required. Don’t know how I could have missed that. In any case, they can certainly make these cheap if they want. A good camera is only $50. A screen maybe $75. Electronics, programming, buttons and such maybe another $100. Somehow even all that is probably a very high estimate. Who doesn’t make a car without some kind of screen anyway. And that has its computer. So simple mater to include that in the programming. So they are basically paying for the $50 camera and its wire.
    All together it is probably less than $1,000 for all the regulation stuff. Maybe $500. Most of that probably air bags and sensors for the engine.
    You know. I should read your whole post before I respond. I am going the same place: Injuries. Very hard to find good figures. Near as I can tell, about 6 times as many people are permanently disabled and can no longer work after accidents as die in accidents. And about 40,000 die in accidents and the government ends up footing the bill for these people.

  7. Mean. It shows what we all know: median income stagnated, mean
    about doubled. GOOOD thing-for the top quarter.

  8. No, peopie increase their net Worth because they know
    that with it increases their rent. The limits to the ability to
    consume are only limits of imagination. On girls, for instance,
    you can spend quite a lot. I am too in favor of less inequality,
    not only because the poor spend more, but because don’t
    want the rich to have all the spending.

  9. Whatever, if their net Worth increase, unless it is made of
    newly built assets, (like a new house), that is money not spent,
    that didn’t increase production.

  10. Point is, we won’t breed ourselves to death if we just bring the rest of the world into the first world. Maybe the opposite, actually…

  11. And its not much marked for very cheap cars in the west, if you want an very cheep car you buy an used one.

    This is not true in China or India there car ownership is increasing fast.

  12. Save? You mean invest?
    Those bastards! How dare they start up new companies and build more infrastructure and stuff instead of splurging on luxury yachts.

  13. Regulations that increase the cost of cars?
    — The requirement for catalytic converters in petrol cars, and particle filters in diesel cars. These are not cheap. Just the simple amount of precious metals is an irreducible cost. The extra burns required to keep a DPF clean use more fuel, and are not yet reliable needing more repairs.
    — All those airbags. They are a direct cost item, both in purchasing the bag and in the increased danger (and hence cost) of servicing. Cars would probably be even safer if they just had better seatbelts. (say 4 point harnesses)
    — Addition of rear view cameras. Once again a direct add-on cost that substitutes for nothing.

    Add all those together and you might save $1000 or more per car. Nothing in terms of a new BMW M5, very significant for a base model Kia.

    Now, would that be better? Would a few more crash deaths, a bit more pollution, be worth the extra $1000 savings? Well we have a system for determining just that, and the system says “No, it is better to spend the extra money.” Our system might be wrong, but that’s a very complex question.

  14. There are limits to the ability to consume. Mostly what the rich do is bid up the price of very limited editions.

    It is the big joke that even as they make more money they can’t have more because the more they want is quite limited.

    The economy would be better off is inequality was less since the poor and the middle class will spend most of what they make.

  15. Democracy is all about the vote. Working harder or working smarter is BS excuse for underpaying labor. I much prefer if return on capital was much less.

  16. I wouldn’t want to get into a prolong wars with people who breed like rabbits. Especially when the cannon fodder is our breeding age population.

  17. 1/4 of the world population don’t totally determine what the total population growth will be. The other 3/4 will have much to say about it.

  18. ive lived in several several states. Food is so cheap that it’s a matter of life choices that causes that.

  19. …You get widespread hunger only in places where war or insane ideology disrupts distribution channels…

    What accounts for hunger in America? I’m not aware of any recent wars, but the highest rates are in New Mexico, Mississippi, Louisiana, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, Alabama, Kentucky, Texas, North Carolina and Kansas.

    I didn’t think the required reading comprehension was especially difficult.

