One report says global grain at record high

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As most of the reports circulating in the United States are about anticipated grain shortages in meeting demand, a report came out this week from one organization that was headlined: “Global grain production at record high despite extreme climatic events.”

Highlights were pulled from a new Worldwatch Institute report that examines rising rates of global grain production and consumption, the institute noted as it explained the headline.

“Global grain production is expected to reach a record high of 2.4 billion tons in 2012, an increase of 1 percent from 2011 levels,” according to the research conducted by the Worldwatch Institute's Nourishing the Planet project (www.worldwatch.org).

The institute jumped from reporting on 2011 grain volumes to projected 2012 volumes and from numbers it compiled to those of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Grains Council.

Per numbers reportedly pulled from the FAO, the production of grain for animal feed has been growing the fastest—a 2.1 percent increase from 2011 during 2012. Grain for direct human consumption grew 1.1 percent from 2011 during this year.

“In 2011, the amount of grain used for food totaled 571 million tons, with India consuming 89 million tons, China 87 million tons, and the United States 28 million tons, according to the International Grains Council. The world relies heavily on wheat, maize (corn), and rice for daily sustenance: of the 50,000 edible plants in the world, these three grains account for two-thirds of global food energy intake. Grains provide the majority of calories in diets worldwide, ranging from a 23 percent share in the United States to 60 percent in Asia and 62 percent in North Africa.

Maize production in the United States—the largest producer—as expected to reach a record 345 million tons in 2012; however, drought in the Great Plains has altered this estimate severely. Maize yields for the 2012-13 growing season are now expected to decrease 13 percent from 2011 production, for a total production of 274.3 million tons,” according to the Worldwatch report authors Danielle Nierenberg and Katie Spoden.

In line with Worldwatch’s activist point of view, the institute uses the crop and grain numbers to warn about climate change impact in the future. It pulled numbers from sources that claim “some 375 million people will be affected by climate change-related disasters by 2015.” By 2050, the report says FAO contends that 10-20 percent more people will be subject to hunger “based on the changing climate's effects on agriculture, and 24 million more children are expected to be malnourished—21 percent more than if there were no climate change.”

"The relationship between food security, grain production, and climate change is especially important in 2012," said Nierenberg, a Worldwatch senior researcher and Nourishing the Planet project director. "The recent drought affecting the United States and the rest of the world show the need to reduce price volatility, move away from fossil fuel-based agriculture and recognize the importance of women farmers to increase resilience to climate change."

The discussion about the U.S. drought is more about how grain price fluctuations will inevitably affect food security around the globe. “The global market will be most affected by this drought, as so much of the developing world relies on U.S. corn and soybean production. How such concerns match with the headline of global grain production being at a record high isn’t explained in the information released by Worldwatch.

Further highlights from the report related to 2012 grain production as issued by Worldwatch are as follows:

• The FAO expects global maize production to increase 4.1 percent from 2011, reaching an estimated 916 million tons in 2012.

• Global rice production achieved an all-time high of 480 million tons in 2011, a 2.6 percent increase from 2010 (explanation of 2012 connection not included).

• World wheat production is projected to drop to 675.1 million tons in 2012, down 3.6 percent from 2011, with the largest declines in feed and biofuel utilization.

• Since 1961, grain production has increased 269 percent and grain yield has increased 157 percent, while the grain harvest area has increased only 25 percent. This is due largely to the Green Revolution and the introduction of high-yielding grain varieties.

Worldwatch proclaims itself to be an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works on energy, resource and environmental issues and distributes the annual State of the World report in more than 18 languages.


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