Farmer Focus: Rising population won’t benefit growers

Newsweek magazine tells us “If we are to avoid mass malnutrition, we are going to have to up our food production by 70% by 2050” because the world’s population is set to grow from 7bn to 9.6bn by then.

Well isn’t this a fantastic opportunity for all the world’s farmers to exploit? Except it isn’t, is it? It will be almost impossible for most farmers to be the benefactors of this demand.

In this day and age of extreme volatility for commodities such as wheat and beef, fortunes will be made one year and lost the next, so only the very brave will have the balls to invest in the tech required to achieve this growth in productivity. And who will these people be?

Sadly, I think it is more likely to be the readers of the Financial Times than the farmers reading this.

See also: Read more from our Arable Farmer Focus writers 

Anyway, enough of this depressing talk. Our local agricultural discussion society met recently and we had an entertaining and enlightening evening from two local stalwarts.

The two Charlies, one an ex-teacher and historian, the other a farmer who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of vintage agriculture, talked about the way things were on the farm, when, for example, the operator’s manual for a Fordson tractor extended to 65 pages, now you would be lucky if was only 300 pages.

We heard as far back as 1813 when the Border Agricultural Society was formed in Kelso.

Then the primary purpose of the society was to encourage efficiency and boost production.

The prize offered for the best ram in the show was 30 guineas, which today would be worth £25,000.

More than 200 years later, I am very privileged and proud to have been elected vice-chairman of the same society, sadly though while many of the society’s aims remain the same, the prize money will not.

Pity really, but can you imagine what the atmosphere around the ringside would be like.

Neil Thomson farms 607ha in partnership with his father and brother from Caverton Mill, Kelso, on the Scottish Borders, growing combinable crops and brassicas. Some of the mainly medium loam is let for potatoes, and the farm also has cattle and sheep

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