During the next quarter century the world will produce enough food to meet the demand of people who can afford to buy it, and real food prices will continue to decline. However, if the global community continues with business as usual, prospects for food security will be bleak for millions of people and degradation of natural resources will continue. IFPRI projections suggest that in developing countries as many as 150 million children—one out of four preschool children—could remain malnourished in 2020. In many developing countries food production is unlikely to keep pace with increases in the demand for food by growing populations. The “food gap”—the difference between production and demand for food—could more than double in the developing world during the next 25 years, increasing dependence on imports from developed countries. For those countries with sufficient foreign currency reserves, including the rapidly growing Asian countries, this should not be cause for alarm. However, many low-income countries, including most of those in Sub-Saharan Africa, will not be able to generate the necessary foreign exchange to purchase needed food on the world market. And many poor people within these countries will not be able to afford the food to fully meet their needs. Humanity is entering an era of volatility in the world food situation. Several factors have emerged that could lead to larger fluctuations in food availability and access in various regions and countries around the world, making the poor even more vulnerable to hunger. These factors include low grain stocks and declining food aid, which have reduced a key buffer at times of food shortages; growing scarcity of water, which is likely to reduce availability for agricultural uses; weather fluctuations such as those induced by El Nino and global warming, which affect production in hard-to-predict ways; and civil strife and political and social instability, which are both a cause and a result of hunger. Policymakers, researchers, and others must take proactive steps to minimize uncertainty in the future world food situation in order to achieve food security for all people. In developing countries, policymakers need to ensure that their policies promote broadbased economic growth, especially agricultural growth, so their countries can produce enough food to feed themselves or enough income to buy the necessary food on the world market. Policymakers in developed countries should consider reversing the decline in aid flows and redirecting aid to the most vulnerable developing countries. A world of food-secure people is within our reach, if we take the necessary actions. This report is taken from a presentation made at the October 1997 International Centers Week meeting of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). Every two years the CGIAR invites the director general of IFPRI to present an assessment of the world food situation to those gathered for International Centers Week. This report comes out of ongoing IFPRI research and activities conducted as part of the 2020 Vision for Food, Agriculture, and the Environment initiative, which aims to generate information to eradicate hunger, prevent poverty, and protect the environment. The authors would like to thank Raisuddin Ahmed, Christopher Delgado, Peter Hazell, and Sherman Robinson for useful comments and suggestions; Heidi Fritschel for valuable editing assistance; and Vicki Lee for excellent word processing and graphics assistance. Special thanks are due to Mercedita A. Sombilla, who was instrumental in the development of the IMPACT model and was responsible for running alternative scenarios for this report, and Claudia Ringler, whose careful and constructive reviews strengthened the report.


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