Modeling impacts of faster productivity growth to inform the CGIAR initiative on Crops to End Hunger

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In 2017–2018, a group of international development funding agencies launched the Crops to End Hunger initiative to modernize public plant breeding in lower-income countries. To inform that initiative, USAID asked the International Food Policy Research Institute and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service to estimate the impacts of faster productivity growth for 20 food crops on income and other indicators in 106 countries in developing regions in 2030. We first estimated the value of production in 2015 for each crop using data from FAO. We then used the IMPACT and GLOBE economic models to estimate changes in the value of production and changes in economy-wide income under scenarios of faster crop productivity growth, assuming that increased investment will raise annual rates of yield growth by 25% above baseline growth rates over the period 2015–2030. We found that faster productivity growth in rice, wheat and maize increased economy-wide income in the selected countries in 2030 by 59 billion USD, 27 billion USD and 21 billion USD respectively, followed by banana and yams with increases of 9 billion USD each. While these amounts represent small shares of total GDP, they are 2–15 times current public R&D spending on food crops in developing countries. Income increased most in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Faster productivity growth in rice and wheat reduced the population at risk of hunger by 11 million people and 6 million people respectively, followed by plantain and cassava with reductions of about 2 million people each. Changes in adequacy ratios were relatively large for carbohydrates (already in surplus) and relatively small for micronutrients. In general, we found that impacts of faster productivity growth vary widely across crops, regions and outcome indicators, highlighting the importance of identifying the potentially diverse objectives of different decision makers and recognizing possible tradeoffs between objectives.