Developing world to become food commodity hub

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags International trade Developed country

Global agriculture and trade for most commodities are set to centre
on developing countries in the next ten years - a prediction that
gives weight to food industry strategies to build a presence in
emerging markets.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) made the forecast in its annual Agricultural Outlook for 2008 to 2018, which was released yesterday, in partnership with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). As food companies are extending their operations into developing countries, with China, India and Russia being amongst the favourites. While the rationale is to be closer to markets where consumer spending powder will likely mushroom, bringing with it a major shift in eating habits, companies are also likely to find themselves closer to raw material sources. The outlook says the "the epicentre of global agriculture will more from the OECD countries, towards developing countries"​ in the next ten years. OECD countries include much of Western Europe, as well as the Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Poland, Turkey Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada, Japan, Korea and Mexico. Both consumption and production are growing faster in developing countries than in developed countries, for all commodities except wheat. The outlook covers cereals, oilseed, sugar, meats, milk and dairy produce. "By 2017, these countries are expected to dominate production and consumption of most commodities, with the exception of coarse grains, cheese, and skim-milk powder,"​ it says. The organisations say that, of developing countries, China and India will remain the growth leaders, in parallel with GDP growth as they become more integrated into global markets. Demand for agricultural commodities is linked directly to population, and the fastest population growth is expected in Africa, with annual average growth of over 2 per cent. In Europe, on the other hand, population is expected to stabilise. The report expects there to be parallel shifts in trade, with developing countries importing more - but other developing and emerging countries are capturing an every larger share of the potential this offers to trade partners. Grains ​Following recent weather factors that have had a fierce impact on harvest, Australia is expected to resume its position of being the second biggest wheat exporter after the US. Ukraine is also expected to increase its exports to coarse grains. Demand for wheat will be fuelled by South and East Asia, Nigeria and Egypt. China is cited as a clear exception, since diets are shifting towards processed foods in keeping with income rises. Trade-wise, Saudi Arabia recently opted to phase out subsidies for wheat, and exports are therefore expected to increase. Beside this the outlook says it projects expanding exports from OECD countries, but "most of the growth in import demand will be satisfied through larger shipments from emerging and developing countries, particularly Ukraine and Argentina."Rice ​ Rice production is expected to increase by around 10 per cent over the outlook period, mainly due to larger crops from Asian and South Asian countries. However this looks to be a result of increased productivity, as rice growing area is set to decrease as land dedicated to rice growing comes under pressure from competition from other crops and uses. Developed countries (EU and Japan) are also likely to plant less. Rice will become even more important in the African diet, with per capita consumption to rise from 22 to 24kg over ten years. Global rice trade will fall, says the outlook, as there is more self-sufficiency amongst producing countries. Oilseed ​Oilseed demand is driven largely by livestock production, since livestock are fed protein meal derived from oilseed. Biofuels are also a major factor in demand. ​Oilseed consumption in developing countries will increase by some 50 per cent by 2017, compared to 2005-7 baseline. China and its livestock sector will account for around half of this growth, the outlook says. The EU is likely to remain the biggest importer, but imports will fall somewhat as more of the protein meal used comes from domestically produced and crushed oilseeds - rapeseed meal in particular. ​After the EU, China will become the second biggest oilseed importer, preferring, as it does, to crush seeds locally so as to benefit from the value-added potential of the resulting oils. However crushing industry will grow at a lower rate than in the previous decade because of falling consumption growth. Argentina is said to be in a position to consolidate its position as a region hub for oilseed crushing. Brazil is expected to increase its share of exports from 30 to 40 per cent over the decade. Sugar ​Brazil is anticipated to remain the world centre for sugar and ethanol production, and to be the centre for setting sugar prices. In the EU, in the wake of sugar reform, production will decrease and imports rise - perhaps to a level where it becomes the world's biggest importer. Imports are to come, preferentially, from less developed countries. Developing countries are accounting for almost all of the production and consumption increase, because of population increases and new ability to buy luxury foods as incomes increase. Meat ​Overall, meat production is expected to increase by an average of 2 per cent, but with great differences between regions. In OECD countries it is expected to increase by half a per cent, but in non-OECD countries by around 2.5 per cent per year. Investment, capacity, infrastructure improvements and new production methods are spurring growth, especially in China, Brazil and Argentina. The US, Canada, Argentina, Australia and Brazil will remain dominant, as trade recovers from damaging disease outbreaks. In terms of meat consumption, again developing countries are driving growth. They are said to account for a massive 80 per cent of growth increase, with Asia and the Pacific a major force.

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