A new study by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicts that most of the world's population will be better fed by the year 2030. But the FAO report warns that hundreds of millions of people, particularly on the African continent, will remain chronically hungry.

FAO's latest global food assessment predicts significant improvements in food supplies and availability in most developing countries over the next 27 years.

According to FAO, says much of the food improvements in developing countries will come from higher productivity, expansion of arable land, and multiple crop cultivation. The study noted that once environmental and safety issues are addressed, genetically modified crops could also go a long way in sustaining farming in developing countries.

But Jelle Bruinsma, editor of the new report called World Agriculture: towards 2015/2030 says the persistence of poverty in many parts of the world will mean that progress will not be shared by everybody.

"Because poor people will not have the purchasing power to buy the food they need. Therefore, the report estimates that by 2030 still 440 million people will be chronically undernourished," he said.

A figure of 440-million hungry people in the world would represent a significant reduction from today's 800 million chronically underfed. But the FAO report says the reduction would come fifteen years late and still short of the target set by the World Food Summit in 1996 to reduce the number of hungry people in the world by half by 2015.

The worst pockets of hunger, according to the report, will be in the poorest parts of Asia and in much of sub-Saharan Africa, a region long plagued by chronic hunger. The report says the number of chronically undernourished people in this drought-prone swath of central Africa will only decrease from 194 million to 183 million.

Mr. Bruinsma says FAO hopes that governments and the international community will use the report as a basis for policies that can address both hunger and its root cause, poverty.

"Governments in developing countries need to implement policies to promote agricultural development, and at the international levels we need rules and agreements which ensure that there are no distortions in the world markets, and that the world markets are a level playing field for all participating countries," Mr. Bruinsma said.

The FAO study analyzed global food supply and demand in 140 countries, and looked at trends for 32 major crop and livestock commodities, including fisheries and forestry.

The report says developing countries are likely to become increasingly dependent on imported cereal, meat, and milk products over the next thirty years because their production will not keep pace with the demand of a growing population.

The study warns that affluent, developed countries must brace themselves to respond to continuing food crises in developing nations. It predicts that combined international efforts will be needed to address many of the causes of chronic food shortages.

The study also focuses on the issue of dwindling global water supplies, noting that by 2030 one in five developing nations will be suffering serious water scarcity. Irrigation in agricultural activities will consume an additional 14 percent of total water withdrawals by 2030, the study notes, worsening already serious water shortages in some developing countries.