  20. I found a nice quote from a 2016 Forbes article from Peter Zeihan (one of my favorite geopolitical analysts) on the subject of food:

    “The international markets for both those exports and imports are going away, not to mention that the ability of countries to import fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides is going to be constrained. The countries that import all this crop are countries that have had the fastest population growth over the last sixty years. The countries that have joined the ranks of the major agricultural powers over the last sixty years are those that need imported capital and imported inputs. The result is probably a thirty to forty percent reduction in the ability of the world to grow food, much less transport it to end markets, much less those end markets’ ability to pay for it in the first place. We are staring down famine that is continental in scope and which will probably hit Asian and Africa the hardest. If you are in a country that has a net export capacity for food stuffs and has the military capacity to make sure that those crops get to their end destination, you are set. There are only six countries in the world that can expand their agricultural footprint: New Zealand, France and the U.S. guarantee shipments of food products.”


  21. You insinuate that regulations can be arbitrary and not result in a better vehicle. Do you mind listing one of these costly arbitrary regulations that does nothing constructive? I have yet to hear of one. I am not playing ideological games here.
    I beleive regulations can be good or bad. I just haven’t heard of a bad one for cars. The closest I have heard is that the paints American makers use don’t last as well as those car makers are permitted to use in Asia. Though I don’t know what harms are being prevented. I haven’t heard that side. If it is a lead issue…well…you know where I stand. Somehow, I doubt the Japanise are using lead paint…probably some other issue.

  22. If it was true that regulations caused the higher prices, then every time the Republicans took control of policy in the last 40 years and froze the regulations prices should have dropped. They didn’t. Whatever the regulations…nearly all of them are upfront costs in engineering rather than more and better materials. Those costs would have been amortized years or decades earlier.

  23. Actually, most of the potential cost savings are probably in the drive train and electronics, that’s where most of the cost of a car is to be found, not in the structural elements.

  24. Conceivably, you could make a cheaper car. But the only real savings would be in using less and weaker materials abandoning safety. The other stuff saves diddly. It may have cost money to develop, it does not cost much to manufacture. No one is going to buy your death trap.

  25. I don’t doubt that regulation can make for a “better” car in *somebody’s* opinion, if only the opinion of the regulator. And maybe even a better car in the opinion of average people.

    But is a better car really better if you can no longer afford it? People have tradeoffs between price and quality, which regulators may not have any concern for.

  26. Regulations can increase the cost of a car mostly with engineering changes that can be amortized. But the term “burden” is not earned in this regard. Regulations just make manufactures provide better cars. And once the engineering is amortized, you just have a better product with minimal change in production cost. Competition will drive improvements one way or another. Regulations just direct those advances in directions that help the environment, trade, or safety rather than just cornering speed, acceleration, and making a more effectively intimidating gnarly growl when you stomp the petal. And when regulations compel the maker to disclose information, this improves the function of the market. An informed buyer at least has the tools to weigh one vehicle against another. This ideally leads to more purchases of better vehicles at lower prices.

  27. Pretty much exactly that: A typical used car with 100K miles on it will have more life left to it than a new car of 40 years ago. For most people the instant loss of resale value when you leave the lot just isn’t worth the extra expense of a new car.

    Although I would say that there’s some evidence regulatory burdens are forcing up the price of new vehicles, and that modern technology could otherwise make a much more affordable new car.

  28. I have a lot of faith in the next generation. There are some impediments to their social growth. Things like vulnerability to social media bullying, the sharing of unflattering pictures and worse. But mostly limiting their information gathering to their small collection of friends. This leads to philosophical errors, atheist bullying, as there tends to be an aggression bias.
    But there are really great educational assets online. Any topic you do not understand from a text you can read about from a dozen angles. You can test and develop skills. Amazing resources. Unfortunately, sometimes we need a little struggle to really evaluate well. Too much spoon feeding can hurt. But I tend to think even the spoon feeding is better than spinning your wheels too much when you are stuck. But there is some balance there.
    Less lead exposure and other heavy metals, clean air, clean water, good food options are all fantastic realities. Exposure to political hate, absurd levels of media bias, absurd levels of psychological manipulation, absurdly horrific reasoning, are a real downgrade from the stuff I used to get from sources like PBS.

  29. Interesting. One more idea for the tote. I wonder what is involved in growing some salmon. That would probably keep my 15 outdoor cats entertained. I was thinking of using a tote to make an outdoor shower. We only have one shower, and I am the looser in the musical chairs. But hydroponics, fishfarming, rain storage, emergency potable water, mini swimming pool. The possibilities appear to be endless.

