outputs over an index of inputs. MFP is complex and subject to many different measurement approaches. The productivity numerator includes only measurable outputs that contribute to human welfare, and the denominator considers only measureable inputs that we think are important.

Productivity growth can help gauge progress toward future food security, given the limited potential for increasing resources. For the food producing sector, Perrin noted, these basic resources include land, water, and natural resources and critical factors such as climate and ecological resilience. The supply of other inputs, including labor and chemicals, seems to be in sufficiently elastic that they would not hinder food security in the future. It is the basic resource productivity that will matter.

Growth in Food Demand versus Growth in Productivity

Comparing projected growth in food demand with growth of productivity is one useful way to frame the issue of food security. A commonly accepted estimate of the increase in food demand by 2050, developed by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), is 70 percent (Table I 3-1).

TABLE I 3-1 World Food Demand Growth, 2010-2050

Source of Growth Total Increase (%) Annual Rate of Increase (%)
Population growth 32 0.7
Income growth 38 0.8
Total increase 70 1.34

SOURCE: Presentation by Richard Perrin, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, February 16, 2011.

Conceptually, a productivity growth rate of 1.34 percent is not a necessary condition for achieving the 70 percent goal. But this growth rate implies that 70 percent more could be produced by 2050 with the current resources devoted to agriculture. If the growth rate were lower, additional resources would be required if demand growth were to be met.

Trends in Measured MFP versus a Goal of 1.34 Percent

World agricultural productivity growth rates, both single factor productivity (grain yields) and multifactor productivity have been relatively stable for the past 15 years, at a rate very near the 1.34 percent goal. Though the MFP growth rate has increased since the 1960s, the rate of growth for grain yields has declined since the 1960-1980 period, as shown in Figure I 3-1.

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