The Right Time and Right Place: Investing in Latin American Agriculture

Posted by on April 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments »

Edona Dervisholli GHI Policy InternBy Edona Dervisholli, GHI Policy Intern

Investing in Latin America’s agriculture is a vital step towards meeting the growing world food demand. The environment in the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is suitable for a more productive system of agriculture, but this must be done in a sustainable way to conserve natural resources.

This week the Global Harvest Initiative (GHI) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) released our collaborative paper, The Next Global Breadbasket: How Latin America Can Feed the World, recommending investments for increasing sustainable agricultural productivity in Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC) region.

LAC has a solid foundation for creating more productive and sustainable agriculture systems.  Countries such as Brazil, Argentina and Mexico have already grown in importance as food exporters, significantly increasing their share of global agricultural output over the last half century. Compared to other regions of the world, LAC is unique. GHI’s 2013 GAP Report estimates that “if the LAC region maintains its current Total Factor Productivity (TFP)” growth rate of 2.67 percent per year, food demand within the region can be met and exceeded by 2030, enabling the region as a whole to vastly increase its contributions to global agricultural markets and thereby increase its share of food and agricultural exports.” In East Asia only 79 percent of total demand can be met and in Sub-Sahara Africa only 25 percent.  These two regions will require imports as well as investments in their own agriculture systems to meet their food demand in the coming decades. LAC has successfully produced some of world’s most needed products such as soybeans, coffee, sugar, beef, poultry, bananas, citrus and maize.

So, why does agriculture investment need to take place now? To provide the needed food, fuel, feed and fiber by 2050, we must double our agriculture output and it must be sustainable. The next 10 to 20 years offer a critical window of opportunity to advance new forms of productive and environmentally sustainable agriculture in regions such as LAC to be part of the solution. In particular, investments in agricultural research and development require sufficient lead time to create impact at the farm level, so putting in place and ramping up investments in agricultural R&D must happen now to ensure impact in the next decades.

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