WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — With more than 7 billion humans
sharing the earth, agriculture has a huge job to do — provide enough food for
everybody in a sustainable manner.
Producing high yields on as little land as possible is the
agricultural goal for most countries as populations increase and demand for food
“Who is going to win this competition toward this growing
market of consumers?” asked Marcos Fava Neves, a professor at the University of
São Paulo and visiting professor at Purdue University. “The winners will be the
countries or the states or the regions that better use their resources towards
the growth in world consumptions.”
During the Top Farmer Crop Workshop at Purdue, Neves defined
resources as food, water, people, education, technology, information and other
He used a triangle trends model that illustrated how
resources, risks and consumption are all intertwined to set the stage for
“We have to build up and use our resources to take advantage
of the consumption growth,” he said.
The movement of people from rural to urban areas has a large
impact on the agricultural industry due to changes in eating habits.
While eating on a farm in India, Neves had a plate of rice.
While visiting the city, he ate at McDonald’s.
Meeting the increasing and changing demands of consumers is
critical, the professor said.
When talking about growing economies, China is one of the
first that comes to mind for many people. But Neves said that countries such as
India are very relevant to the future of ag.
“I had my first chance to go to India this year,” he said.
“I will bet with you that in this conference, five years from now, India will be
much more spoken about than China, because it’s impressive what you see going on
“They are 40 percent urban, 60 percent rural. India grows 2
million people per month. They will gain in terms of population one USA for each
15 years. In 10 years, they’ll have a GDP 100 percent bigger. For me, that’s
where the real transformation is going to be in the next 10 to 15 years.”
Neves said that the average acreage per farmer in India is
2.4 acres. This has to be split among several children down the road.
The need to make farming more efficient is especially
important in areas like this, the professor said.
“Imagine all those people there competing for water,
competing for land,” he said. “Because cities are growing, cities are taking
In India, a food security bill was designed to deliver grain
and foods to those in need in the country. The bill included an increase in
grain consumption by 60 to 70 million tons, Neves said.
“That’s what’s going on over there,” he noted. “They are
either going to have to produce it or buy it from outside.”
While India and China are growing, they are not the top
importers in agriculture.
According to statistics from the U.S. Department of
Agriculture, the largest food importers right now are countries in Africa and
the Middle East.
“The biggest food importer today is Africa, and it will
continue to be until they can urbanize better and come as a world food
supplier,” Neves said.
He predicted that African countries will continue to import
for about 10 years. He said that their land and water resources will allow them
to transition and eventually become a food exporter in 15 to 20 years.
“All over the world is the same phenomena that you see here,
about the land prices in Indiana and in other parts of the U.S.,” he said. “It’s
the same going on all over the world because we cannot create new land, and
that’s the challenge.
“That puts a challenge over our farmers because they’re
working on an asset that has tripled in value over the last 10 or 15 years. They
must be much more efficient because the cost of the land that they’re working