2013 GAP Report® - A Policy Voice

Global Harvest Initiative (GHI) is a private-sector policy voice for productivity growth throughout the agricultural value chain to sustainably meet the demands of a growing world. We are a partnership of companies and organizations united to mobilize leadership and the joint efforts of the private sector, governments, and civil society in support of sustainable agricultural policies leading to improved food and nutrition security.

As world population grows and increasing incomes lead to diet change, more demands are placed on agricultural systems and natural resources. Solutions need to be identified and implemented now to use existing agricultural resources more efficiently and to increase the availability of nutritious, affordable foods so all people may lead healthy, productive lives.

Four goals of agricultural sustainability are identified by the U.S. National Research Council:

[1] Satisfying human needs;

[2] Enhancing environmental quality and the resource base;

[3] Sustaining the economic viability of agriculture; and

[4] Enhancing the quality of life for farmers, ranchers, forest managers, workers, and society as a whole.31

Access to and cultivation of land, fisheries and forests, as well as the production, marketing and use of agricultural products, varies across the globe. It is critical to work at local, regional and global levels to identify pathways for closing the productivity gap in a sustainable manner. Solutions must be found for both large and small producers, and all along the value chain, to adapt to climate change and consumer needs, conserve the environment, and improve lives.


Effective public policies create the space and opportunity for innovation, improvement and investment throughout the agricultural value chain. By bringing together specialists, organizations and companies with a global view, GHI and its consultative partners identified five key policy areas critical to increasing agricultural productivity, protecting and conserving resources, and reducing loss and food waste from the farm to the consumer.


A critical issue in meeting current and future food requirements is how to attract the capital investments needed for agriculture and rural development. GHI examined the magnitude of investment needed to upgrade agricultural and food systems in developing countries and found that it approaches $90 billion annually.32 More recent data indicate that investments in the agriculture sector have increased, but there remains a sizeable gap of almost $80 billion annually required to meet the estimated agriculture production demands of 2050.33 While funds can be raised from foundations and public-sector donors, the private sector is an increasingly critical source that can effectively close the investment gap. This includes farmers, agro-industries, financial service and information technology companies, and construction and logistics firms. Engaging the private sector early in the process of agricultural development will ensure that strategies and implementation plans are realistic and incorporate policy changes necessary to attract the needed investment.


Investment in agricultural research and development (R&D) is a principal driver of agricultural productivity growth. Including both public and private sources, developing countries invest only one-ninth of what industrial countries invest in agriculture R&D as a share of their agricultural GDP. To narrow this divide, the World Bank concluded that “sharply increased investments in R&D must be at the top of the policy agenda.”34 The private sector is a growing source of R&D funding, but greater public-sector investment is critical for innovation, basic research and making research findings and technologies widely available. Integrative research brings together multi-disciplinary teams of scientists from the government, academia, and the private sector to create synergies, accelerate progress and improve cost effectiveness. New technologies must then be adapted to meet local needs and conditions so the benefits of these innovations are extended to farmers and producers across the value chain. The extension and commercialization of these new technologies should be pursued through collaborative public-private partnerships. Investments in agricultural R&D make significant contributions to sustained growth in agricultural productivity, alleviating poverty and improving food security.


Continued innovation and adoption of new technologies across the agricultural value chain are essential to meeting the challenge of feeding the world in 2050. Access to technological advancements is essential for farmers and agro-industries in low-income countries where agriculture accounts for 29 percent of the GDP, compared to just 13 percent for transforming economies and six percent for urbanized countries.35 Farmers of all sizes need improved plant breeding and, where appropriate, access to biotechnology to enhance the nutrient value and drought resistance of crops, advancements in animal nutrition and disease management, efficient irrigation and cultivation practices, access to appropriate mechanization options, and post-harvest technologies to reduce loss and improve food quality and safety. Information technologies and mobile phones can provide even small producers with planting tips and timely notifications about weather, pests, and market prices.


An enabling environment for trade — with transparent politics and consistently enforced laws and regulations — is central to value chain development. All farmers, regardless of size, will strive to produce more when they see an available market opportunity. With agricultural value chains becoming more complex, actions taken in far-off capitals, and regional and international institutions, impact the rural small farmer and consumers in large cities. GHI advocates trade policy that is forward-looking and innovative so that farmers of all sizes may take advantage of market opportunities, which will improve access to food across countries and regions.36


Following the food price crisis of 2008, world leaders recognized that keeping food security front and center and focusing development assistance for agriculture and nutrition is necessary to decrease hunger and disease burdens, increase productivity, and boost economic growth in developing countries. At the 2009 Group of Eight Summit in L’Aquila, Italy, donor governments agreed to support a comprehensive approach to global food security, coordinating across donors, recipient countries, and other partners and increasing agricultural assistance by $22 billion over three years. Members of the international donor community must meet their promised commitments to global food security and agricultural development. The United States, through its Feed the Future initiative, is meeting its commitments and, with the G-8, African countries and private sector, launched a New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition to create a more favorable environment for private investment.37 Country-led efforts that emphasize monitoring results and coordination must be continued and strengthened, with greater emphasis on sustainable practices and open data policies that identify interventions that work as well as those that need to be changed.


Executive Summary

The Global Agricultural Imperative

Producing More With Less

The GAP IndexTM

Spotlight on Sub-Saharan Africa: The Productivity Gap

Sources of Growth in Agricultural Output: Variation by Income

The Brazil-China Agricultural Connection

A Policy Voice

The Agricultural Value Chain

Policies in Action: Productivity Along the Value Chain

[1] Comprehensive Value Chain Programs

[2] Investments in Research, Science and Technology

[3] Building Local Capacity and Mobilizing the Private Sector in Developing Countries