Charting the complexities of world hunger, food production

By 2050, there will be nine billion people on the planet, creating a huge need for sufficient calories and adequate nutrition.

The speakers’ program of the annual convention of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario recently discussed the wide-ranging issues involved in feeding that emerging huge population, with a keen eye directed towards the impacts for Canadian family farms.

Stuart Clark, senior policy advisor of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, emphasized that we are at a “crunch point” regarding questions about how to feed the world and support farming families. On the one hand, food is more readily available around the globe due to enhanced trade patterns, while on the other hand, farmers in all countries are increasingly affected by international events.

In addition, key questions will have to be addressed over energy use, the availability and recycling of key nutrients for food production, reducing price risk for farmers, and doing “justice to the land.”

Len Penner, the President of Cargill Limited, noted that a growing world population requires a greater emphasis on agricultural productivity and access to food through trade arrangements. Amongst the biggest issues for food producers will be price volatility, not only for agricultural commodity prices but also for input costs.

For smaller farms around the world, Penner noted the keys to success will include: finding comparative advantages for regional production; the creation and enforcement of property rights; increased revenue certainty and access to open markets

Jack Wilkinson, the former president of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers, said that much of the blame for certain countries lacking robust farming sectors can be traced directly back to bad agricultural public policies. He noted that many countries intentionally try to keep food prices low for their citizens by having public policies that create a form of food sufficiency but which do not create markets that reward farmers for increased production.

Wilkinson said three keys across the globe for successful farming are: the creation of markets that work; sufficient rewards in the system for farmers; and ridding governments of corruption.

He urged farmers to never give up collective efforts in securing a better return from the marketplace.

Attendees of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario convention left with a greater appreciation for the wide range of issues involved in world hunger and family farm food production. And it became evident that there isn’t a single solution to the issues – there are only solutions that work for great diversity and complexity.

John Clement is the general manager of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario.