See how German grain merchants look for grain overseas

Germany’s food supply is generally self-sufficient with a slight surplus. This can be seen from the data released by the German government: half of Germany’s land is used for agriculture, and nearly one million people produce agricultural products worth more than 50 billion euros per year; Germany’s agricultural output is high, and one farmer can feed 142 people; Germany is the third largest in the world An agricultural product exporter and the largest producer of dairy products in the EU…

Nevertheless, Germany has been one of the world’s largest food importers for many years, and has always been a “food deficit country” with a deficit of tens of billions of euros each year. “On the one hand, it is to meet the domestic market demand, and on the other hand, it is to export again after deep processing.” German Munich agricultural economist Gunterdorf told the “Global Times” reporter, Germany has many grain merchants looking for grain overseas, and Build a complete food supply chain globally.

At present, most of the world’s nearly 80 large grain merchants are in the hands of large economies, especially the United States. Grain merchants such as Germany and Switzerland mainly cultivate grain production bases overseas through mergers and acquisitions of enterprises from other countries to prevent grain from being “stuck”.

The Baywa Group, established in 1923, is Germany’s largest agricultural product trading company. After building a domestic food network, Beva expanded overseas in the 1990s, first expanding its business to Austria, and then gradually expanding the network through the acquisition of agricultural companies in the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, and New Zealand.

“Grain merchants looking for grain overseas is a systematic project, which often reflects the strength of a country.” Gunterdorf said that in addition to the complete supply chain of grain, it also needs the support of transportation systems, finance, energy, chemical and other non-agricultural fields. . Therefore, grain merchants in countries such as Germany are all integrated groups.

In addition to grain merchants hoarding grain through market channels, the German government began to carry out grain reserves at the national level since the 1960s. At present, Germany has stored 800,000 tons of grain in 150 secret locations. When an emergency occurs, each resident can obtain 10 kilograms of grain in reserve. The German government has also been encouraging the people to store food for 10 days.

Gunterdorf said that the current global food supply is actually sufficient, but to prevent “food nationalism”, the key is to keep the global food trade unblocked. He believes that the future of food production will be more intelligent and networked. For example, Baiwa is now investing in blockchain, food production will be more transparent, and Africa will also be one of the focuses of investment.

Japan is narrow, long and mountainous, with scarce land resources and dependent on imports for food. According to Japan’s “Toyo Keizai” report, in 1960, Japan’s food self-sufficiency rate reached 80%. In the same year, with the signing of the “Japan-US Security Treaty”, Japan was forced to import a large amount of grain from the United States, which greatly dampened the self-sufficiency rate of grain. In the 21st century, the self-sufficiency rate of Japanese agro-food products has continued to decline due to the impact of aging and declining birthrates.

According to the 2018 data provided by the website of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan, the self-sufficiency rate of food in Japan is only 38% on the Japanese table. About 60% of the food comes from overseas, such as buckwheat mainly from China and the United States, and wheat from the United States and Canada.

A slight disturbance in the international situation will affect Japan’s food supply. In 1973, the poor domestic soybean harvest in the United States caused prices to rise. The then-U.S. President Nixon ordered a reduction in exports to Japan, resulting in a shortage of soy foods such as tofu, miso, and soy sauce that Japanese people depend on. Japan, which suffered so much, set its sights on the economically underdeveloped South America and hit it off with Brazil, which hoped to develop the northern region, and signed a cooperation agreement in 1974. In recent years, Brazil’s soybean exports to Japan have surpassed that of the United States.

In 2011, Japan’s Mitsubishi Corporation established a subsidiary in Brazil to purchase grain from the local area and export it to Japan. The annual sales volume reached 2 million tons. Since then, it has set its sights on Brazil’s largest grain production and sales group, through the joint operation of the parent company and the subsidiary company. Acquired 80% of the company’s shares. In the same year, Mitsui & Co., Ltd. purchased 45.1% of the shares of Multigrain AG, which is headquartered in Switzerland. Through a series of operations, Mitsui stabilized the entire supply system from grain production to grain logistics chain.

In addition, Japan, which has initiated foreign aid construction since the 1960s, regards agriculture as the highlight of its assistance to Africa, and participates in local agricultural development through technical support and loan assistance to African countries.

Although some Japanese food companies have deployed international markets early, the global food crisis in 2008 and the new crown epidemic in 2020 have both affected Japan’s food supply. According to the “Japan Agricultural News” report, the global epidemic in 2020 has caused many countries to restrict agricultural exports. At the same time, due to the termination of international personnel exchanges, Japan, which relies heavily on foreign technical interns, also feels the crisis. In the 2021 plan released by the Japan Agricultural Association, it will fully activate the abandoned farmland, and develop smart agriculture through agricultural robot farming, new AI technology, and the use of drones to fertilize and spray pesticides as an important goal. At the same time, on the basis of the government’s further relaxation of the length of stay of foreign technical intern trainees, it will increase the hourly salary of trainees and improve their living conditions to attract more foreign labor.

At the same time, many agricultural experts also believe that the epidemic is an opportunity for Japan to revive agriculture. On the one hand, due to the change in working conditions due to the epidemic, telecommuting has made it possible for people to return to the countryside to engage in agricultural production. On the other hand, it is also a good choice to return to the traditional Japanese diet that uses fermentation, pickling, and drying techniques to process and preserve food, and to establish recyclable agriculture based on traditional Japanese food such as miso and natto.