6 Forces Rewriting the Rulebook for Global Agriculture

02:34PM Jun 05, 2020
The world is facing a health pandemic, volatile economies and global leaders with strong personalities. Here are six forces to watch.
( Myles Cullen/White House, Kremlin.ru, The Kremlin, Anders Hellberg, Impossible Foods, NIAID )

Change is rarely a surprise. “It's the speed which it suddenly catches up to us,” explains Damien McLoughlin, professor of marketing at the University College Dublin in Dublin, Ireland.

The world is facing a health pandemic, volatile economies and global leaders with strong personalities. McLoughlin, who spoke during the Alltech ONE Virtual Experience, says it’s important to assess the major forces shaping the future of global agriculture. He encourages farmers to watch these leaders and major disruptors.

Photo: Myles Cullen/White House

1. President Donald Trump and Global Trade

“Since his election, he has committed the United States to an ‘America First’ trade policy,” McLoughlin says. “Whether you agree with the America First trade policy or not is irrelevant at this point. The principle of focusing on your own national interests when it comes to global trade is reflective and directive of a wider international trend.”

This trend is also evident in the United Kingdom, he notes, with the country’s commitment to Brexit. 

“So, what we are inevitably likely to see post COVID-19 is a reduction in the attractiveness of global trade and production,” he says. 

Photo: Kremlin.ru

2. President Vladimir Putin and the Oil Industry

The oil industry is obviously in a precarious situation, McLoughlin explains. 

“It has always been heavily influenced by the relationship between supply and demand,” he says. “President Putin decides that he does not wish to reduce oil production as part of the OPEC+ deal in order to stabilize prices. And so, the OPEC+ deal collapses. Oil prices collapse, head into negative territory, followed by a stock market collapse.”

Photo: The Kremlin

3. Premier Xi Jinping and Chinese Farm Consolidation 

In 2016, the 13th National Plan in China focused on a shift in farming from small farms to large farms. This came as a result of concern over food safety in the Asian country, McLoughlin explains.

“Premier Xi Jinping and the Chinese people have committed themselves to a larger farm structure and the consolidation, particularly of the swine industry,” he says. “Alongside African Swine Fever, what we have seen is a very significant consolidation of the Chinese swine industry and as a result of that, a change in how animal feed is consumed in the world.”

Those changes, he notes, have also affected how swine is imported and exported. 

Photo: Anders Hellberg

4. Greta Thunberg and Climate Change

As one of the most divisive characters to emerge in the world over the past couple of years, activist Greta Thunberg has created a movement, McLoughlin says. 

“It doesn't matter whether you like her or you don't,” he says. “She has introduced younger people and older people to the principle that each of us has an individual responsibility to do something about the environment.”

Photo: Impossible Foods

5. Pat Brown and Plant-Based Protein

As the CEO of Impossible Foods, Pat Brown has emerged as a social entrepreneur who has a goal of replacing beef with non-animal alternatives. 

“I don't believe his motivation is for profit; it is to change an industry and to build an alternative supply chain to the one which many of us have made our living in for many years,” he says. 

Photo: NIAID

6. COVID-19

Of course, the mega trend causing the most uncertainty around the world is COVID-19. “What it has done, and is doing, is leading to a fundamental re-evaluation of business models,” McLoughlin says. “There are two obvious things emerging from this COVID-19 re-evaluation of business models.”

  1. The world is now absolutely committed to the digital ways of doing business.
  2. Crises like COVID-19 do not introduce new trends into the industry. “What they do is they accelerate existing trends,” he says.


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