Global Agricultural Expansion

This is an excellent overview from Agri-News out of Ontario (my boyhood stomping grounds) of the rampaging expansion of the global economy and its direct impact on agriculture. The slack has obviously been taken out of the system and the period of intense investment has begun. As you read through this, keep in mind my many postings on terra preta.

All the evidence to date suggests that implementing the terra preta protocol will permit a wind down of the usage of chemical fertilizers by the mere fact that they will be held in the soils and at worst recycled there while not escaping to the sea.

While I have been emphasizing the carbon sequestration aspect, since that is closest to my readers’ hearts, I personably am much more excited by the remarkable fact that the soils created in the Amazon are fertile and productive 500 years after their creation with no addition of modern chemicals. This is in an environment were non terra preta soils are only good for perhaps three years.

Obviously, the prime farm lands throughout China and India is a natural for turning into terra preta, as are all the tropical soils that get enough rainfall to permit the production of high volume crops such as corn, sugar cane and cassava.

As I posted earlier, the areal extent of the Brazilian terra preta culture was similar to that of China and India. Obviously the entirety of the Indonesian Archipelago and large swathes of tropical Africa are wide open to the development of a similar agricultural regime. Astonishingly we are addressing the infertile tropics with this protocol.

Of course, it will be first implemented fully where industrial scale farming is taking place and the financial resources are available. Curiously, terra preta is best practiced first by the subsistence farmer (earthen kiln) and the agro industry farm (industrial kiln). The folks in between will need special equipment built for them.

Interesting times ahead for world farming

By Nelson Zandbergen - AgriNews Staff Writer

MAXVILLE Along with its growing wealth and population, China has picked up a thirst for milk and an insatiable hunger for meat and other agricultural products.

On a globe where grain stocks are already declining because of crop failures in Australia, surging Asian demand for all sorts of foodstuffs will have implications not only for Canadian farmers, including dairy producers but serious consequences for the planet as well.

Ted Bilyea, keynote speaker at the 42nd annual Dairy Day conference here Feb. 14, reprised a sobering message he had also delivered at the Dairy Farmers of Ontario AGM a month earlier. Fittingly, his presentation took its name from the old Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times."

And interesting times are precisely what’s ahead for world agriculture and the environment, according to Bilyea, a retired executive vice-president of Maple Leaf Foods and current co-chair of the Canadian Agri-Food Marketing Council.

With earth’s population expected to hit nine billion by mid-century, "virtually all of that growth is going to occur right there," he said, showing an overhead image of Asia and the Indian subcontinent.

As incomes rise in China and India, large segments of their populations are shifting away from the starchy Third World diets typically ingested by the planet’s three billion people living on $1 a day or less.

"Half the people in China are making $2 a day, and three quarters of the people in India are making $2 a day," said Bilyea, emphasizing the importance of this milestone. "Between $2 and $9 a day is when people eat more animal protein, vegetables and edible oils. And after $10, people buy more processed foods."

He maintained that the planet’s "interdependent" agricultural industry will face even more pressure to "intensify" production to meet the demand of the 53 per cent of the world’s population in China and India whose countries have only 29 per cent of the arable farmland.

East Asia alone, including the Korean peninsula, has 31 per cent of earth’s population but only 14 per cent of the arable land, he noted, while China itself has 100 cities of a million or more people. "And those cities don’t grow any food," he observed.

As its GDP rises, China already imports "a lot" of food to meet demand, he said, adding pointedly that there was a lesson to be taken from the fact that Chinese imports are going up "even despite high tariffs."

To further illustrate growing Chinese prosperity, he noted the recent opening of Starbucks 500th outlet in that country "on their way to 8,000" and remarked that those cups of coffee aren’t retailed at a cheaper price than in the west. In larger urban centres, demand for very high-end consumer products such as those offered by LVMH already exceeds the Canadian market. "We’re relatively down market here compared to Shanghai."

Addressing the audience of 150 milk producers, he commented, "These people want products we’re producing, so it’s going to affect you one way or the other."

Aided by official Chinese government policy promoting milk consumption as well as domestic production Bilyea displayed a billboard image of a Chinese child gazing up at a milk-swigging athlete demand for that commodity is "soaring at the rate of one New Zealand dairy industry per year due to urbanization and rising disposable income," he said.


Meat and milk production is ramping up in the Third World (particularly South America) to meet the growing global hunger for those products, and Bilyea painted a worrisome picture of the impact on the planet.

Backed by a slew of charts and statistics, he questioned how already high animal population densities in Asia could go even higher into the future. In China, the related pollution has already led to massive phosphate-fed algae blooms visible from outer space. Drinking water contaminated by agricultural and industrial activity is also responsible for "rapidly rising mortality rates in rural China," he said.

That country also lacks bio-security controls, creating the potential for even greater animal to human disease transfer, according to Bilyea.

Meanwhile, 26 per cent of the "ice free terrestrial surface of the planet" is used for the grazing of livestock. Pasture accounts for 70 per cent of the deforested areas of the Amazon, with the implication that ever more of the South American jungle will disappear with the rising global appetite for beef.

Who will produce the wheat?

Compounding the planetary challenge, China has been switching its available farmland 10 per cent of which is now contaminated by pollution, according to the Chinese government into labour-intensive crops things like fruits and vegetables and out of land-intensive crops like wheat, according to Bilyea. Since 1985, Chinese wheat and coarse grain production has dropped 70 million tonnes, "equivalent to the entire Canadian harvest," he said.

At the same time, worldwide demand for wheat has begun growing at a robust two per cent a year, up from the usual 1.2 per cent, he noted. The situation has created not only record high commodity prices but the real prospect of shortages.

"Consumption has outstripped production seven of the last eight years ... We’re all counting on a bumper crop this year and next. If we don’t get the bumper crop, people are not going to eat, because the product does not exist."

Ethanol contributes to global warming

From a global perspective, demand for grains is "not ethanol-driven," said the speaker, though he did identify ethanol production as an environmental problem.

Referring to an article produced by Nobel Prize-winning chemist Paul Crutzen last year, he declared, "We now know that ethanol produced from crops that require nitrogen fertilizer contributes to, rather than abates, global warming."

He added, "The more corn and ethanol we use, the warmer the environment will get ... so we’re subsidizing global warming."

Reliance on nitrogen fertilizer and pesticides to feed the planet was one of the major points of the presentation, and the speaker suggested mankind must figure out a way to double food production without a corresponding "unsustainable" increase in those inputs.

Reducing pesticide use falls in line with the demands of consumers anyway, he suggested, showing a 2007 statistic in which only 66 per cent of U.S. shoppers were confident in the food purchased in grocery stores.

Regardless of the science, "what that shows you, is that people don’t want to eat residues," he advised the audience.

Concern over safety and the environment can work to the advantage of domestic farmers, according to Bilyea, who pointed to the example set by the European Union, where the long established Green movement and farmers worked together to achieve a ban on Brazilian beef.

"As of Feb. 1, there is no more Brazilian beef going to Europe. The Europeans shut them off," he said. "Consumers are really interested in sustainability."

No comments:

Post a Comment