Farmers need more space to grow crops to meet mounting demand for food and renewable fuel at a time of slowing growth in yields, consultancy AgResource said on Tuesday.
A renewable fuel push under President Joe Biden's climate agenda is set to trigger a boom in soyoil use, reinforcing a worldwide picture of rising consumption of staple crops driven by China, Dan Basse, president of consultancy AgResource Co, told the GrainCom conference in Geneva.
At the same time, combined global yields of major grain crops appear to have leveled out in the past five years, he said.
"We need more acres," he said.
However, U.S. planted acreage may have reached a ceiling, Basse said, adding further cropland growth would need to occur primarily in South America, Africa, and the Black Sea region.
For renewable diesel, U.S. production capacity is set to double in the coming year as over 1 billion gallons in capacity comes onstream, he said.
With U.S. states barring companies from using imported feedstocks for such fuel, that could in theory create the need for an additional 40 million acres (16.2 million hectares) of soybean plantings in the United States, Basse said.
"I don't think there is any way America can shift 40 million acres to soybeans from other crops, but you're going to see some sort of shift," he said.
In China, demand for livestock feed, partly due to a rebuilding of the country's pig herd after a disease epidemic, has supported record grain imports.
AgResource estimates Chinese imports of feed grains reached nearly 54 million tonnes in 2020 — or about one in every four tonnes of feed grain traded worldwide — and will rise to a new record of almost 57 million tonnes in 2021, Basse said.
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