Ag must embrace collaboration, sustainability
Grain companies and other agri-businesses must embrace science, collaboration and sustainable practices to strengthen food security and meet global challenges, such as rapidly changing food demands, world hunger and more, an expert on international agricultural production said.
"Agriculture must be responsive to consumers' demands the more the world grows, and that means being responsive to different markets, different ethnic groups, different needs," said Alejandro Munoz, vice president for the Americas and global production at Pioneer Hi-Bred International, the largest U.S. producer of hybrid seeds for production agriculture. "As we move forward, we must be more sensitive to the products we are bringing to the tables. Grain handlers are the key to this issue."
Munoz said grain handlers and other agricultural businesses demand Pioneer and other companies provide more information about their products - and urged them to continue doing so. That kind of collaboration, he said, is essential to increase agricultural output while producing healthy, nutritious, safe and affordable food. Furthermore, new discoveries, science and products are helping agriculture grow more, better and safer crops for an exploding global population in ways that minimize impacts to natural resources.
"When I wake up every morning, I think, 'What are we doing to put more food on the table for people?'" Munoz said. "I take that responsibility very seriously."
Munoz defined food security as giving all people access to enough food at all times. The challenge will only increase, he said, as the world adds 100 million more people to the global population every year; the middle class in China, India, Brazil and other populous countries expands; and one in six people is malnourished. Confronting these needs is the fact that less land is being used for crops and less water is available for agriculture.
For the grain sector, the new reality is a 180-degree reversal of past conditions: Instead of past stockpiles of grain, supply today is low, putting pressures on commodities markets.
"It's going to take more than one good crop harvest to replenish the supplies," Munoz said. "It has to be a long-term solution."
Some areas he said agriculture should focus on include striking the right balance between crop management and genetics, since nutrients will need new management systems for crop production.
Munoz said the food supply must also ensure that any safety recalls are done promptly, while addressing a diverse range of consumer concerns.
Ultimately, agriculture must embrace the latest science, adapt it for local conditions, promote sustainable practices and collaborate across the board to meet the challenge of feeding a more crowded world.
"There is no government, no country, no company that can solve all the problems alone," Munoz said. "We must all work together to find the solutions to our common challenges."
Munoz spoke at a breakfast session of the Michigan Agri-Business Association's 79th annual Winter Conference in Lansing. His topic, "Future of technology, efforts to feed the world and what we can expect from the agronomy and grain handling perspectives," highlighted global trends and challenges facing agriculture and the grain sector.
"As we've seen time and time again in recent years, droughts and other natural disasters that put pressure on global grain supplies, whether in Russia or South America, will have an impact on the food supply and agriculture must respond appropriately," MABA President Jim Byrum said. "Alejandro Munoz brings an up-to-date global perspective on how agriculture can evolve and keep pace with the challenges we face going forward."