A new report is indicating that additional crop land, equivalent to that already farmed in Brazil, will be required over the next six years.

This is the fundamental assertion arrived at by the United States-based McKinsey Group.

The international resource management consultancy has recently estimated the amount of land needed to feed a growing world population.

According to the new figures, producing feedstock for livestock production may account for around 70% of all incremental cropland needed by 2030.

Crop production for direct human consumption will make up around 20% for the envisaged increase, while bio-fuel production will account for the remaining 10%.

This expansion in crop production will require 70-80Mha of additional arable land.

While the requirement calculated by McKinsey’s model represents less than 10% of additional crop land for feed stocks compared to today, it is still a significant ask.

Competition for available and suitable land parcels is already intensifying in many regions around the world.

According to McKinsey, pressure on land availability is already emerging in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. These are likely to be the source of most additional cropland, where land and food prices could increase.

Approximately 60% of the earth’s habitable land is already used by humans.

To meet and, where possible, offset additional land demand, McKinsey highlights that conversion of degraded land, stronger yield growth and efficiencies from increased trade will be required.

However, it’s likely this won’t be sufficient alone, and actions to reduce land demand such as behavioural change, reducing food waste and seeking alternative offshore resources are most likely required for a sustainable land transition.

The report notes that these actions would require substantial investment from both public and private stakeholders.

E.g., an estimate of converting 70-80Mha of pastureland to crop land could cost US$300 billion.

The value of these investments is likely to be significant, accounting for the higher market price of cropland over pastureland, and the added value related to the protection of climate and biodiversity.

However, this will require intentional collaboration between public and private sector players.

Nelson Ferreira, Senior Partner at McKinsey said: 

“The world will need both sides of the supply, demand equation to strike a balance. Adverse climate conditions and other shocks to market dynamics could put even more pressure on supply than our conservative case assumes.

“Striking the balance is critical for both public and private sector players. Input providers need to know that land prices will increase by the end of the decade.”