World population reaching 7 billion gives farming its greatest challenge

FARMERS will face their “biggest challenge” as they strive to increase production by at least 70% to keep up with the world’s growing population, a farmer’s leader has warned.

Monday (October 31) is the day on which the United Nations has estimated that the world’s population will reach seven billion.

National Farmers’ Union (NFU) president Peter Kendall says this means farming will need to be tapped as never before, in the UK as much as in the rest of the world.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the world’s farmers would need to increase production by at least 70% between now and 2050 to meet the increased demand for food generated by population growth and dietary change.

“We are facing farming’s greatest challenge”, said Mr Kendall.

“Not only do we have to deliver a step change in productivity, but we have to do it at the same time as reducing our environmental impact, using fewer non-renewable resources, in an increasingly volatile climate.

“Farmers can deliver, but only if we make the very best use of everything that science and technology can offer us, in the context of political, commercial and regulatory frameworks that are geared to helping us produce more, while impacting less.

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“And this is not a challenge that the UK can opt out of. We owe it to ourselves and to the rest of the world to reverse the slide in output which has seen self-sufficiency in the UK fall from 75% to 60% for all food, and from 87% to 74% for indigenous foods since the early 1990s.

“Producing more from our own resources strengthens the security of our food supplies, is a safeguard against food price inflation caused by shocks on world markets and must become a key strategic priority over the years ahead.

“The days when we could neglect our own farming potential and import the balance of our food needs cheaply from around the world are over. October 31 will provide seven billion reminders of why that statement is true.”