Against the grain: Agriculture grapples with price pressures

The gathering storm swirling around commodity markets augers of troubled times ahead. For agriculture, beset by the common concerns of currency fears, counterparty risk, an increased regulatory environment and once-bitten-twice-shy financial institutions, the climate is compounded by very real and entirely unique challenges. Climate itself is amongst those challenges, but with growing population, increasing competition for land use, declining-to-stable crop yields and access to water, the question of how agriculture meets those challenges is occupying more and more thought. The statistics are already eye-popping and, if true, the scale of the challenge ahead becomes more daunting. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization’s oft-quoted 70% increase in food production required by 2050 is a consistent headline grabber despite first appearing in 2009. In an article entitled “Barbarians at the farm gate” last year, The Economist stated “humans will need to produce [in the next 40 years] more food than they did in the previous 10,000 put together.” The magazine wasn’t alone — around the same time, UK newspaper The Independent picked up on a joint study involving Yale University, Michigan State University and Germany’s Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research that floated the alarming concept of ‘peak food’. Their research concluded that,

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