The last twenty years have brought unprecedented developments to Chinese agriculture, but they have also brought challenges that have shaken the food chain and led to diminished consumer confidence. Companies that dared to dream while sticking to their core survived, and those utilizing new technologies have a bright future in the world’s largest swine, aqua and feed-producing country.

To put a spotlight on 20 years of business in China, Alltech, Inc. held a celebratory summit in Beijing last week. The event showcased the company’s successes in the feed and food industry and updated the 700-plus attendees on modern practices used in the United States, Europe and other countries. It also challenged those present to adapt to a changing environment for agriculture. Speakers from throughout the world participated in the three-day conference, and I was there, covering the event.

Dr. Pearse Lyons, Alltech founder and president, shared his vision with the Chinese industry professionals at the conference. He said, “We will see increased food demand as incomes rise, and better, safer food. We also will need to make the land more productive. We’re using our primacy of science to invest in education, research. We need to realize we’re part of the animal – consumer – environment connection and we must be friendly to all three. It all ties into giving the consumer what he/she expects.”

The Middle Kingdom has seven percent of the world’s arable land and 20 percent of the world’s population. Yet, the country is heavily dependent on grain and milk imports. Although more than 50 percent of the world’s pig production is in China, the country is a net importer of pork meat. The agriculture sector in China has gone through tremendous changes, but previous food-safety scandals have clearly shown the areas where significant developments must be made.

Read my next commentary for more information about China and its pork production business.