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Jacqueline Rowarth on global food security and NZ

Posted in Reflections On Science on November 29th, 2012.

Jacqueline Rowarth, Professor of Agribusiness at the University of Waikato, highlights New Zealand’s importance as a food producer in a hungry world, writing on the Idealog site (originally published in Primary Magazine).

An excerpt (read in full here):

As demand grows, so can NZ’s role in food production

Populations are increasing, resources are being depleted, uncertainty in food production is escalating, and food security – access to enough – is a global issue. New Zealand could have a role to play. This won’t be in feeding the world directly, but might be in assisting other countries to achieve sustainable, efficient food production systems, and in the process improve systems in New Zealand.

Food security encompasses affordability, availability and quality. The food riots of 2008 and 2011 in more than two dozen countries were a reaction to huge price swings in staple crops. New Zealanders didn’t riot, but have been vocal about food price increases for some time. Although food as a proportion of income has decreased year-on-year and the global population overall is better fed than 50 years ago, people have forgotten.

That’s probably because for developed countries, food security has not been a concern since the 1960s, when massive gains in yield and on-going technological developments based on scientific research meant that food became more plentiful and cheaper.  That situation is looking less and less assured as population growth strains resources.

The potential to meet food demand by increasing the amount of land in production is limited.  This is due to the investment costs involved, a lack of the right kind of land, and –where there is land  – competition for its use from urban and industrial expansion.

Increasing productivity from existing agricultural land is the key to maintaining the world’s food supply.

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