  30. I have an aquaponics setup
    in my back yard. The celery loves the water and it all gets recirculated to the tilapia tank. 80 fish in an IBC tote

  31. My grandmother and grandfather did not have a big yard but they grew the pricey foods. They grew pomegranates, figs (which are a heck of a lot better than anything you find at a store), artichokes, guava, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and rhubarb.
    The house my parents bought had lots of stuff, but very little of it was cared for properly. There was a black plumb tree, an apricot tree, and a peach tree. The peach was not large, and the birds always got the peaches first. But the other two produced a lot of fruit. Enough for the birds, the June beetles, and us. But too many seasons with poor or no watering…
    I guess if I am serious about the squash, I have to make some sort of genuine effort. We have had the occasional pumpkin appear. But helping the butternut seeds germinate in some potting soil would certainly up the odds.
    Celery takes a lot of water, and normally it does not rain much in San Diego. I’d spend more in water than it costs to just buy the celery. I cook with spices and flavors rather than browning for flavor…and celery is indispensable. If prices go nuts again, I might have to revisit that, but I think think things are back to normal. I’d really like to have a big cistern that I can fill when it rains, and use the water on the garden throughout the rest of the year. I have a 275 gallon IBC Tote Tank planned for disaster water, but…shallots, pimentos, aronia, figs…

  32. So, basically, you agree with him that the production end is solved, and people in the US aren’t starving. Cool. Glad we got that cleared up.

  33. Food can be imported.

    EDIT: PPP per capita is growing in Sub Saharan Africa and fertility rate is dropping 15% per decade so there isn’t actually a “problem”.

  34. Not because of the internet. The decline started before the internet was a thing. But the improvements that the PC and internet were expected to bring to education largely failed to manifest, and the most recent trend of constant streaming to personal IV drips of digital euphoria has created a generation of data slaves. My straight A, Honor Roll child is a very good source of information to me. My eldest barely made it out alive. Our investment in public education has been squandered. And our lofty halls of higher ed are equally responsible for ignomious failure. There needs to be an education audit. And the most egregious neglect should be answered by a federal mandate to force these degree mills to compensate students and parents for the millions of dollars wasted on educations which failed to adequately prepare our kids for the job market.

  35. I wonder… I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some way to trade derivatives or something where if your calculated value of inflation was more accurate than the number other people were using, you’d end up with outsized profits.

    If there was such an arbitrage situation, then a permanently wrong number would be traded away.

  36. I’m prepared to believe that public education in the USA is deteriorating.
    (Though I could be convinced otherwise if there was any hard data.)

    But I don’t see evidence that this is because of the internet.

  37. Oh, the internet is clearly a huge improvement on previous information systems.
    I think we all agree there, otherwise we wouldn’t be on this site. We’d be reading a book or communicating with other humans via flapping our eating holes.

  38. So, what I’m hearing is that cars, which used to be near disposable products ready for the scrapyard in a couple of years, are now highly durable and able to last for decades.

  39. Then perhaps you can try working harder or smarter for more money. Instead you seem like the type who prefers to steal it through vote. My money that I work for in your wallet in the name of “fairness”.

  40. I used to live out in the country, and had a big garden, and a half acre stocked pond in my backyard. But 2008 lost me my job, and I ended up down here in a SC suburb, without enough land to get anywhere near food self-sufficiency. Though I’m planning on experimenting with hydroponics this summer, in the form of a pergola. I do have a small flock of chickens for eggs.

    I’d advise you that you’re unlikely to get a butternut squash that way; C3 plants like squash and other vegetables can’t out-complete C4 grasses. But squashes do grow well in a pot with a trellis, if you want to take a little trouble.

    And you can grow a cutting variety of celery in a pot, too, if you just want it for flavoring in your cooking.

    I suspect what’s driven up the cost of basically all meat products is the ethanol mandate for gasoline; Our meat animals now have to compete with cars for the corn!

