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China and India lead agriculture R&D spending surge

China and India have been driving the increase in public investment in agricultural R&D in the last decade while investment by high-income countries has stalled, a report says.

Global public spending in the sector rose from US$26.1 billion in 2000 to US$31.7bn in 2008, according to the ‘ASTI Global Assessment of Agricultural R&D Spending’ published on 25 October.

Middle-income countries led by China, India and Brazil have driven the growth with the top three countries accounting for a quarter of all global investment and half of all investment in developing countries in 2008.

China and India contributed nearly half the overall increase in public global spending, with rises of US$2.1bn and US$600m respectively between 2002 and 2008.

The Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators says the two countries increased agricultural productivity as a result of government commitment to agricultural R&D, sustained funding levels and agricultural and rural policy reforms and education.

Argentina, Brazil, Iran, Nigeria and Russia have also notched up significant investments, especially between 2005 and 2008.

Public spending accounts for 79 per cent of global agricultural R&D investment.

Despite the positive trend in overall agricultural R&D in the developing world, spending declined in many low-income countries, especially in Africa. The report says that the reasons lie in a volatile research funding environment and undeveloped R&D infrastructure.

Although the increase in spending is driven by middle-income countries, industrialised countries still account for half of global public R&D spending, at US$16.1bn. In 2008, the US spent US$2.7bn and Japan US$4.8bn. However, a third of OECD countries spent less on agricultural R&D in 2008 than they did in 2000.

The ASTI initiative compiles and publishes data on development in agricultural R&D in low-and middle income countries and is managed by the International Food Policy Research Institute.