Each year, we eagerly await the annual reports authored by various organizations and agencies that provide statistical analysis and trends of the industries we cover — grain, feed and flour milling. One of the most interesting is Alltech’s annual Global Feed Survey, released each year at the end of January. The comprehensive survey, which draws upon data from 144 countries and nearly 30,000 feed mills, not only provides the total estimated amount of feed produced worldwide, but also breaks down performance by region and country as well as consumption trends by species.

Among the highlights from this year’s survey were: overall production in 2018 jumping 3% to 1.3 billion tonnes, the third straight year that output has surpassed the 1-billion-mark; layer feed growing by 4% globally, indicating a growing need for and continued interest in that protein source; and eight countries (China, the United States, Brazil, Russia, India, Mexico, Spain and Turkey) combining to produce 55% of the world’s feed.

Among those top feed producers, perhaps the most intriguing is fifth-ranked India, which saw feed production jump 7% in 2017 and 13% in 2018. Even more remarkable is that the country’s feed output rose in all 13 categories that Alltech assesses, which includes everything from aquafeed to hog feed to goat grains.

This upward trend in meat consumption may come as a surprise since India often is associated with vegetarianism due to religion and other factors. But a recent survey found that 71% of Indians over the age of 15 are non-vegetarian, which means that roughly 690 million of the country’s 1.2 billion people consumed meat and the percentage of non-vegetarians is believed to be trending higher. Throughout the world, meat-heavy diets are correlated with an increase in wealth, and few countries have enjoyed greater middle-class growth in recent years than India.

But rising per capita income isn’t the only factor pushing India’s feed consumption higher. India, the world’s second most populous country, is expected to see its population continue to grow by 1% per year in the coming decade. The Indian government along with private initiatives are increasing awareness of better feed practices among farmers, which leads them to want to purchase the best commercial feed available. Also, India’s exports of animal feed are rising and will represent an important growth driver over the next five years.

Although not typically known for its pig production, India took a big leap in pig feed production in 2018 as the Alltech report noted that “the industry is trending more toward organized farming in areas like Kerala and Punjab, with new feed millers contributing to this growth.”

By most accounts, the Indian feed sector appears ripe for new investment. Research and Markets in November released a report in which it projects the Indian animal feed market, which was worth $4.9 billion in 2017, to reach $11.4 billion by 2023, with a compound annual growth rate of 14.5% during that period.

The good news isn’t limited to India’s feed industry, as the USDA projects that, due to growing demand in the feed sector, India is likely to emerge as a net importer of corn in 2018-19, bringing in 500,000 tonnes. That’s more than in the last 17 years combined and perhaps a sign of a potential new market for corn producers around the world.

Pretty amazing data from a country that has consistently been viewed as having the world’s largest number of vegetarians.