Cargill CEO: How Sustainable Agriculture Can Prevent a Global Food Crisis
David W. MacLennan, CEO of Cargill, discusses the impact of supply chain disruptions on the global food supply and the importance of sustainable agriculture.
Air Date: May 10, 2022
Moderator: Nisha Biswal, Senior Vice President, International Strategy and Global Initiatives and South Asia
Featured Guests: David W. MacLennan, CEO, Cargill
In recent years, global complications such as the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and geopolitical conflicts have prompted major supply chain disruptions around the world. As concerns about a possible global food crisis rise, leaders in the food and agriculture sectors must engineer new ways to feed a rapidly growing population.
David. W. MacLennan, CEO of Cargill, joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for its 2nd Annual Global Forum to discuss the impact of supply chain disruptions on the global food supply and how sustainable agricultural practices can help alleviate world hunger.
Supply Chain Disruptions Are Contributing to a Global Food Crisis
MacLennan, who heads the world’s largest agricultural company, pointed to supply chain disruptions as one of the most significant threats to the global food system.
“Hunger is very real,” MacLennan said. “It always has been, but we're at a point in time where there's a lot of things that are playing into this unlike ever before.”
MacLennan added that in addition to the impact the pandemic and geopolitical conflicts have had on trade, burgeoning inflation and droughts caused by climate change have also led to “very tight supply and demand conditions.”
“The areas of the world that are most vulnerable, where the people have suffered the most — their vulnerability will only be exacerbated by what we're seeing,” MacLennan added.
Farmers Have a Key Role to Play in Developing Sustainable Agriculture
When asked how agricultural leaders like Cargill are tackling the challenges facing the global food system, MacLennan emphasized the role farmers will play in helping to develop a sustainable approach to food production.
“We depend on our farmers,” he said. “That's where it all begins. If the farming community around the world isn't healthy and sustainable, then the rest of the world can't be fed.”
MacLennan noted that when it comes to finding ways to reduce resource usage while increasing the global food supply, the farming community is on the frontlines.
“We have made tremendous strides in terms of working with our farmers, and they're at the forefront,” MacLennan added.
“They are the ones that are custodians of this world's resources: the soil, the air, [and] the water,” he said. “We are focusing on regenerative [agriculture] and have signed up thousands of farmers through partnerships to teach them regenerative agricultural practices.”
Agricultural Leaders Rely on a Government Policy of Open Trade
To effectively alleviate global hunger, MacLennan says leaders worldwide must advocate for government policies that favor open trade.
“The fact is, the world's food system is interconnected,” MacLennan said. “If we break down global supply chains for food and agriculture, the food crisis will only become worse.”
“The worst thing that we can do in terms of feeding a growing and hungry planet is close down trade,” he added.
MacLennan argued that businesses in the agricultural sector should come together to influence global trade policy.
“I think we all need to be a voice for keeping markets open,” he said. “Open trade is vital to feeding a growing planet [and] vital to sustainability — and the two are really inextricably linked.”