Unsurprisingly, the high price of feed and the difficulties this is causing animal production were a common topic of conversation at the recent edition of VIV Asia, which took place in Bangkok, Thailand, during March.
While demand for animal feed is rising globally, the increase in crop yields, while continuing, is failing to keep pace. And while parts of the world that were once more isolated are now feeding into global supplies, problems remain with infrastructure meaning that accessing these crops can be a difficult and costly business.
As part of the Feedtech-Croptech Conference, organized by VNU in association with WATT Publishing, feed industry consultant Philippe Serene illustrated how the feed industry has undergone a dramatic expansion in Vietnam.
He noted that, over the last 20 years, the feed market in the country had undergone dramatic expansion to become the second largest in Asia. Prior to 1991, there was very little production in the country. Now, however, local production is thought to stand at 10.9 million tons, while the home market is thought to consume 30 million tons. Home production is forecast to reach 19.2 million tons by 2020.
Vietnam is not alone in witnessing strong growth over the last decade, and with such strong growth, it is little surprise that pressure is increasingly being put on supplies and hence costs are rising. If climate change, natural disasters and biofuels are added to the picture then there could be little light at the end of the tunnel.
In such a market, the interest in alternative ingredients, of course, increases. Budi Tangendjaja, technical consultant to the US Grains Council noted that the corn stock in the world is shrinking and that Asia will remain a net importer of grain.
To help counter this, he recommended looking to agri-industrial products that are locally available, low cost, generate income for the supplying industry, are easy to collect and that do not compete with human food. However, while this may sound like an easy solution, he cautioned that with co-products there are often problems with variability, there can be seasonal quality concerns , chemical and adulteration concerns, as well as digestibility and handling and processing issues.
And anyone considering using alternatives needs to understand that they can be bulky and hence costly to move, and fuel prices are rising. They may not be suitable for young animals, and so given all of the above it must be firmly established that their use is profitable before any decision is taken.
But the possibilities for using alternatives should not all be seen as negative. As with anything, it is a case of not missing the opportunities that present themselves.
The Five Ds
Alongside VIV Asia, Alltech ran a seminar looking at entrepreneurship. It was pointed out that the to be an entrepreneur you have to be an optimist and an optimist looks for opportunities in every difficulty. And you have to keep asking questions – you have to be curious until you are satisfied!
Alltech president Dr Pearse Lyons quoted the “Five Ds” – Dream, Desire, Dare, Decide, Dedicate. While not referring specifically to the current situation in the feed market, the Five Ds are certainly applicable to anyone looking to find cheaper alternatives. There are thought to be some 400,000 plant species in the world, and it should always be remembered that the plants that we cultivate today and consider as crops, were, once upon a time, wild plants just like all others.
Of course, selection and breeding have taken place, but somebody back in history recognized the potential of certain species and brought them into cultivation. So perhaps more chances need to be taken now, whether it is greater acceptance and use of genetic modification, looking at waste products as co-products, or looking at plant species that have to date been underutilized or ignored.
Certainly there is a desire to supply the world’s growing livestock industry, and there are a lot of people in the feed sector with dedication. Perhaps it is time to dream and dare a little bit more.