  41. Yes. I was going to mention the Internet, Wikipedia, and educational opertunities, and how if you wanted something beyond TV, you pretty much had to go to a library. Massive options in entertainment and education today. Perhaps this is the largest difference between then and now. The second largest may be the current lack of willingness for people to talk to people that happen to be around, even if there is no reason you might suspect they have something in common with you. People would make the effort…and learn about others. Now everyone sits silent and plays with their phone. Or says all their buisness on the phone as though no one is else is there. Everyone…just physical obstacles to one another.

  42. I am pleased with what I can buy for food mostly. I think salmon is too high. I’d like to eat that 2-3 times a week, or Steelhead trout. And some vegetables are a bit high. I can’t see why butternut squash should be a dollar a pound, if it keeps for several months and one squash is pretty heavy. Watermelon is not half that price and does not keep as long.
    I threw some butternut seeds in the yard…not going to do a bunch of gardening but if they appear…free butternut squash sounds good to me. I eat one or two a week. I am irritated that jars of pimentos cost so much. Why should a dinky little jar cost $2? And there are no big jars. These things are fantastic in lots of foods.
    And I was really upset about the very high price of celery because some fad diet called for juicing it and drinking it. Old story. Diuretic. Just salt in the celery making people get the runs. Then they think it must be a miracle that they lost weight. 2-3 years of this nonsense has finally diminished and I can buy celery again at a reasonable price of $1.50 At the height of this nonsense it was over $4.00 I don’t know, perhaps the fad is alive and well, and they just built up the supply. They sell the juice in bottles now. I don’t like that fresh chicken often does not last well in the fridge. I am certain they are giving us old chicken. Because sometimes it lasts much better. I want to see a “harvest” date. I can’t eat some big family pack in 3 days. Frozen and then thawed is not the same.

  43. I’ll take that over being stuck in the 1970s boonies.

    It was bound to happen, just like every other unintended exploit of every type in history went from obscure to pandemic.

  44. Countries that lack food usually suffer from tribalism and high corruption rates. Corruption causes most of the world’s ills.

  45. The online culture is turning out to be an impediment to learning. Since public the American public school system has turned its back on traditional education, in order to churn out compliant drones, the quality of students graduating has declined. But they sure know what is popular.

  46. Heck. Even if you wanted to have a car that “no one farted in”. You could replace all the seats with factory seats and replace all the carpet in a 6 year old car and it would be indistinguishable from new, still half the price and should drive fine for another 12 years.

  47. The cheapest is the Spark $14,095 base price. I doubt I could even fit in that. Hmm. elsewhere it says this costs $13,220.

  48. For the math, I go with top selling car. Which, I suppose, makes that the mode. The average new Camry is about $25,000.
    You won’t catch me buying that. I only buy used. Cars last so long now, only idiots buy new. Unless you need some specific feature the used cars don’t have. Or if you need a whole fleet of vehicles for a business. Even if you were adamant that you needed a VERY reliable car, a 4 year old properly maintained Japanese car would fit the bill just fine.

  49. Ok, but lets be completely fair and compare someone in the 70s with libraries, vs the same person with a midlevel 2020 cellphone (say 20-40$US a month) and a few tens of dollars for a uSD card (64-256 if you look hard enough) that just goes to Starbucks or local campus wifi and signs up for Udemy and/or Khanacademy etc.

    And the things you can do with what you learn, although apples and oranges, is also a meaningful difference between now and the 70s. Viz Microsoft/Apple started in a garage, or whatever it was.

  50. I know people have been saying for decades that inflation is more than reported.

    But whenever someone sits down and tries to measure this over a period of a couple of decades they apparently end up with a number, say from 1975 to 2015, that is within a couple of % of the official number. Which means the yearly figures are almost exactly spot on.

  51. I can’t say for Americans, but I know that in Australia people DEFINITELY eat out a lot more than they did 4 decades ago.

  52. That car price: what is it? The median? Mean? It certainly isn’t the minimum.
    And if it is a sort of “average” car, then what does that tell us? That a lot of people can afford a really nice car. The average price going up is a GOOD thing, it means more people can indulge themselves.
    A car price is only a measure of the cost of living if it is a minimum, which is most definitely not $31k

  53. Before we get to that point, there’ll be some seriously dystopian apartheid between those populations that tend to breed like rabbits and those that don’t. A lot like right now.

