Stil number one

by Emily Wilson
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Annual world per capita consumption of wheat (all uses) is expected to increase to 105 kg (231 lbs) by the year 2015 and to 106 kg (234 lbs) in 2030 from an estimated 101 kg (223 lbs) in 1995-97, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome. At the same time, the 105 kg projected for 2015 per capita consumption of wheat would just match the level already reached in 1984-86.

The projections for wheat were contained in an F.A.O. technical interim report titled "Agriculture: Towards 2015/2030," which was published on July 24.

The extensive study also provided projections on world and developing country per capita consumption of coarse grains and rice, and an overall view of per capita consumption of grain as an aggregate of wheat, rice and coarse grains.

The study pointed out that grain will remain the principal source of world food supplies through 2030. World production of grain was projected to increase by nearly 1 billion tonnes by 2030 from the current level of about 1.84 billion tonnes. "This increase even exceeds that of the past three decades," the F.A.O. said.

Nearly half the increase in grain consumption will be for food, and about 44% for animal feed. Feed use of grain, especially in the developing countries, will be the most dynamic element driving the world grain economy, the F.A.O. pointed out.

Developing countries will become increasingly dependent on imports of grain, the F.A.O. continued. "Their net cereal imports are expected to rise from 107 million tonnes in 1995-97 to 270 million in 2030," the study said. "Traditional exporters such as North America, Western Europe and Australia would need to increase their exports from 142 million tonnes in 1995-97 to 280 million tonnes by 2030."

GROWTH IN WHEAT USE. World per capita consumption of wheat generally has been increasing steadily in recent decades, the F.A.O. pointed out, though at a gradually decelerating rate.

The decrease in world per capita consumption of wheat in 1995-97 from 1984-86 reflected primarily the impact of the recent economic downturn in the "transition economies" of East Asia (South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, the Hong Kong province of China). Other factors were a slowdown or even decrease in per capita consumption in some oil-exporting developing countries such as Iraq and in some industrialized countries.

In the industrial countries, where there has been little growth in per capita consumption in recent years, a growing share of total wheat use in recent years has gone to animal feed (35% by the mid-1990s, 44% in the European Union), the F.A.O. said.

While per capita wheat consumption on a world basis was only expected to climb 4 kg from 1995-97 to 2015, wheat use per capita in the developing countries was expected to rise 7 kg in the same period, to 82 kg from 75 kg. Per capita consumption in the developing countries was expected to increase another 3 kg, to 85 kg, by 2030. Most of the wheat required to meet the projected increases in per capita consumption for the developing countries will have to be imported, F.A.O. said.

In the developing countries, the growth in per capita wheat consumption in the past few decades has been made possible by a growing dependence on imports. "This is not evident from a first glance at the totals of the developing countries; their aggregated wheat consumption grew by 180 million tonnes and net imports by 23 million tonnes between 1974-76 and 1995-97," the F.A.O. said. "However, the large weight in these aggregates of India, China, Pakistan and a few other countries (Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey and Bangladesh), which increased production to match or more than match their growth of consumption, masks the growing dependence of the great majority of the developing countries on wheat imports. In practice, the rest of the developing countries increased consumption by 46 million tonnes and net imports by 31 million tonnes."

Per capita consumption of wheat in coming years will increase in the developing countries, the transition economies and the industrial countries, the F.A.O. said. In the developing countries, the increases in consumption of wheat will be partly substituting for rice.

The developing countries will continue to increase their dependence on imports for their wheat needs. Their net imports will grow from 68 million tonnes in 1995-97 (and 40 million tonnes in the mid-1970s) to 125 million tonnes in 2015 and 165 million tonnes in 2030, the F.A.O. said.

"In the regions that are not major producers themselves in relation to their consumption (roughly, sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia other than China, and Latin America other than Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay), consumption growth will be accompanied by increases in net imports, just as what happened in the past," the F.A.O. said. "For example, in these regions, a consumption increase of 27 million tonnes between 1995-97 and 2015 will be accompanied by an increase in net imports of 23 million tonnes." In the preceding 20 years, the comparable figures were a 20-million-tonne increase in consumption and a 16.5-million-tonne increase in net imports.

While production increases and declines in net imports in some major wheat-consuming countries (China, South Asia, some countries in the Near East/North Africa region) masked the dependence of consumption growth in the developing countries on imported wheat in recent years, this will not be so much the case in the future, according to the F.A.O.

"Some countries that played this role will probably turn around to be net importers (such as India, Saudi Arabia and Syria) or larger net importers (such as China, Pakistan and Bangladesh) in the future," the report said.

The F.A.O. said South Asia would become more dependent on wheat imports in the future. "South Asia now produces 85 million tonnes of wheat, consumes 90 million tonnes and has net imports of 5 million tonnes, down from the net imports of 10 million tonnes it had in the mid-1970s," the F.A.O. said. "For 2015, demand (all uses) is projected to be 143 million tonnes (going from 72 kg per capita to 87 kg), a growth rate of 2.5% per year, which is much lower than the 3.8% per year of the preceding two decades. So, why should imports be increasing?

