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Declining global per capita agricultural production and warming oceans threaten food security


Despite accelerating globalization, most people still eat food that is grown locally. Developing countries with weak purchasing power tend to import as little food as possible from global markets, suffering consumption deficits during times of high prices or production declines. Local agricultural production, therefore, is critical to both food security and economic development among the rural poor. The level of local agricultural production, in turn, will be determined by the amount and quality of arable land, the amount and quality of agricultural inputs (fertilizer, seeds, pesticides, etc.), as well as farm-related technology, practices and policies. This paper discusses several emerging threats to global and regional food security, including declining yield gains that are failing to keep up with population increases, and warming in the tropical Indian Ocean and its impact on rainfall. If yields continue to grow more slowly than per capita harvested area, parts of Africa, Asia and Central and Southern America will experience substantial declines in per capita cereal production. Global per capita cereal production will potentially decline by 14% between 2008 and 2030. Climate change is likely to further affect food production, particularly in regions that have very low yields due to lack of technology. Drought, caused by anthropogenic warming in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, may also reduce 21st century food availability in some countries by disrupting moisture transports and bringing down dry air over crop growing areas. The impacts of these circulation changes over Asia remain uncertain. For Africa, however, Indian Ocean warming appears to have already reduced rainfall during the main growing season along the eastern edge of tropical Africa, from southern Somalia to northern parts of the Republic of South Africa. Through a combination of quantitative modeling of food balances and an examination of climate change, this study presents an analysis of emerging threats to global food security.

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