Commentary: Grain exported instead of feeding people

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Over and over we hear about how farmers around the world are going to need to raise more crops to feed the rapidly expanding population, but growing the crop has nothing to do with feeding the larger population.

No matter how much grain is grown, there will be starving and/or malnourished people in the world—maybe more as the population increases. But most nations of the world don’t worry about their underfed people. I dare to say that the U.S. has safety nets in place, private and government, to keep citizens from starving, although malnourished people are part of the nation’s population.

What brought the starvation, population and food production equation to my attention was a report attributed to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations that India, the world’s second-most populous country, is anticipated to have a “grain surplus of 15.7 million metric tons” for the 12-month period/year ending April 1. And this surplus is classified as exported or available for export.     

The 2012-13 surplus reportedly includes 7.7 million tons of rice, about 5 million tons of wheat and 3 million tons of corn. India is expected to overtake Thailand, once all the totals are tallied,  as the world’s biggest rice exporter in 2012 with shipments of more than 9 million tons.

Now, explain this exporting of commodity grains when all the reports I’ve seen and heard talk about the poverty of so many people in India and extreme malnutrition being a major problem. I’m not the expert on starvation and malnutrition, but I would bet the Indian people could have eaten all that “surplus” grain and there would have still been thousands hungry.

So, let’s just drop the Good Samaritan argument about how U.S. farmers need to raise more to feed the world. Demand for U.S. commodities will increase, but increased production will go to those countries and companies that are willing and able to pay.

Just like India farmer and grain merchandiser exporting, U.S. ag production is exported to make money. We don’t worry about whether it gets to people who are extremely malnourished.


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