"The reason is that production is unlikely to keep the high growth rates of the past. Much of the wheat is by now irrigated, and the boost given in the past from expansion of wheat into irrigated areas and the spread of new varieties is becoming much weaker. In addition, there are problems of maintaining the productivity of irrigated land, particularly in Pakistan. The production growth rate of wheat in the region has been on the decline. It was 3.1% per year in the latest 10 years (1989-99), down from 4% in the preceding decade and 4.8% in the one before.

"We project an average production growth rate of 2.1% per year up to 2015, and 2% per year in the subsequent sub-period of the projections, i.e. lower growth rates than those of demand, hence the growing import requirements even to meet a demand growth much below that of the past."

RICE CONSUMPTION LEVELING OFF. The chief feature of change in world per capita consumption of rice in recent years has been a leveling off, according to the F.A.O. This trend has been most pronounced in several countries of East Asia.

World per capita consumption of rice increased to 66 kg in 1995-97 from 64 kg in 1984-86. In the developing countries, per capita consumption increased to 82 kg from 81 kg.

The leveling off in per capita rice consumption in the developing countries in the last 10 years primarily reflected a small decline in East Asia (to 106 kg from 108 kg), even as the average of South Asia increased (to 82 kg from 74).

"Absolute declines in per capita rice consumption due to diet diversification in Asia are not yet widespread, but the patterns established by the more advanced rice-eating countries (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan Province of China) have started appearing, though in much attenuated form, in other developing countries, such as China, Thailand and Brazil," the F.A.O. said.

"Despite these trends in per capita consumption, the aggregated world demand for rice grew faster than that of both wheat and coarse grains. This reflects essentially the fact that rice is used predominantly for food in the most populous region, Asia, while a good part of coarse grains, but also increasingly of wheat, is used for animal feed."

World per capita consumption of rice was expected to rise only 1 kg from 1995-97 to 2015, to 67 kg, and then decline 2 kg from 2015 to 2030, to 65 kg, according to the F.A.O. report. Per capita rice consumption in the developing countries was projected to decrease to 80 kg in 2015 from 82 kg in 1995-97. A further decrease of 4 kg in per capita rice consumption in the developing countries was projected to take place from 2015 to 2030. Per capita consumption in the developing countries in the latter year was forecast at 76 kg.

The slower growth in per capita consumption projected between 1995-97 and 2015 primarily was attributed to a slowdown in Chinese consumption growth. Per capita consumption in other East Asian countries and in South Asia was expected to increase in the period. But from 2015 to 2030, rice was expected to play a slightly less prominent role in the East Asian and South Asian diets as well. This, in turn, was expected to help lead to a decrease in both world and developing country per capita consumption of rice in 2030 versus 2015.

COARSE GRAIN USE TO RISE. World and developing country per capita consumption of coarse grains, primarily used as feed, has been increasing in most recent decades and was projected to continue to increase through 2015 and 2030. At the same time, world per capita use of coarse grains in 1995-97 was estimated at 155 kg, down from 165 kg in 1984-86.

As in the case with wheat, the reason for the decline and interruption in growth in world per capita consumption primarily was the recent economic downturn in the more industrially advanced countries of Asia, where livestock consumption plummeted, resulting in a drop in coarse grain use. The F.A.O. said these economies were recovering slowly, and livestock consumption and coarse grain consumption were expected to recover slowly there as well.

World per capita coarse grain consumption was projected to rise to 164 kg in 2015 from 155 kg in 1995-97. At 164 kg, per capita use still would be 1 kg shy of the 1984-86 level. In 2030, world per capita consumption of coarse grains should total 176 kg, up 12 kg from 2015.

Developing country per capita use of coarse grains did not experience any interruption in growth from the economic downturn of the transition economies. Per capita use rose to 92 kg in 1995-97 from 80 kg in 1984-86.

Growth was projected to continue in developing country per capita use of coarse grains through 2015 and 2030. Per capita consumption in the developing countries was projected at 107 kg in 2015 and 120 kg in 2030.

The driving force in the overall actual increase in world coarse grain consumption, especially in the last 10 years, has been their use as animal feed, according to the F.A.O.

"The increase in world consumption between 1984-86 and 1995-97 of 92 million tonnes was made up of 120 million tonnes increase in the developing countries (out of which 86 million tonnes was for feed, 54 million tonnes in China alone), declines of 47 million tonnes in the transition economies and an increase of 18 million tonnes in the industrial countries," F.A.O. said.

While coarse grains primarily are used as feed, in some regions they serve as a vital food source. In sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, use of coarse grains for food is prominent. In sub-Saharan Africa, 80% of coarse grain consumption is as food.

Jay Sjerven is senior editor, markets, for Milling & Baking News, a sister publication of World Grain.