Juan Luciano, chairman and chief executive officer of Archer Daniels Midland Co., Chicago, told members of the National Grain and Feed Association during their annual meeting in New Orleans on March 20, that despite twists and turns in world events in recent months, there was good cause to be optimistic about the future of the food and agriculture industry.
Mr. Luciano said there has been a lot of change in a short period that has put many people on edge. He pointed to the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom and the U.S. election and the uncertainties attending to these events, which have consumed the headlines.
But there are some definite positives and challenges in the world outlook for food and agriculture that that often aren’t given their due consideration, he said. Mr. Luciano expounded on four.
First, he reminded NGFA members 90% of the world’s population resides in developing nations, and for many of this vast population life has been getting better during the last 20 years. The percentages of the world’s population living in poverty or experiencing chronic hunger both have been halved during that span, and a growing middle class in these countries is emerging.
“Things often are better than we seem to think they are,” Mr. Luciano said.
Second, he noted we also have seen other nations and regions rise to compete with the United States in world markets, including agricultural markets. The food and agriculture industry confronts a multipolar world where the United States faces the challenge of adjusting to these new realities.
A third feature of the current environment for agricultural businesses is the shift in consumer preferences and expectations with regard to the health and nutrition of their food, and this shift was taking place not just in the United States but also worldwide. He provided examples from the ADM experience with regard to its efforts to ensure product traceability and sustainability.
And fourth, Mr. Luciano pointed to both the challenges and opportunities provided by the phenomenal pace of technological change. He said it was essential for the food industry to leverage and embrace the new technologies if it is to thrive.
Mr. Luciano asserted the food and agriculture industry was well positioned to adjust successfully to the changing times. But he added it was important for the industry to continue to work with government and affirm how important trade is to the United States.
“Trade is not a zero-sum game,” Mr. Luciano said.
Trade is essential if the world is to meet the needs of the 9 billion people forecast to be living in 2050. He pointed out the United States has enjoyed a balance of trade surplus in agricultural products in each of the past 50 years. And this success story must be brought to the attention of the new administration and other policymakers in Washington.