“The Importance of Trade in an Uncertain World” was the theme of the U.S. Grains Council’s 49th Annual Board of Delegates Meeting.

More than 300 U.S. farmers, agribusiness representatives and international agriculturalists gathered in San Diego, Calif., this week to identify ways U.S. farmers and agribusinesses can help curb global hunger.

“How many presently low income consumers are lifted out of poverty will be the most important determinant of the future global demand for food,” said Robert L. Thompson, Gardner Endowed chair in agricultural policy at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Thompson told meeting attendees that developed countries are shrinking in population, but under-developed countries like China and India continue to grow. The projected world population is expected to grow by 2.6 billion people by 2050.

“1.4 billion people live on less than $1.25 per day, 1 billion of whom suffer from hunger and malnutrition. 2.1 billion people live on less than $2.50 per day. The growth in population creates the need and the increase in purchasing power translates that need into market demand. As the incomes of these under-developed countries rise from $2 a day to $10 per day, people will eat more meat, dairy products, fruits, vegetables and edible oils, causing a rapid growth in the raw agricultural commodity demand,” said Thompson.

“Not all countries are affected by the economic crisis. Asian countries are significantly less affected by the economic crisis. As they continue to grow, so will their need and ability to purchase more meat, milk and eggs.”

Trade will play a significant role in improving the lives of people around the world, said Thompson, providing a better standard of living. “Obtaining goods that others can produce at a lower cost in exchange for things we can produce cheaper will strengthen the households’ purchasing power ability and the country’s gross national product by employing its land, labor and capital where they are the most productive.”

Thompson believes the projected world food demand will double in first half of the century due to the 50 percent increase in world population growth and the 50 percent increase from broad-based economic growth in low income countries.

“It is in our economic self interest to focus on the completion of the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round. They are the only potential growth markets for agricultural products, but only if and when they can afford to eat meat, fruits, vegetables and edible oils. Trade is a more powerful engine of growth than aid. With almost half the world’s population living on less than $2 per day, it’s the right thing to do,” he said.