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A plant breeder's view of U.S. farmers and global food security

A plant breeder's view of U.S. farmers and global food security
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We hear lots of stories regarding gloom and doom about population growth in the world. Some say extreme food shortages will occur, and we will not be able to keep up with the food production. There are those who believe that will drive our grain prices sky-high.

I don’t want to see any famines in the world, but I would certainly like to see our grain prices move up so our growers can survive and flourish again. Let’s look at some of the facts to see what’s going on with global population. Where are we headed?

Population facts

DEMAND WILL REBOUND: Dave Nanda believes that global demand for food will eventually elevate crop prices again.

There are 250 babies born every minute. That is four births every second of every day. There are 105 deaths every minute. So there’s a net increase of 145 additional hungry mouths to feed every minute.

Average life expectancy at birth is approximately 67 years. According to some estimates, the global population in 2016 is growing at the rate of 1.13% per year. The current average population growth is about 80 million people per year.

According to United Nations estimates, the current world population of around 7.3 billion people is expected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030, and 9.7 billion by 2050. By the turn of the century, at the present rate of growth, we may have 11.2 billion people in 2100.

The challenges and opportunities in the “have and have-not” countries for achieving sustainable growth are immense. Providing food, health care, education and employment opportunities in the poorest countries will be very challenging. Unless adequate amounts of food can be produced and distributed, I’m afraid there will be starvation and famines in many parts of the world.

Jim Douglas, a progressive grower from Shelby County in central Indiana, recently visited India as a member of the U.S. Soybeans Export Council to promote soybean exports.  

He was surprised to find there are as many people between the ages of 15 and 25 years of age in India as the total population of the United States.

A large percentage of these young people are educated. They will need and want good food, and will be able to afford it because of a quickly growing economy. However, there will be a shortage of good sources of proteins in India, as well as in countries such as China, Mexico, Russia and many African countries.

Food challenge  

Crops like soybeans, peas and other legumes, along with dairy products, are important ingredients in the Indian diet. The quality of soybeans grown there isn’t as good as our soybeans. There are other similar, fast-growing economies, like Russia and China, that will be able to afford more animal proteins and other good foods. People in many African nations will also want good food.  

Can our food supply keep up with this population growth? How can we help meet the demands of future global food security? Personally, I think U.S. growers will face a great challenge and great opportunity — not only to help meet the food, feed and fiber needs of the world, but also to harvest better value for their products. Hang in there. Grain prices will go up. Farmers will prosper again. It’s just a matter of time!

Nanda is president of Agronomic Crops Consultants LLC. Email [email protected], or call 317-910-9876.

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