By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor
CHICAGO (DTN) -- Ray Wyse opted to be a contrarian at the DTN/Progressive Farmer Ag Summit.
Wyse, a grain-industry strategist for S.W.A.T. LLC, in Omaha, Neb., on Monday shared with farmers some different perspectives on long-term trends in agriculture and future food demand that go against conventional wisdom often heard today.
Wyse goes against the grain, so to speak, when it comes to the old argument that the world isn't making more farmland. The world might not be making more, but there is idle ground out there globally that can be put into production or used more efficiently. For example, there are still potentially more than 50 million acres just in the former Soviet Union countries that were once in production, but became idle when the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s.
"They have got a lot issues around land ownership," Wyse said, adding, "but there is a lot of ground over there now."
While the U.S. views itself as the dominant global crop producer, only about 10.5% of global planted acres are in the U.S. and acreage growth in the U.S. has risen less than 5% since 2005, he said. The expansion in global acreage has exploded outside the U.S.
"If you think about it, the U.S. is becoming less relevant in an accelerated rate," Wyse said.
Other countries also "create more land" through double cropping. Farmers in Brazil double crop more than 22 million acres now, an increase of more than 14 million acres of double cropping just since 2005, Wyse noted.
Wyse also examined the arguments that the planet will have to increase food production 70% by 2050. Such figures are based on United Nations analysis that global population will grow to more than 9 billion people by then. Wyse, however, showed that most of the U.N. estimates on higher global population focus on one continent -- Africa. North America, Europe and even Asia plateau in population, but the U.N. shows Africa's population skyrocketing.
"Basically, it's all about Africa," he said.
The problem, Wyse said, is that the U.N. estimates some countries such as Nigeria will grow to have as many as 440 million people by 2050. Effectively, that translates in to taking 140% of the U.S. population and squeezing it all into a country slightly larger than Texas. Not only would that be a congested population density in Nigeria, but that also assumes violent ethnic divisions in such a country dissipate.
The U.N. also shows the Central African Republic would have intense population density as well. The CAR currently is in such turmoil that French and African troops are now landing to quell near anarchy conditions. Yet, the U.N. forecasts population density of 400 people per square kilometer, a population density equivalent to the Netherlands now.
The small country of Burundi is forecast to have 800 people per square kilometer by 2050.
"I think we can legitimately question the number of people coming for dinner," Wyse said of 2050 population estimates.
Looking at profit opportunities in agriculture, Wyse said on-farm storage should be viewed as "profit centers" for farmers rather than "loss avoidance" bins. U.S. grain elevators and on-farm bins make the U.S. the "warehouse to the world," he said. "The world is looking for us to store grain here."
Wyse is a former risk manager in oilseeds, grain and energy for Archer Daniels Midland Company. Wyse also served on the board of directors of the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange and the Seed Crushers and Oilseed Processors Association of the United Kingdom (SCOPA). Before starting his own business, Wyse also was former senior director of trading and research for Gavilon Group in Omaha.
Chris Clayton can be reached at email@example.com
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