Farmers and an impressive array of agri food-chain actors provide us with a plentiful supply of safe, healthy and affordable food. European consumers, who are accustomed to this ready and steady availability of food are often unaware of the global challenges facing agriculture.
Agriculture has to produce more raw materials to satisfy the increasing and diversifying demands of a growing world population, which is expected to grow by more than a third (around 2.3 billion people) between 2009 and 2050; these figures are often repeated, and for good reason – the challenge they present to global food production is enormous. Projections show that feeding a world population of 9.1 billion people in 2050 will require raising overall food production by some 70% between 2005 and 2050.
Our demands on agriculture don’t stop at production, the sector must also contribute to economic prosperity and the social wellbeing of rural areas, and help preserve natural resources such as land, water and biodiversity – in the face of pressures from urban expansion, industrialisation and a changing climate. There is also a pressing need to protect and restore the quality of existing farmland.
Highly productive and resource efficient agriculture mitigates the problems associated with all of these challenges, because it enables us to have more of everything – more crops, and more biodiversity and natural habitats.
Agriculture is a major contributor to land use change, which often implies the destruction of natural habitats – the single most important driver of biodiversity loss. By protecting crops from pests and disease, farmers can optimise yields on the existing agricultural land base, make efficient use of resources (inc. fuel, time, and capital) and prevent the loss of natural habitat that occurs when agricultural land expands to compensate for crop losses.