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Bridging the Gap on Agricultural Research and Developing with the Private Sector

By Education and Economics

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet with 70 private sector representatives at the first Feed the Future Public-Private Partnership Technical Forum, hosted jointly by USDA, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Department of State at the White House Conference Center. We discussed potential partnerships to increase agricultural growth in developing countries. Then we rolled up our sleeves got to work aligning investments and connecting individuals and activities.

Our aim—and the focus of Feed the Future—is to raise incomes and produce sustained economic development that reduces poverty, fights hunger, and improves nutrition.

We are at a critical moment of opportunity.

Growing population and incomes in emerging and developing economies will add significantly to the demand for food over the next 40 years. According to the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), an estimated 925 million people around the world currently suffer from hunger. Each year, more than 3.5 million children die from under-nutrition. The U.N. estimates that the world’s population will reach 9.3 billion by 2050. Much of this increase is projected to come from regions currently facing the greatest level of food insecurity.

At the same time, per capita incomes in 2050 are projected to be higher, creating middle classes that demand more and higher quality food as well as higher input products, such as meat. With these two pressures of population growth and rising incomes, it is estimated that the demand for food will rise by 70 to 100 percent by 2050.

Agricultural research and development (R&D) are necessary to raise productivity to meet this expected demand. Bridging the productivity gap will require robust investment from the public and private sectors. The Global Harvest Initiative’s policy report points to an $89 billion gap in annual agricultural investment in developing countries. In recent decades, the private sector has become a major investor in agricultural research and development, and a significant source of innovations. According to a USDA Economic Research Service report, annual private-sector food and agricultural R&D grew 4.3 percent per year during 1994-2007.

Still, more can be done, and now is the time to establish lasting partnerships between public and private sector investors.

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