The ever-changing global economy
Posted on March 2, 2012 in Swine Performance
By Al Gunderson
Browse the Internet on your tablet or smartphone and you know we’re living in a global world where information flows across borders seamlessly. That applies to economics too. The Greek debt crisis plunged the whole Euro zone into crisis and affected our U.S. markets. A huge, global trading company placed a “bet” on the outcome and, within two days, found itself bankrupt, putting the commodity markets into a deep sea of uncertainty. It seems the other major contributor to global commodity supply and demand swings is China. My recent trip to this evolving nation helped me see the challenges and global impacts it may have in the years ahead. China is not governed with the same form of communism we liken to the former Soviet Union. China has been shaped by “five-year plans” since 1949. A five-year plan is a process used to determine how to develop the entire country over a span of five years. In the past, China pursued a planned economy model, where the central government allocated resources and decided the targets for each region. Now the Chinese government is moving away from the Soviet-style planned economy to a socialist market economy. In its 12th five-year plan, which will guide development from 2011 to 2015, China has put forth the following goal: Address rising inequality and create an environment for more sustainable growth by prioritizing more equitable wealth distribution, increasing domestic consumption and improving social infrastructure and social safety nets.
This plan is representative of China’s efforts to rebalance its economy, shifting emphasis from investment toward consumption and from urban and coastal growth toward rural and inland development. So how does this affect our farm businesses a half a world away? The world’s most populous nation, China has 22 cities with more than 5 million people each and 140 cities with 1 million or more. As Chinese incomes rise and domestic consumption increases, the demand for animal-based protein in exploding. That’s especially relevant to the pork industry because, according to Dr. David Meisinger with the Iowa Pork Center of Excellence, pork production in China represents 10 percent of the Consumer Price Index (CPI). So how do you develop a global perspective that will help you keep up on events that might bring change to your doorstep? Here are some things you can do:
- Read. Whether it’s a newspaper or Internet articles, widen your scope to see the world through the eyes of others.
- On that note, subscribe to a business publication like the Wall Street Journal. It will give you information about what’s happening in the world and where investments are being made that can shape your future costs of inputs and outputs.
- Watch the markets – and not just the feed and livestock markets. Keep an eye on oil, currency values and foreign catastrophes.
- Think global, but act local. Protect your margins first.
- Ask your professional advisors – banker, nutritionist, vet, etc. – what they are hearing and seeing. Use them. They are watching these events as well.
- Don’t be afraid of change. Try new things. What would your operation look like if you were stuck doing what you did 10 years ago?
About the author: Al Gunderson is the vice president of sales and marketing for Vita Plus. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in meat and animal science along with his master’s degree in agricultural business management. He has been an employee owner for the past 32 years, beginning his career as a swine product manager. In addition to his sales and marketing responsibilities, Gunderson also leads the purchasing group for the Madison facility. In these roles, he works closely with the swine technical and sales team to insure the best value ingredients are provided to Vita Plus swine customers. Gunderson is the chairman-elect for AFIA, chairman on the board of trustees for IFEEDER, and a member of ASAS and ARPAS. He lives in Wisconsin with his wife, Debi. They have three sons, Greg, Adam and Andrew.