Big Facts on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security

Food Demand

  • Food demand is increasing as a result of population growth and changes in diets (Alexandratos and Bruinsma 2012; Tilman et al. 2011).
  • Overall demand for agricultural products (including food, feed, fibre and biofuels) is expected to increase by 1.1% per year from 2005/07 to 2050, down from 2.2% per year in the previous four decades (Alexandratos and Bruinsma 2012). As the population grows and more countries and population groups attain per capita food consumption with little scope for major increases, global food demand will grow at much lower rates. For a long time to come, some countries might have difficulty increasing food consumption due to low incomes and significant poverty.
  • Despite declining growth rates in food demand, the absolute quantities of food necessary to feed the world in 2050 are substantial. If current trajectories in population growth, dietary shifts and food waste management remain unchanged, meeting global food demand in 2050 will require the following production increases (Alexandratos and Bruinsma 2012):
    • cereals production must increase by 940 million tonnes to reach 3 billion tonnes;
    • meat production must increase by 196 million tonnes to reach 455 million tonnes; and
    • oil crops by must increase by 133 million tonnes to reach 282 million tonnes.
  • If consumption patterns do not change, agricultural production will need to increase by 60% relative to 2005 to meet food demand in 2050 (Alexandratos and Bruinsma 2012)
  • Using income-dependent dietary choices, it is estimated that global demand for crop calories will increase by 100%±11% and global demand for crop protein will increase by 110%±7% from 2005 to 2050 (Tilman et al. 2011)
Sources and further reading
  • Alexandratos N, Bruinsma J. 2012. World agriculture towards 2030/2050: The 2012 revision. ESA Working Paper No. 12-03. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (Available from (Accessed on 6 November 2013)
  • Tilman D, Balzer C, Hill J, Befort BL. 2011. Global food demand and the sustainable intensification of agriculture. PNAS 108(50):20260–20264. (Available from (Accessed on 6 November 2013)