What’s the crux and importance of achieving greater productivity growth?

“Living in the United States, we live in an era where we’re used to (general economic growth),” said Christopher Delgado, strategy and policy adviser for agriculture and rural development at the World Bank during a panel discussion at the conference. “We’re used to rapid growth and don’t spend enough time thinking about what’s at the basis of that.

“Total Factor Productivity (TFP) growth is really what’s behind it. We think there’s something on the order to 800 million truly poor people (in the world) – their total livelihood is less than $1.25 per day in 2005 dollars. We believe that 75 percent of them live in rural areas and most get a significant portion of their livelihood from agriculture.

“If they don’t get their productivity up, if they’re not part of the solution as well as part of the problem, there’s no way for them to survive. It’s a survival issue. … Productivity is not enough but it’s an absolute necessity. There is no solution to world poverty or world hunger without it.”

Delgado -- founding program manager of the Global Agricultural and Food Security program and current program manager of the Global Food Crisis Response Program – said the GHI report “has credibly shown that significant differences exist not just across countries but within countries. The whole issue of how to extend, broaden and increase the extension of productivity growth is absolutely critical…

“There (has) been mention made of (Asia), where … about 90 percent of all rice is produced and consumed. … In situations like that, countries, even if they do need to import, aren’t going to be very happy about it. They’ll continue to produce their own rice at very high cost. Japan is an example, but there are others.”

In such circumstances, trust is absolutely essential, said Delgado. While there will “inevitably be much more trade … it will only come as people really build trust and rely on someone else to grow (their) food. Why else would you have sovereign funds of developing countries getting into land investments in other countries as opposed to an importation strategy? It has to be because you don’t trust markets … or you don’t trust governments.”

Delgado said everyone must understand the “underlying world has changed” and pointed to issues such as increasing water scarcity. “Right now, people say 18 percent of the cropped area in the world is water-stressed. It will be 44 percent, some say, by 2050.”