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INTRODUCTION: The food chain and the feeding chain

Crop managers have to keep improving their methods and techniques


November 13, 2007
By Peter Darbishire

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4aYou may – or may not – have heard the suggestion here first, but
grains and oilseeds producers are continuously prompted to work harder at growing
better quality crops. The idea being that better quality will keep markets secure
and result in better farmgate prices. The reality, though, is that prices inevitably
drop as time goes on, in spite of all the lobbying that goes into asking governments
to do something about the cost versus revenue crisis faced by so many producers.

This is all in stark contrast to the way of things in the public health sector:
a recent national story is the pending 'disaster' being faced by pharmaceutical
producers whose patents on numerous drugs are soon to expire. The figure of
US$80 billion in annual North American sales are at stake and the products are
most likely to be matched by generic versions at lower costs.

A quick glance at the farmgate receipts for Canadian field crops in 2004 tells
us that we produce about Cdn$9.5 billion annually, the profits from which (if
there are any) are presumably re-invested in the farm… just as the pharmaceutical
giants use profits from patent-protected drugs to develop new ones for the future.

The difference, of course, is that these corporations get a much better reception
from listeners in Washington, Ottawa, London, Paris and so on, than agricultural
groups. Evidently, the first step to good health (healthy and nutritious food)
is not the first agenda item at the trade policy feeding trough.

In the meantime, crop managers have no choice but to keep improving their methods
and techniques to further improve productivity and reduce costs.

In this issue, you will find more than a few ideas to help in this quest (there
is little we can do to assist in world agricultural trade matters). Look for
suggestions about how much fertilizer you really need after a year in which
you might not have had conditions to use what you applied for the 2005 crop;
and there are stories about weed and disease management, tillage methods and
specifics about speciality crops too.
Peter Darbishire, Editor

 


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