Leading the conversation on food security around the globe 

January 02, 2013

Cargill continues to establish itself as a thought leader on food security, as Cargill leaders contributed to the ongoing global discussion at three different conferences around the world.

At a conference sponsored by The Economist magazine in Hong Kong, Stan Ryan, platform leader for Cargill Agricultural Supply Chain (CASC), spoke about five major focus areas that will improve global food security. And at the Africa Green Revolution Forum in Tanzania, Johan Steyn, business unit leader for Grain & Oilseed Supply Chain (GOSC) Middle East and Africa, spoke on innovative finance mechanisms and Cargill’s work in Africa, which support and reduce risk for smallholder farmers. Lastly, in Tokyo, Vice President for Corporate Affairs in Asia-Pacific Bruce Blakeman participated in a food security workshop for member countries of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), sponsored by Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Focusing on farmer productivity and eliminating food waste

The Hong Kong conference sponsored by The Economist was titled “Feeding the World: Asia’s Prospect of Plenty.” Speakers included government officials, business leaders and journalists. Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, delivered a remote video address from Tanzania, where she was also participating in the Africa Green Revolution Forum.

Stan outlined five focus areas to address food security: free trade, flexible biofuel mandates, the development of African agriculture, growing farm productivity and more investment towards infrastructure and logistics.

While Cargill leaders have spoken extensively this year about the first three of these areas, Stan added particular attention to the latter two. He indicated that farmers around the world will be more productive if they have access to technology and training, have availability to finance, and have secure land rights, giving them both the opportunity and the incentive to invest in raising productivity.

He also spoke about reducing food waste through improving infrastructure in the developing world, a major opportunity for achieving the 70-percent increase in food production expected to be necessary by 2050.

“A recent study estimated that 40 percent of all food in India goes to waste as a result of insufficient transportation logistics,” he said. “An incredible amount of food is lost because we simply cannot get it from the farm to the market in time.”

Addressing farmer income and risk

At the African Green Revolution Forum in Arusha, Tanzania, the theme of the discussion was “scaling up investments and innovation for sustainable agricultural growth.” The forum was attended by a wide variety of participants, including representatives from governments, businesses and grass roots organizations. Kofi Annan, former secretary general of the United Nations and chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), offered the opening address for the event, and Melinda Gates gave the keynote speech.

Johan spoke about the important role African smallholders have to play in addressing global food security and shared the work Cargill is doing in Zambia to help cotton farmers realize the full value of their crop.

"Today, African farmers lack necessary access to credit. By providing training, access to credit and necessary inputs, we have been able to help increase farmer yields by at least 34 percent over the past two years,” said Johan.

He also made an important linkage for policymakers in the audience between clear land rights and farmer productivity.

"If the farmer does not have clear rights to land or is unable to capture the investments he has made when he transfers land, then the farmer simply will not invest and will never realize the full potential of his crop," he said.

A shift in growth and demand to Asia

In Tokyo, Bruce spoke about many of the same topics, focusing on the movement of economic growth and demand for food to Asia.

“Food security is not just about growing more food, which obviously has to happen,” Bruce said. “We also need to provide the right policy environment to allow food to flow from where it is grown to where the world’s population most needs it. And Asia is one of those areas.”