Overview of the Farming Industry
Farming is most commonly referred to as Agriculture (which generally includes the production of crops (such as cereals and grains), raw materials and livestock, accounts for around 3% of global GDP. Many economists also choose to include the forestry, fishing, hunting industries in agricultural statistics. In the developing world agriculture as a percentage of gross domestic product can be much higher. It is a highly labour-intensive global agricultural industry that employs over one billion people. This figure is expected to fall in the future as the use of automated and mechanised farming practices continues to rise.
The industry involves the cultivation of plants and animals for the creation of food and other products that maintain populations. There are millions of farms around the world as well as an enormous number of farm related businesses supporting all aspects of farming supply chain. Most businesses in the farming industry aim to provide technology, machinery and labour that helped to irrigate, enhance and maintain farmland. The success of most of these businesses is strongly related to population growth, income levels and climate change. The effects of global warming are yet to be established. It is known that agriculture is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. In particular livestock production produces excessive and potentially harmful nitrous oxide and methane into the atmosphere. Similarly, the huge increase in the use of agricultural technologies (such as petrol based tractors and combine harvesters) has led to an increase in energy consumed in the farming industry.
Types of farming dictated by the nature of local topography and climate. For example, farming in the United Kingdom is predominantly made up of pastoral farming and arable farming. The UK has an excellent climate and rich soil. In the UK over three quarters of the land surface area is devoted to agricultural production. Despite intense mechanisation, the UK has around half a million workers (mostly part-time) involved in the farming industry spread over approximately 300,000 farms. Agricultural employees can expect a much higher wage than those working in developing countries where income levels are mostly lower and subsistence farming predominant.
The farming industry is associated and has to deal with many contentious issues that tend to divide policymaker and customer opinion. These controversial issues include; starvation in developing countries, water usage (causing shortages), pollution (phosphorous run off), land use capitalisation, deforestation, animal well-being, use of toxic pesticides (for pest control), fertilisers (for soil nutrient enrichment) and over production. For example, intensive farming practices have created an excess of supply, which have led to the creation of economic quotas across trade areas. These agreements have been characterised by intergovernmental squabbling regarding farm subsidies, quotas and 'food mountains' resulting from excessive production. Meanwhile, many developing nations have suffered terrible droughts and severe crop failures.
In many Western economies, organic farming has seen a recent surge in popularity. This surge has been driven by health-conscious consumers seeking out a healthier lifestyle, avoiding harmful chemicals in foods and toiletries products. Many retailers have capitalised on this trend by providing clearer labelling and sourcing healthier organic fruit, vegetables and meat for their shelves. Many supermarket chains have adapted their supply chains to include locally sourced farm produce (such as free range eggs and organic meats). Consumers are also increasingly concerned about the use of genetically modified crops, as well as the use of antibiotics and growth hormones in meat production.
Food price inflation impacts businesses operating across the farming industry. Food commodity prices are strongly influenced by global population growth and changing demands and needs. For example, elevated demand from China and India has led to an over production in bio fuels. Price volatility has a big impact on trade deficits or surpluses, and these in turn impact farmers incomes everywhere. The biggest issue of all Global population growth, which is forecast to rise dramataically. Consequently, food security policies of governments are becoming increasingly imperative.
With so many farms and farming related businesses in existence, finding a local supplier is straightforward if you live in the countryside. For city dwellers, contacting farming companies will probably start by referencing trade directories or browsing through online business directories. These may help to find listings of regionally based wholesale food suppliers of organic produce, or other farm related products or services.