The world’s population is now more than 7 billion and continues to grow by 82 million a year. During the last half-century, the total number of people has more than doubled. Between 1960 and 2010, the world population rose from 3 billion to 6.8 billion. In other words, there has been more growth in the last 50 years than the previous 2 million years that humans have existed. Currently the rate of increase is 1.2 percent per year, which means we are on a trajectory to double again in 58 years.
The extreme growth in human population – now counted by an additional billion people every 12 to 13 years — is taxing the Earth and its resources. Some people may be relatively less damaging than others, but none of us are without an ecological footprint. Everybody needs basic resources but almost all of us aspire to utilise significantly more resources than are required by our basic needs. These needs and aspirations are multiplied by a factor of 7 billion affecting the stability of the planet’s ecosphere, states the Population Media Centre.
Food demand and production
Putting food on the world’s tables is a serious business. The United Nations’ index of global food prices hit a record high recently.There have been riots over rising food prices in Algeria and Tunisia. In Sri Lanka, the army has started buying up vegetables from producers and selling them at low prices to ensure locals can get affordable meals.
And prices in our own shops are reflecting a surge in world demand for essentials ranging from beef to wheat. British food costs are likely to rise short term after the EU referendum due in no small part to the Pound dropping in value which affects the cost of imported food, as we only produce about 60 percent of our food needs.
Some of this increase in prices reflects short-term shortages after poor harvests and the effect of commodity speculators. But there is also a longer-term trend of rising prices as consumers around the world want better, more protein-rich diets.
Investing in companies that help meet a growing demand for food and farming products could prove both ethical and fertile for participants. It takes 7 pounds of grain to make 1 pound of beef and 4 pounds of grain to produce 1pound of pork. As the middle class in the emerging world gets richer, there is a greater demand for meat and hence for grain and feed. Similarly, higher wealth is boosting demand for agricultural products ranging from cotton to coffee.
One option for investors is to join the speculators and try to profit directly from the growth in commodity prices but this is risky. Many feel following the agricultural theme by investing in shares of agricultural businesses is a better option than the unpredictable and volatile commodity futures markets.’
Specialist funds invest in companies worldwide that are linked to agriculture such as fertiliser producers and farm machinery manufacturers. Some also buy into firms that are further down the food chain, such as processors and even consumer food companies.
Farmers have to utilise higher-yielding seeds and more machinery, as well as fertiliser to boost production. One fund has a narrow focus on buying into companies that are directly involved with agriculture.
Some like a broader base, looking to invest “from field to fork”. This means food processing companies and some infrastructure projects can be included.
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