Do we produce enough fruits and vegetables to meet global health need?

PLoS One. 2014 Aug 6;9(8):e104059. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0104059. eCollection 2014.


Background: Low fruit and vegetable (FV) intake is a leading risk factor for chronic disease globally, but much of the world's population does not consume the recommended servings of FV daily. It remains unknown whether global supply of FV is sufficient to meet current and growing population needs. We sought to determine whether supply of FV is sufficient to meet current and growing population needs, globally and in individual countries.

Methods and findings: We used global data on agricultural production and population size to compare supply of FV in 2009 with population need, globally and in individual countries. We found that the global supply of FV falls, on average, 22% short of population need according to nutrition recommendations (supply:need ratio: 0.78 [Range: 0.05-2.01]). This ratio varies widely by country income level, with a median supply:need ratio of 0.42 and 1.02 in low-income and high-income countries, respectively. A sensitivity analysis accounting for need-side food wastage showed similar insufficiency, to a slightly greater extent (global supply:need ratio: 0.66, varying from 0.37 [low-income countries] to 0.77 [high-income countries]). Using agricultural production and population projections, we also estimated supply and need for FV for 2025 and 2050. Assuming medium fertility and projected growth in agricultural production, the global supply:need ratio for FV increases slightly to 0.81 by 2025 and to 0.88 by 2050, with similar patterns seen across country income levels. In a sensitivity analysis assuming no change from current levels of FV production, the global supply:need ratio for FV decreases to 0.66 by 2025 and to 0.57 by 2050.

Conclusion: The global nutrition and agricultural communities need to find innovative ways to increase FV production and consumption to meet population health needs, particularly in low-income countries.

MeSH terms

  • Food Supply / economics*
  • Fruit / economics*
  • Global Health / economics*
  • Humans
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Vegetables / economics*