UN highlights food allocation difficulties

An expert on population developments has dismissed fears that there is too little food for everyone as the number of people living on this planet is soaring.

The United Nations (UN) said that the seventh million human was born last Monday. The head of the organisation’s population division, Gerhard Heilig, said his department expected the world population to decline after it reached 10 billion in 2100. “Such a development will only happen if the birth rate shrinks dramatically in Africa and Asia,” he told profil. Heilig added that there would be 27 billion people in the world in 2100 if fertility rates kept developing in unchanged manner.

Heilig said problems like shortage of food, environmental disasters and social conflicts would occur locally but not on a global scale due to a rise in population. He mentioned Africa where 2.5 billion more people may live by the end of the current century, according to UN research. “The population density will reach absurd figures in some African countries,” he said, pointing out that forecasted population increases of Asia and South America were less strong than expectations for Africa whereas Europe’s population was set to dwindle. Around six in 10 people in the world lived in Asia in 2010. Africa’s share was 15 per cent, followed by Europe with a stake in overall population of 10 per cent.

Heilig said Africa’s population would be five times the number of people residing in Europe in around 90 years’ time. Asked about the possibility of global and long-term foodstuff shortages, he told profil: “I think this is nonsense. Just think of predictions made about China in the 1960s when fears were expressed that millions would starve to death because of too little food for one billion people.”

The UN expert said technical developments and growing productivity levels were playing “key roles” in the provision of food. “Generally speaking, there is enough food for mankind in this world. The problem (with a population of 10 billion people) will be the allocation. Malnourishment in Africa is caused by the inability of people to afford food,” Heilig explained, warning of even greater difficulties with providing water due to its weight.

Wolfgang Lutz of the Viennese Institute for Demography told profil that his institution expected the global population to reach 10 billion as early as in around 40 years’ time. Lutz explained that the figure would decrease afterwards due to a predicted average birth rate between 1.5 and two children. The world’s top 10 considering current birth rates are dominated by African states. Niger tops the chart as every woman living in the poor country has 7.19 children on average. Guinea-Bissau (7.07), Afghanistan (7.07), Burundi (6.8) and Liberia (6.77) follow.

Hong Kong (0.97), Belarus (1.2), South Korea (1.21), Ukraine (1.22) and Poland (1.23) can be found on the other end of the ranking. Austria is among the countries with the lowest birth rates as well with 1.42. Federal statistics authority Statistik Austria said in August that 37,080 boys and girls were born in the small European Union (EU) member country in the first six months of 2011, 117 more than in the first half of 2010.

Statistik Austria disclosed that 78,742 births took place in Austria in 2010, 3.1 per cent more than in 2009. The life expectancy of Austrian women was found to be 83.2 years. An age of 77.7 years was identified for the male population of the country which currently counts 8.5 million inhabitants. Around 3,400 foreigners gained Austrian citizenship by naturalisation between January and June 2011.

Eurostat, which carries out research for the European Commission (EC), said that Austria had the second-lowest birth rate of all 27 EU states. There were 9.1 births per 1,000 inhabitants in the country in 2009. Only Germany had a lower rate (7.9), Eurostat explained.