“Georgia is important to us and very important to the international people involved. … It brings people in,” he said Thursday at the Buckhead Business Association’s signature luncheon at 103 West in Buckhead.
Poultry industry employees, including farm families, hatcheries, feed mills, further processing and allied industries, contribute $18.4 billion to the state’s economy, the Buckhead resident said.
Of his speech, association president Catherine Cattles said, “It’s interesting to find out just how impactful the poultry industry is to the economy here in Georgia.”
Since 1970, the poultry industry grew “tremendously,” Roberts said, increasing from 1.5 billion to 7.5 billion pounds of chicken a year.
“It’s been a great ride for the poultry industry,” he said.
Now, production has stabilized, he said, and a few factors contribute to predicted negative changes ahead.
First, the U.S. ethanol mandate, which increased corn-based ethanol use by 30 percent since 2005, had a negative effect on both protein and dairy products, not just fuel prices, he said.
As a result, the demand for corn increased significantly, causing the average corn price to shoot up from $2.09 per bushel in 2005 to $6.79 per bushel by 2011, he said.
“Next year’s corn and soy crops determine the magnitude of those increases,” he said. “Some consumers will have to move to more affordable places.”
Plus, the drought last summer was the worst the U.S. had since 1936, in its heartland, and caused the price of corn to increase to $7.50 per bushel since June, Roberts said.
“The cost of growing chicken has increased by 68 percent since 2005,” he said. “It has resulted in the bankruptcy of numerous companies.”
Roberts said a person eats an average of 81 pounds of chicken every year in the U.S., but people will not be able to afford to eat as much in the future.
By 2050, the world’s population will be 9.1 billion, up 34 percent from the current 6.8 billion, Roberts said, and meat production must increase by 74 percent.
He said most of the poultry production would be in Latin America and Brazil, as well as sub-Sahara Africa.
“We need to build the necessary institutions to ensure key decisions are made and implemented effectively. … The infrastructures need to be built,” he said.
Roberts said it is important for everyone to think about the issue and to act politically, monetarily or by raising awareness on the issue.
“We all have the ability to positively contribute in some way. Georgia and the poultry industry are true partners,” he said. “It’s important we think about this today.”