Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Changes in Agribusiness May Quiet Predictions of Global Hunger

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Changes in Agribusiness May Quiet Predictions of Global Hunger

Article excerpt

A bumper crop of winter wheat is bursting from silos across America's heartland and - along with big yields overseas - muting recent warnings of global hunger. The abundant harvests are raising world grain stocks from a record low last year of just 13 percent of total consumption to a projected 16 percent this year. They are the newest talking point in a high-stakes debate over whether future grain production will be enough to feed the world's expanding population. Some Malthusian analysts warn the world is entering a period of scarcity. They note that as millions of people in developing nations begin to prosper, demand for grain is growing dramatically. Meanwhile, farmers have squeezed so much out of the land that productivity gains are now just slight. "The question is what happens when we have a poor harvest," says Lester Brown, president of the Worldwatch Institute in Washington. "In 1988 in the United States we had a severe drought that reduced the world grain harvest below consumption, and we have never rebuilt reserves back to the same level. If we had another poor harvest like that, it would be chaos in world grain markets by September," says Mr. Brown. Still, farmers throughout much of the world anticipate solid harvests this season, thanks to good weather and record high prices for corn and wheat last year. Their expected yields appear to reinforce the claim of optimistic analysts that ingenuity and market forces will reap continued abundance. The US corn crop later this year is expected to approach a record tally. "There have been the doomsday seers for 50 years about world grain production, and I don't see anything on the horizon that would prove them right," says Dave Miller, commodity specialist at the American Farm Bureau Federation in Park Ridge, Ill. "We continue to have production that in general is in excess of demand, and as soon as you get a shortfall, prices go up, stimulate new technology and resource allocation, and we fill the void again," he says. …
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