  54. I expect incredibly slow awakening to this dynamic and others like it until something fundamental changes, e.g. some obvious ecological catastrophe, or aging is cured and enough people start thinking long term and free of the completely outdated and useless must-reproduce-asap status quo (and others like it).

  55. All the education you could have time for in your pocket thanks to (random and single e.g. – Udemy with its 60-90% off sales like once a month, and many others). Almost negligible delay to almost any location on the planet’s ongoings and thanks to legal and not legal means you can find most countries/regions’ cultural and subcultural media on the internet — no excuse to be a clueless yokel from whatever culturally secluded IOW handicapped place of birth.

  56. While the Education and healthcare markets are broken. The houses are bigger, more efficient, and have more features now, so the 29% increase in price is not unreasonable. Though the price increase in places with nice weather like coastal California is vastly more. Cars are safer, more efficient, and last longer. And the biggest thing is that they are cleaner…no nasty lead. Actually, cost of owning and using a car is probably lower, though cost of ownership of a pickup is probably more. The cost of trucks has gone up quite a bit, and the efficiency has not made as much improvement as they would have us believe. 10 or 11 mpg vs 16.6 mpg
    The most popular car on the other hand was the Oldsmobile Cutlass which got something like 17 mpg (very good for the time because the energy crises loomed large). The top seller today, the Toyota Camry, gets 34.7 mpg. Which means trucks have only improved fuel efficiency 50%, while cars have doubled their fuel efficiency.
    If you wanted to live in a major city, the air was brown and jets screamed night and day. Much cleaner and quieter now. Cars broke down all the time, and there were no cellphones. You changed your own tire…which did not last very long. And there was a good chance your car would overheat when you drove up a mountain. You have to watch the temperature gauge, dive slowly, and say your prayers. And fold-up maps are no fun. 3-5 TV channels. 1/2 the shows are still B&W.

  57. Nitpick: birth rate to replacement rate is apples to oranges. The term you’re looking for is fertility rate.

  58. Three things: Acreage, yield, and not genociding farmers and giving the farms to political supporters who don’t know how to farm.

    Of the three, the last is by far the most important.

  59. Says the person who’s apparently unaware that basically all the developed world has birth rates below replacement.

  60. It’s known as “inflation”. Inflation is considerably higher than the official statistics, which are gamed to keep down the increase in cost adjusted programs that are pegged to the inflation rate.

    These days if the price of beef AND the price of chicken go up, (But chicken is still cheaper than beef!) they just adjust the percentages of beef and chicken in the official “market basket” to negate the price rise. Eventually I suppose they’ll be substituting dog food for the chicken.

    But it’s still possible to eat a nutritious diet at a fraction of the average income. It just requires some nutritional savvy and cooking from scratch.

  61. You don’t have to account for things that aren’t true. In America “hunger” statistics refer to “food insecurity”, not actual starvation. You can be “food insecure” and not miss a single meal. It just means you need help with buying your food.

  62. Glad you removed that ridiculous comment. There was lots of hunger before, more during and then back to pre-recession levels after.

  63. Anybody see the price of T-pee lately? Does this mean the Chinese make all the t-pee these days and there’s a tariff on it?

  64. If grain is getting cheaper, why is the price of American bread going up? This is particularly odd given that there is probably less demand for bread, with all the anti-gluten celiac BS.
    The higher sugar price, I presume, is from the sugar tariff:

    And I doubt Americans are really eating out more than they have in the recent past. And if I am right, that means they are paying more at restaurants than they had to pay in the past. That combined with lower minimum wage, means higher restaurant/corporate greed and less bargain seeking by costumers. Or it is possible they are eating finer food…but I doubt it. More wine perhaps?

    One thing I have noticed at the grocery is that finer cuts of beef have gone way up in price relative to the lesser cuts. It is not unusual to see $28/pound and up for the high end cuts. Meanwhile lesser more healthy cuts are $2.77/pound. And fresh, cage-free, hormone free, chicken can be $0.77/pound. Most of the vegetables are $1/lb. Hard to believe it takes less effort and resources to grow chicken than cauliflower. Similar story with seafood. Halibut is sky high. But there is Tilapia for the masses.
    I also wonder how food stamps is affecting prices. Are people buying high-end steak with food stamps and leaving the lower cuts for the Mexicans, the dogs, and me.
    I will buy flank steak occasionally. Though that is usually around $6.50/pound…which is not exactly high end.

