Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Deforestation Moratorium and Future Shortages of Food Supply Will Require 10 Times More Forest Conversion

The world population of over 6 billion is increasing by 70 to 80 million people annually. Food supply needs to expand to keep up with the additional demand. Land to grow food crops is getting scarce. By 2020, arable land in the world is projected to decrease to less than 1 acre per capita which is hardly sufficient considering the same land is needed for producing enough grains, vegetables, fruits, meat, milk and oils and fats to feed a single person and his animals for a year. In terms of land utilization, priority will of course be given to the production of cereals and grains as these are staples in most countries and this will be followed closely by oils and fats production.

In the oils and fats sector, global demand is increasing at a rate of 5 to 6 million tonnes per year on average against a total consumption of 165 million tonnes annually. To produce an additional 5 million tonnes of vegetable oils and fats, 10 million hectares of land will be required to plant soyabean, as compared to 1 million hectares if oil palm is the choice. Cereals and grains such as rice, wheat and corn are also experiencing shortages due to population pressure and increasing affluence where more demand for meat will mean more intensive production of grains as feed for cattle etc. The world is facing an enormous challenge. It needs to have 10 million hectares of new land created every year to supply the additional 5 million tonnes of soyabean oil, considering additional land is also needed for grain and cereal production. The annual expansion of oilseed area if planted with soyabean is almost equivalent to the combined total oil palm area of Malaysia and Indonesia. Another 10 million hectares will be needed the following year and similarly, in subsequent years to maintain an additional 5 million tonnes of oils and fats supply annually. BUT if oil palm were to supply the annual increase, the land expansion is more modest, a mere 1 million hectares per year.