MLC Outlook predicts shaky future

In the near future global food supplies will become less secure and prices more volatile.

This chilling prediction was made by Meat and Livestock Commission Chairman Peter Barr as he opened the organisation's annual Outlook Conference yesterday (Tuesday).

The event, held in London, attracted delegates from across the meat and livestock industry.

Mr Barr said: "I predict we will see global protein shortages within our own lifetime - and I'm not just referring to meat when I say this.

"There is a finite availability of agricultural land. And with population growth there is increased competition for land between urban development and the production of food, animal feed, and now biofuels.

"On top of this there are the pressures caused by short-term crises as a result of disease, droughts and floods and the longer-term impacts of climate change all of which destabilise world trade.

"Food security has not been a fashionable topic. But, it is one I have been raising for a number of years, and it is now rapidly rising up the agenda.

"There is certainly a good deal of food for thought for policy makers around the world.

"Consumers too may have to re-evaluate their stance on some critical issues such as GM solutions and intensive production methods.

"I am, therefore, pleased to see the Cabinet Office strategy unit is working on a special project looking at the need for a co-ordinated UK food policy."

The keynote speech was given by Defra minister Lord Rooker who set out the Government's vision for the industry while Mike Coupe, Trading Director at J Sainsbury, outlined how British meat fits into the JS business model and how JS sees red meat supply chains evolving in the future.

From the US, leading industry consultant John Nalivka spoke about trends and new developments in the US industry. He was followed by Tara Garnett, Coordinator of the Food Climate Research Network.

The afternoon was split into two parallel sessions, one for beef and sheep and the other for pigs, where MLC experts set out the market outlook for the cattle and sheep and pig sectors and presented MLC's latest market forecasts.