Developing countries need investments of 83 billion dollars a year if there is to be enough food to feed the world's expected 9.1 billion people by 2050, the UN food agency said on Thursday.
"Required investments include crops and livestock production as well as downstream support services such as cold chains, storage facilities, market facilities and first-stage processing," the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said in a report.
"The projected investment needs to 2050 include some 20 billion dollars going to crops production and 13 billion dollars going to livestock production, it said.
"Mechanisation would account for the single biggest investment area followed by expansion and improvement of irrigation."
"A further 50 billion dollars would be needed for downstream services to help achieve a global 70 percent expansion in agricultural production by 2050."
The report said that most of this investment, in both primary agriculture and downstream services, "will come from private investors, including farmers purchasing implements and machinery and businesses investing in processing facilities".
But public funds would also be needed to achieve a better functioning of the agricultural system and food security.
"Priority areas for such public investments include: 1) agricultural research and development; 2) large-scale infrastructure such as roads, ports and power, and agricultural institutions and extension services; and 3) education, particularly of women, sanitation, clean water supply and healthcare."
Of the projected new net investments in agriculture, as much as 29 billion dollars would need to be spent in the two countries with the largest populations, India and China, said the FAO.
as far as regions are concerned, sub-Saharan Africa would need about 11 billion dollars invested, Latin America and the Caribbean 20 billion dollars, the Near East and North Africa 10 billion, South Asia 20 billion and East Asia 24 billion dollars.
The FAO said that the projections point to wide regional differences in the impact of new investments when translated into per capita terms.
Given different population growth rates, Latin America, for instance, is expected to almost halve its agricultural labour force while sub-Saharan Africa will double its own.
"This means that by 2050 an agricultural worker in Latin America would have 28 times the capital stock or physical assets such as equipment, land and livestock available as his or her colleague in sub-Saharan Africa.
Foreign direct investment in agriculture in developing countries could make a significant contribution to bridging the investment gap, the FAO said.
But it cautioned that political and economic concerns had been raised about so-called land grab investments in poor, food-insecure countries.
"Such deals should be designed in such a way as to maximize benefits to host populations, effectively increasing their food security and reducing poverty."