The lurking menace of weeds – Farmers’ enemy #1

Here is quite an interesting article from the FAO about the cost of weeds in agriculture.

 the more weeds, the less yieldAccording to their numbers, weeds limit crop yields to such an extent that the world misses yearly the equivalent of 380 million of wheat a year, or in money $95 billion. My first reaction was that there is an untapped market for herbicides producers, but the article describes ways of getting rid of the weeds that do not require the use of chemicals.

Compared with the medical cost of obesity in the US of $147 billion a year, or the contribution of the US meat and poultry industry of $382 billion per year to the economy, or the TARP funds for the banks of $700 billion, or the estimated financial toxic assets losses worldwide of $4 trillion, the $95 billion does not seem that big a number after all.

Yet, 380 million tonnes wheat equivalent represent, according to the FAO, half of the 2009 expected world wheat production!

Assuming simplistically that with this wheat we would feed people only a diet of bread, this could feed decently more than 1 billion people! This is all the more amazing as the FAO currently estimates the number of hungry people in the world at 1 billion. Clearly, there should be some possible solutions if policies and politics were targeted at the right goals.

Always interesting to put numbers in a different perspective…