Agricultural R&D spending on the rise

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Global challenges, including the recent food and financial crises and climate change, highlight the need for continued and scaled-up investments in agricultural research and development (R&D).

The report ASTI Global Assessment of Agricultural R&D Spending, published by the International Food Policy Research Institute’s (IFPRI) Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators initiative (ASTI) and the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), reveals trends in R&D spending from 1981 to 2008.

Following a decade of slow growth in the 1990s, global public spending on agricultural R&D increased by 22 percent from 2000 to 2008—from $26.1 billion to $31.7 billion.

These numbers, however, only tell part of the story.

Middle-income countries have been the main drivers of global growth in recent years. China and India accounted for nearly half the global increase, but spending also rose significantly in a number of other more advanced developing countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Iran, Nigeria, and Russia. Growth was particularly strong from 2005 to 2008.

Most notably in Brazil and China, long-term government commitment to agricultural R&D and a supportive policy environment have fueled increased agricultural productivity, as well as overall economic growth. This demonstrates the benefits of sustained government investments.

Agricultural research spending in low-income countries, on average, grew by 2 percent per year from 2000 to 2008, with spending in many countries stagnating or declining. A large number of low-income countries, particularly in Africa south of the Sahara, are highly vulnerable to volatile research funding, often the result of the short-term, project-oriented nature of donor and development bank funding. Additionally, many R&D agencies in these countries lack the necessary human, operating, and infrastructure resources to successfully develop, adopt, and disseminate science and technology innovations.

“More attention should be given to the world’s poorest countries regarding government and donor support,” said Nienke Beintema, Head of the ASTI initiative at IFPRI. “We need to prevent them from falling further behind.”

The report is released in advance of the Second Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD), a platform to encourage practical collaboration among all those working in agricultural research and innovation and their role in development, which opens on October 28 in Punta del Este, Uruguay.

“We are very concerned that unless spending increases dramatically, smallholder farmers in the poorer countries will continue to lack the essential knowledge, tools and technologies required to support their needs, and for production to be resilient in the face of the challenges ahead,” said Mark Holderness, Executive Secretary of GFAR and organizer of GCARD. “This study provides a key first step in creating the robust evidence base required to demonstrate the essential value of such investments and convince governments and societies of the returns they bring.”

The full report and additional information can be found online here:

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