The world population is growing at the rate of about 1.3% – a few decades ago, the growth rate was over 2%- and will soon reach 7 billion. The world food grain production is around 2200 million tonnes which works out to a per capita production of about 300 kg per year. If cattle are not fed with grains the current level of production can sustain 10 billion people. India for its population of about 1175 million produces about 220 million tonnes and is said to be self-sufficient or even marginally surplus. This means that per capita food grain requirement is only about 200 kg per year.
In recent years, the annual increase in food grain production is not satisfactory. However, with several countries in Africa and Latin America like Ethiopia, Tanzania, Sudan, Uganda, Congo, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay selling or giving on lease large areas of farm land to foreign governments, foreign corporates and individuals, the production is likely to increase substantially in these continents. This is a welcome development, as Africa’s population growth rate is very high with several countries like Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Madagascar, Nigeria and Tanzania registering population growth of 2% to 3.5%. Moreover, the continent is already highly deficit in grains. Fortunately, in both Africa and Latin America, land utilization for agriculture is very low- less than 10% of the potentially arable land.. With the near stagnant or negative population growth in Europe, North America(here most of the growth is by immigration) and a few Asian countries like Japan, South Korea, the share of Africa and Latin America in world population will keep increasing
The governments in Africa and Latin America should also allow foreign and local private sector to provide on “Build, Operate and Transfer” basis agricultural infrastructure like irrigation projects- dams and canals, rural roads, grain storage space etc.
There is strong criticism in certain quarters against what they call “land grab” and “agri-colonialism” in Africa and Latin America. They also express fear that several small scale farmers will become jobless. These are unfounded. Bringing in large areas of land under cultivation and building infrastructure will generate large scale employment even if these sectors are completely mechanized. Since land utilization in these continents is very low, compared to other continents, there is not going to be any ecological problems. It is also to be remembered that some European countries including Russia have sold/leased out land to foreigners with a view to increase local food grain production.
The growing world population should not cause worries if the land deals in Africa and Latin America become successful.