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‘Hungry planet’s’ $83bn price-tag

16 November 2012

A NEW report suggests that "huge" levels of investment will be required to respond to the soaring demand for food created by the rapid acceleration of the world's population to nine billion by 2050, writes Madeleine Davies.

Hungry Planet: Food: The search for sustainable yield, produced by Ecclesiastical Investment Management (EIM), warns that: "Our current food supply is not sustainable in the medium to long term, and can only be resolved via extensive investment in global agriculture that will help to increase crop yields."

The Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that net investments of $83 billion a year in developing economies will be needed to meet the demand in 2050. Food production will need to increase by 70 per cent.

The report notes that rising wealth leads to increased food consumption, and a shift towards a more protein-rich diet, which leads to greater use of grains for animal feed. It suggests several areas for investment, including mechanisation, fertilisers, and livestock.

It also notes issues that ethical investors may want to consider. Food and climate are "closely correlated": for example, agriculture is responsible for a third of global greenhouse-gas emissions, three-quarters of the world's deforestation, an over-exploitation of fisheries, and increased toxicity; and livestock waste, fertiliser run-off, and pesticides are all damaging to the ecosystem.

"How we satisfy the ever higher demand for dairy, protein, and aquaculture has to be built on a sustainable framework if we're to meet the extraordinary challenge of feeding billions more mouths over the next few decades," the senior Socially Responsible Investment analyst at EIM, Ketan Patel, said. "From an investment perspective, we see many exciting sustainable opportunities."

Contract amendments. The European Parliament last Friday approved amendments to regulation which would involve imposing caps on the number of commodities contracts people can hold or enter into over specified periods of time. But the World Development Movement said that, in its current form, the regulation would be "too weak to properly tackle speculation".

The European Parliament will now meet ministers of EU states to agree a final text that will become law in about 2014.

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