AgriNews, which covers agriculture in both Illinois and Indiana, had a story Monday about a Community Bank Ag Conference in Mendota, Ill. Normally, I don’t closely follow agricultural banking news, but the headline caught my attention: “Hybrids play major role in meeting world food needs.”
One of the speakers at the conference was Steve Freed, vice president of Research for ADM Investor Services. He had a number of important things to say – about growing world demand for corn and soybeans, driven particularly by China. Corn production alone will have to grow by a billion bushels by 2015 “to satisfy that potential demand.”
He noted the contribution made by corn hybrids (“I think that corn hybrids have done a lot to keep us from having a disaster”) and new developments in soybeans. He was optimistic about the potential for future yield improvements, but there was also this sober statement:
“We have to grow a good crop this year.”
One might argue that farmers have to grow a good crop every year, but rising food prices reflect both rising demand and declining reserves. In wealthier countries like the United States, rising prices are a concern. In less developed countries, rising prices can be a catastrophe.
This was discussed in depth at the recent World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland. Initiatives are being undertaken in countries like Tanzania, using conventional hybrids to improve local production (and I said conventional hybrids, not GM). A similar initiative has been undertaken successfully in Malawi.
Crop production in the United States is critical to meeting world food needs.
But farmers in Tanzania have to grow a good crop this year, too.