A properly fed world is a more stable world, says Jose Cardenas, Elanco’s director of sales and marketing for Canada and Latin America.
Invited to address delegates at the 2014 Banff Pork Seminar, Cardenas said the first priority for everyone in the room is to play their part in ensuring that the world can produce enough protein to feed nine billion people – the population level anticipated by 2050.
“In order to achieve this goal of making sure that everybody has enough food, we’ve really got to shift our approach. We need to make sure that we broaden the discussion on hunger . . . and get more people to understand the concept of food security,” said Cardenas.
“We need to start focusing more on the solutions that are, in some cases, already available to us to make this issue go away.”
To illustrate his concern about food security and the value of good food, Cardenas cited a study of Kenyan food children, comparing test scores between groups based on the quality of their diets.
Over a period of five years, those children whose diets included healthy portions of meat and milk achieved the best scores.
Expanding on that study, Cardenas said the challenge food producers have will be to ensure that people around the world have enough meat, milk and eggs to fulfill their needs.
“We also believe that better food leads to better health. We are able to be more productive and we are able to maximize our potential as we go forward.”
By 2020, the population of middle class people in the world will grow from 1.8 billion to three billion, meaning the supply of meat, milk and eggs will need to grow by 60 per cent, with fewer resources than what are currently available, he said.
“The question is, what would it take to fill the gap? Technology really makes a difference here.”
Looking at milk production as an example, Cardenas pointed to the amount of milk per cow that is being produced in top countries such as the United States and Germany. He said the gap between supply and demand could be filled by helping less productive regions meet those output levels.
It would require changes in production standards, including cleaner water, optimized feed, vaccination and improved housing, said Cardenas.
He questioned whether production systems are getting the most from innovations that are already available to achieve a sustainable food supply and ensure that policies are in place and that food producers across the spectrum are getting the information they need to take advantage of innovation.
“(Innovation) would be about 70 per cent of the solution to meet the growing needs for food,” said Cardenas.
“We’ve got a humongous opportunity and a humongous challenge,” he said.
Trade systems must be fashioned so that food can be easily and economically moved from countries that have the resources to people in countries that need it.
“This is a problem that is not going to solve itself. We really need passionate people like yourself to become involved,” said Cardenas.
Iowa-based economist Steve Meyer – a frequent guest at the Banff Pork Seminar – picked up the discussion with his presentation on how global economics drive production in Canada.
Regardless of the large proportion of land that cannot be farmed, a huge factor for Canadian producers is that they have access to large tracts of land in a country that is relatively sparsely populated.
“Canada is the eighth least densely populated country in the world. You’re a little more than Botswana and a little less than Guyana. You have a lot of space here.”
Last year, there were 1.75 acres per person in Canada under tillage in the top five crops.
In the United States, there was only .74 acres per person under tillage in their top eight crops, said Meyer.
Those figures indicate tremendous production capacity in Canada and that the bulk of that production has to go for export.
Focusing on hogs, he said Canadian farmers raise more pigs per person than their counterparts in China.
All of those factors make it important for pork producers to be at the table during trade talks, said Meyer.
A stable exchange rate is essential, he said, pointing to market retaliations that have occurred when the Canadian dollar drops in value.
Meyer said the exchange rate itself is less important than keeping it stable for extended periods of time.
Other influences on Canada’s trading position include population trends in China, where the number of people living in cities has exceeded the rural population for the first time ever.
Exports to China have been growing at a steady clip for the last 10 years and will continue to increase, in part through an increased demand from urban dwellers, who have more money to spend and will have a higher demand for animal products, said Meyer.
Back in the US, a flawed ethanol program and a reduced demand for gasoline have flattened out the amount of corn going into fuel production while the non-US supply of corn has increased.
The reduced pressure from ethanol productions means more corn will be available for feed, depending on weather conditions in the coming year, said Meyer, who forecasts feed corn at $4.50 per bushel.
He predicts an increase in US slaughter weights this year in reaction to the loss of pigs as a result of porcine epidemic diarrhea. Packer-owned pigs are going to market at 220 pounds and will likely stay there for the next year, over protest from retailers, said Meyer.
“It’s going to be a bloodletting this year, let me tell you,” he said.”
“(Retailers) are going to cry foul big time at the size of the cuts, but that’s what is going to happen when you have a shock that reduces the supply of pigs.”
Meyer anticipates that the US sow herd will expand by two to three per cent over the next two years. •
— By Brenda Kossowan