The Belt and Road International Animal Husbandry Forum
by Roger Gilbert
In mid-September I had the privilege of being invited to speak at the VIV China"s "Official Forum - The Belt and Road International Animal Husbandry Forum" that was held in Nanjing, China.
This afternoon meeting attracted some 100-plus delegates and hosted 13 presentations covering an extremely wide agenda, but all relating to the development of the Chinese initiative that will link countries along a railway line through to Europe and on sea lanes back to China, taking in some 65 countries in all.
It was clear from the focus on "animal husbandry" that agriculture would be a central platform for the meeting. It also turned
out that agriculture was considered the single most important common denominator that links all 65 countries.
While the VIV China exposition, with its three halls hosting exhibits ranging from "Feed-to-Food" was attracting a large attendance in the expo centre across the way, it was the Nanjing Congress Centre that offered the Forum and a range of industry- related meetings being co-located with the overall event.
Pig and poultry production played an important part in the three days of events, with feed and its related additives, ingredients and machinery products forming a central part in the largest of the three exposition halls.
In fact, it was the feed aspect that I wanted to focus on in my presentation on Global Feed Production to the Forum, and which I based on my on-going data collection since stepping down as Secretary General of the International Feed Industry Federation at the end of 2012. I was able to identify those countries that need support in developing their compound feed sectors and that the Belt and Road Initiative was offering a good opportunity for them to achieve this.
As many of you will already know, I have suggested that each country should adopt a "benchmark" for its compound feed production. I have even gone so far as to suggest what that "benchmark" might be if a country is to avoid food insecurity issues, particularly in terms of providing populations with sufficient protein from farmed livestock – and including fish production. My figures are based on the Annual Alltech Global Feed Survey plus annual population increases by country year-on-year. It is surprising to find that the metrix I have built consistently shows up a figure of approximately 133.6kg per capita of compound feed production to support a country in combating inadequate supplies of meat proteins in particular.
There is no doubt that without understanding or knowing the amounts of processed feed or where their animal feed is derived, there is little hope of addressing food insecurity in those countries that are suffering most.
I would even go so far as to suggest that the way animal rations are formulated needs to be more rigorously examined to ensure that we are getting the most from the raw materials being used in terms of protein output from our animals and fish. Why is it some countries use more minerals - and certainly more digestible minerals - and feed additives than others while using similar macro raw materials? Making our food-producing animals as efficient as possible, reducing stress and disease within their number, can only assist us in gaining more protein for human consumption at lower cost.
It is already clear from the Alltech Global Survey that lower feed prices can be passed on in lower food costs to the consumer.
Of the 65 countries along the Belt and Road corridor, that covers the most populated areas of the world, almost two-third fall below the 133.6kg/capita figure! The Chinese initiative offers those countries - that until now have largely been ignored by global trade due to their location and disadvantages by poor trade routes - to look to the benefits of regular means of importing and exporting goods within and between countries.
While the big economies discuss trade sanctions and threaten to disrupt each other"s agricultural trade, as well as most other forms of commodity and goods being traded, I believe it is "a light at the end of a very dark tunnel" for many countries that might now have an opportunity to develop their trading activities and bring about great attention to the production of scientifically- formulated compound feeds - that will go a long way to providing proteins that people want to eat at more affordable prices.