Investing to Feed the World

Posted by on August 9th, 2012 | 0 Comments »

By Dr. Margaret M. Zeigler, Global Harvest Initiative Executive Director

Catherine Bertini and Dan Glickman offer some excellent recommendations in their Politico article, “Feeding the World in Face of Drought” published on August 7.  In addition to their suggestions, producing more food in challenging global environments will require significant increases in investment to modernize agriculture and food systems across the developing world.

Stimulating agricultural productivity, raising incomes of farmers, and reducing hunger require large research and infrastructure capital investments.  But just when these investments are needed most, some traditional public sector sources are reducing their contributions to agricultural development and research.

The role of the private sector agriculture industry is often overlooked or minimized as a solution to addressing agricultural productivity in the developing world.   But many private sector companies are already making vital contributions in technologies for production, advancements in post-harvest storage, appropriate mechanization and irrigation, and more effective livestock systems and practices.  The private sector is seeking to learn and form partnerships that will be mutually beneficial to farmers and pastoralists in resource poor environments.

The Global Harvest Initiative (GHI) examined investment flows and assessed the magnitude of need and concluded that the overall investment gap for agricultural development worldwide approaches $90 billion per year.   This investment must come from both public and private sector sources, from within developing countries, and also from external investors.  Direct investments by the private sector for agricultural development and productivity are increasing, but are thus far concentrated in a few countries (Brazil, China, India and Russia).

To expand the range of countries where the private sector can put valuable capital investments, countries successful in attracting such investment must improve governance and address corruption that hinders the ability to conduct business.  Clearly defined and administered rules and even application of taxes and customs practices would help greatly.   Establishing government/industry partnerships to tackle these issues could pave the way for much greater participation of the private sector in the years to come.

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