  65. Hi, Brett! Nice to see your comment amid all other gloom & doom responses to an otherwise “we’re doing fine” article.

  66. …You get widespread hunger only in places where war or insane ideology disrupts distribution channels…

    What accounts for hunger in America? I’m not aware of any recent wars, but the highest rates are in New Mexico, Mississippi, Louisiana, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, Alabama, Kentucky, Texas, North Carolina and Kansas.

  67. My main issues are uncultivated food and loss of nutrients. I believe it is very important that we stop taking nutrition that we did not cultivate from nature. The greatest source of this is ocean fishing/whaling. We need to ban this and get all fish from fish farming. And preferably the fish farming should happen separate from the ocean. The fish and whales and such cannot withstand increased demand from increasing human populations. There is only what there is, and populations will take more and more. As demand rises, poaching will rise and ocean health will suffer. But poaching will not be possible if there are no fishing vessels, and there is adequate enforcement. Same thing with bush meat. We should eat only animals grown on farms/ranches to protect these ecosystems.
    My other issue is that modern cities take in the nutrients from the plants and animals we eat and then flush all those nutrients away into the ocean or underground. That means less minerals for the next crop. There is evidence that this diminishment in nutrients is affecting the quality of food.
    We also need to move to production without land, so more of it can be returned. Production in greenhouses, vertical farming, hydroponics, aeroponics, tissue culturing and chemical food synthesis.
    Some of this is counter to a lot of the push of the market. People tout wild salmon, grass feed beef, organic vegetables etc.

  68. fine and fine. Typical sub-sahara rice yields about 2t/ha, whereas 5-10/ha in Asia. Small farms and poor soil nutrients is the basic reason rice has such a poor yield in Africa. To supply enough rice for, say, next 20 years two things need to happen. Acreage and yield. I’m not sure how this equation works, but its a huge challenge.

  69. Exponential growth will out strip the speed of light. Like the rabbits on rabbit island we will breed ourselves to death.

  70. Hunger is basically a solved problem on the production end, and has been for decades. You get widespread hunger only in places where war or insane ideology disrupts distribution channels. A lot of African countries use famine as disguised genocide.

  71. Hunger is caused by poverty and inequality, not scarcity. 2012

    DOI: 10.1080/10440046.2012.695331

    Producing more food is great, but it doesn’t help those that need more and lack the means to acquire more.

    The world is marginally getting better all the time, those born into extreme poverty have a decent shot of living long enough to die in regular poverty.

  72. The exponential growth does not continue forever, either of food or people, on the tiny Earth. We can get some (at least hundreds of years) of relief by going to the New World, O’Neill Space. Then, move into our fast and small footprint computer lives.

  73. Brian – misleading data. Yes, the FAO is correct, but please don’t equate “grain production” with “food”, for humans. Roughly 36% of all grain grown goes to animal feed, and this is mostly maize and oats (much of the “coarse grain” in the FAO report). You need to back out animal feed from the data. Even so, the results are the same, i.e., that humans have plenty enough to eat. However, yield/acre has reached it’s limits. This could be a real challenge to increase production by 30-40% for a growing (African) population. It means a lot more acreage needs to be planted (if animal feed is still produced). Almost double than current because new potential cropland is substantially less fertile. There are no “great plains” in the US, Eurasia to take from. And Africans’ have much different diets, no Wonder Bread for them. It will mean local production, mostly. Lots and lots and lots of rice. Not sure how this will work.

    While at it, can we please bust the myth about “all the food is being used by animals who use all the land so we need to become vegans” idiotic trope? The FAO has a great response to this myth:

  74. Let’s summarise.
    — Africa is the top population increaser;
    — Africa is the top migrant producer;
    — Africa is the top beneficiary of food production increase.
    Looks like a terrible mistake of the mal-investment variety. What is there to celebrate? By itself, “more” is not an achievement.

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