Yara strongly advocates the improvement of agricultural productivity. This has a combined economic and environmental dimension: increased profitability and food security, as well as easing the pressure to convert forests into farmland.
Economic viability is a main pillar of sustainable agriculture, indicating that farming is business, and that farmers are entrepreneurs. To maintain or strengthen their competitiveness, growers steadily have to improve their productivity.
At the same time, agriculture has a key role in advancing green growth. Through improved productivity, world agriculture has almost to double its output – without depleting key resources, not least that of farmland.
Increasing Sustainable Output
In the era of the Green Revolution modern farming practices have achieved magnificent yield increases, but at high environmental costs. Over the next decades, farming must achieve both increased sustainability performance – through reduced losses to the environment and improved resource efficiency – and yield gains at a quicker than current pace.
Over the past 40 years food production increased by 150 percent. Over the coming 40 years another 70 percent has to be added. However, unlike earlier phases of increased food production, the availability of natural resources, especially of land and water, is now limited. Consequently, the old recipe of extending cultivated land areas is no longer a viable option. Increasing output from existing farmland is the only way to go. Optimum use of fertilizers is the key to achieving the necessary productivity improvements, and our Crop Nutrition Concept contributes.
Food security is also threatened by climate change. In policy dialogues, sustainable intensification of agricultural production is increasingly seen as the main strategy to achieve food security. Yara is a strong proponent of combining the global issues of food and climate, arguing that existing, proven and affordable technologies go a long way in responding to the challenges connected to sustainable food production.
Improved agricultural productivity requires resource use efficiency, harvesting a higher yield per input unit than ever before. Sustainable intensification will deliver increased yields on existing farmland – greatly reducing the pressure for land use change, a major driver of global warming.
Investments in Productivity
A slowdown in global yield increases in recent years has caused concern, resulting in calls for substantially increased investment in agriculture. Previous growth rates have stagnated or fallen for several major food crops, raising doubts about future food security.
For yield growth rates to reach the required levels investment in agriculture must increase, particularly in developing countries. Here, it is estimated that to reach the desired food production output by 2050 will require a 50 percent increase over present investment levels. Investments are needed in all parts of the food value chain; from knowledge development and technology transfer to improvements in infrastructure, markets and financing systems.
Engaging in Value Chains
Yara argues that a main avenue towards green growth within food production lies in developing value chains and forging partnerships. This is integrated into the New Vision for Agriculture roadmap, which we helped develop. Here Yara and a group of other global companies aim to improve productivity, reduce climate impact and address rural poverty.
The New Vision has a value chain approach, aimed at building transformational partnerships through new models of collaboration. The Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor in Tanzania, which has grown out of Yara’s Agricultural Growth Corridor concept, is a prime example.
Similarly, Yara is a partner in a public-private task force for sustainable economic growth in Vietnam. Here we take on an innovative approach to improve food security and agricultural sustainability, including value chain projects within the country’s coffee sector.
The value chain approach is crucial to overcome some of the main constraints that agriculture faces, especially in developing countries. Such constraints typically include poor infrastructure, which drives up the cost of inputs and reduces access to markets, credits, electricity, water and other key resources.