The Geneva Global Grain (GGG) Conference will be held from 12th to 14th November 2019 at the InterContinental Hotel, Geneva. GGG is the ‘must-attend’ event for anyone involved in the international grain trade.
Dan Basse, President of AgResources, will be giving the keynote presentation on Wednesday 13th November, the first day of the main conference. I recently had the pleasure to interview Dan for my new book, ‘Out of the Shadows – The New Merchants of Grain’. We found we had something in common. We both grew up on pig farms, and we both founded our own analytical and research companies: his on grains and mine on sugar.
During our conversation he told me that he was worried about ASF—African Swine Disease—and the impact that it could have on global grain and oilseed demand. He explained that pharmaceutical companies have spent millions of dollars trying to find a cure or a vaccine for the disease, but so far have come up with nothing. “It’s an old disease,” he added, “first discovered in the early 1900s in South Africa. It’s virulent.” He added that we are at least five years from a vaccine or antidote.
Dan told me that he was also worried about the weedkiller glyphosate, explaining that there isn’t a good substitute except for manual or mechanical cultivation. He estimated that if glyphosate were banned or removed from the market, “we could lose 15 to 20 percent in yields. And of course, if we go back to tilling, we’d have more carbon in the atmosphere, and we’d have to have more passes over the fields. And we’d have to bring in more land to produce the same amount of food.”
Guy Hogge, Global Head of Sustainability at Louis Dreyfus Company, is on the keynote panel that follows Dan’s presentation. I interviewed him for my earlier book ‘Commodity Conversations’. At the time, I asked him then whether it was better to engage with, rather than ban, suppliers that fail to meet social and environmental norms.
He replied that “avoiding questionable supply chains completely may be an easy way to refrain from dealing with an issue, but it is not the best way to inspire and encourage change on the ground. If you want to address issues, you have to be involved in them, alongside other relevant stakeholders.”
Swithun Still, Director of Solaris Commodities S.A., and current President of Gafta, is also speaking at GGG. I interviewed him for ‘Commodity Conversations’ and he has also written—in a personal capacity—the preface to my new book.
In that preface he writes, “People can get by without buying many things in life, but not food. We’re dealing with the very fabric of life, with grains that make our bread, our pasta, our couscous, our biscuits. As the world population booms, our agricultural systems will be tested fully. As merchants of grain, we have a duty to help our farmers and customers make sure that, together, we feed the world without destroying it.”
“I’m a merchant of grain,” he added. “I’m proud of the work that we conduct in the grain trade.”
About 1,000 ‘Merchants of Grain’ from 65 countries will be attending Global Grain Geneva, of which 80 will be presenting or moderating over 30 sessions, including Dan Basse’s assessment of the 2019 harvest season and trade projections for 2020. The event is perfect both for networking and learning. I will be there, and I hope you will be there too.
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