Oil price rises and the growth in world grain consumption are
likely to herald a new era in which the farmer, his skills, and
his land, are in demand.
CLA Wales says world food security is becoming a serious talking
point in intellectual and political circles, particularly in
the United States.
This and the market driven, as well as the politically expedient,
imperative to find alternatives to oil, has the potential to
affect every farmer in Wales and overshadow the importance of
the CAP as a significant proportion of agricultural output is
driven by more profitable non-food global markets. The demand
for food will still have to be met from somewhere.
Speaking at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair, CLA Wales Director
Julian Salmon said farmers and landowners should consider carefully
before committing their land to any long term projects which
would preclude food production. Commentators suggest that the
rapidly increasing price of grain and the forecasts of future
supply shortfalls could have dynamic implications for global
agriculture and knock-on effects on all commodities, returning
some power to the farmer in the market place.
"This all may seem fanciful but the trends are already
a reality", he added. "Farmers may wonder about its
relevance regarding the price of store stock in Builth market,
as that may be as much to do with the availability of winter
keep or numbers of stock on the day! The important lesson is
that we should not lose sight of the bigger picture and major
influences at work beyond the horizon.
"The availability of water is another global production
issue, for which Wales is well placed, and whilst the greater
market opportunities may be for arable production, the knock–on
effects on other productive land is inevitable if food demands
are to be met. Couple this to the increasing recognition of food
miles and provenance and that ‘food value needs to be re-aligned’ as
concluded by the recent EBLEX report, and the future begins to
sound, if not look, more promising-what a change that is!"
Mr Salmon cited a recent report by the President of the Washington
based Earth Policy Institute which predicts food riots in lower
income countries as motorists and the hungry clash over food
supplies. Lester R Brown points to this year's grain harvest
shortfall of nearly 4% as one of the largest on record.
The harvest of 1,967 million tons is falling short of estimated
consumption of 2,040 million tons by 73 million tons. And he
says that the annual growth in grain used to produce fuel ethanol
for cars in the United States averaged nearly seven million tons
per year, reaching 14 million tons in 2006.
"Lester Brown claims that investment in crop-based fuel
production, once dependent on government subsidies, is now driven
by the price of oil", added Mr Salmon. "He says that
with the current price of ethanol double its cost of production,
the conversion of agricultural commodities into fuel for cars
has become hugely profitable.
"And he says construction has begun on 54 new ethanol distilleries
in the United States, with virtually all of them producing by
the end of next year. They will consume 39 million tons of grain
"His predictions are that an extra 136 million tons of
grain will be needed next year if a further decline in world
stocks is to be prevented. And he warns that every item in the
refrigerator is affected by the price of corn. Milk, eggs, cheese,
chicken, ham, beef, ice cream and yoghourt are all produced with
Mr Salmon also stressed the mood of the annual conference
of the National Non-Food Crop Centre meeting in York which recently
heard that the prospects for farmers were looking good as markets
for renewable products manufactured from UK-grown crops were
becoming established. The emerging theme was that the prospects
for farming were good, but farmers had to look very closely at
how they could adapt their businesses.
He noted that there has been a substantial rise in demand for
biofuels, which are already lifting UK grain and oilseed prices.
And plant-based pharmaceuticals, renewable construction materials
such as an insulation board recently developed using sheep's
wool, and bio-based lubricants would become increasingly important.
A huge biotethanol
plant is to be established on Teeside and
a new Defra report says the biorenewables industry in the UK
is expanding, and that markets are developing for a range of
products and materials.
* The Earth Policy Institute can be found at www.earth-policy.org
The Earth Policy Institute is a Partner in the Green Power Partnership,
an EPA voluntary program working to reduce the emissions associated
with conventional electricity generation by encouraging organizations
to switch a specific percentage of their electricity to green
power. Additional information is available at www.epa.gov/greenpower
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