Jumat, 11 November 2011

Current food production and supply & Global food production

Current food production and supply
A word of caution first: only a minority of food production and consumption figures readily accessible in FAO databases and widely used in assessments of global food availability and needs is derived from the best available national statistics which may themselves contain many inaccuracies even when prepared by the most advanced statistical services of developed countries. Although some of the developing countries (notably China and India) have massive statistical bureaucracies and issue a great number of regular reports many of their numbers are known to be highly inaccurate.
For example, for many years Chinese official statistics listed less than 100 million hectares (Mha) as the total of the country’s cultivated land (about 95 Mha until 2000) although many people in Beijing bureaucracy and some foreign experts knew that total was vastly undervalued. China now admits to having 130 Mha of cultivated land (National Bureau of Statistics, 2000) and the best remote sensing studies based on classified US information indicate 140, or even 150Mha (Smil, 1999c). This change means, of course, that every official yield figure for the past 20 years is inaccurate. And, obviously, countries with protracted civil wars (several in Africa, Colombia) or with a disintegrating central government (Indonesia) are in no position to collect and publish any reliable agricultural statistics. Given these realities it is not surprising that most of the numbers for most of the developing nations that appear in FAO databases are just the best expert estimates made in the organization’s Rome headquarters (FAO, 2001).
These realities mean that both exaggerations and underestimates are common and that often the resulting numbers may not be accurate re ections of the actual situation but are best used in order to derive fair approximations of the current state of agricultural affairs. It should also be noted that according to the FAO developed countries numbered 1.3 billion people in the year 2000, the developing ones 4.7 billion, a division slightly different from that used by the UN’s population experts (UN, 2001). These realities should be kept in mind when considering the following brief review of current food output and availability.
Global food production
Today’s food producers fall mostly into four uneven categories. Several thousand large agribusiness companies, most of them in North America and Europe, control extensive areas of food and feed crops and highly concentrated meat production in giant feedlots. Their production goes directly to large-scale food processors or is destined for export. Several million highly mechanized family-owned farms in af uent countries rely on intensive practices to achieve high crop and animal productivity. Tens of millions of the most successful farmers in the most productive agricultural regions of many developing countries (e.g., China’s Jiangsu and Guangdong or India’s Punjab) use generally high levels of the best locally available inputs in order to pro-duce food beyond their family’s and region’s need. And hundreds of millions of subsistence peasants, either landless or cultivating small amounts of often inferior land, use inadequate inputs, or no modern means of production at all, to grow barely enough food for their own families.
Cereal grains continue to dominate the global crop harvest. Their annual output is now just above 2 billion tonnes. Developing countries produce nearly 60% of all grain, with twice as much rice as wheat (about 570 vs. 270 Mt in 2000), but in per capita terms their output (about 260 kg/year) is only about 40% of the developed countries mean (660 kg/year). Most of the poor world’s grain (more than 85%) is eaten directly, whereas most of the rich world’s grain (more than 60% during the late 1990s) is fed to animals. Consequently, actual per capita supply of processed food cereals is still about 25% higher in developing countries (165 vs. 130 kg/year), re ecting simpler diets dominated by grain staples. Not surprisingly, rich countries enjoy even higher per capita disparities in production of nonstaple crops, with the differences being particularly large for sugar (30 vs. 15 kg/year) and meat (almost 80 vs. 25 kg).
Per capita consumption of legumes has been declining for several generations in every country where pulses previously played a critical nutritional role. Only India’s annual per capita consumption of legumes remains above 10 kg/year (FAO, 2001). In contrast, no other crop diffusion in agricultural history has been as rapid and as economically far-reaching as the cultivation of soybeans for feed. US soybean plant-ings rose from a few thousand hectares in the early 1930s to more than 20 Mha since the early 1970s, and they now produce more than 50Mt/year. Brazilian soybean production rose even faster, from a negligible total in the early 1960s to more than 20Mt by the early 1990s. These two countries now produce two-thirds of the global soybean harvest, virtually all of it for animal feed.
Rising af uence combined with concerns about healthy diets has resulted in a steady growth of fruit production. Global fruit output has tripled since 1950, but this does not convey the unprecedented variety of fruits, including many tropical imports as well as winter shipments of subtropical and temperate species from the southern hemisphere, that are now available virtually year-round in all rich countries. The trend of rising fruit production recently has been most obvious in rapidly modernizing China where fruit harvests (now also increasingly for export) rose more than 10-fold (from less than 7 to more than 70 Mt) between 1980 and 2000 (National Bureau of Statistics, 2000).
With global annual output of nearly 500Mt cow’s milk is the most important animal  food. Annual output of all kinds of milk amounts to about 570 Mt. Per capita avail-abilities of dairy products are large in North America and Western Europe (in excess of 250kg/year) and negligible in traditionally nonmilking societies of East Asia. Pork, with about 80 Mt/year and rising, is by far the most important meat worldwide, with China and the US slaughtering the largest number of animals. Total meat output, including poultry, is now over 200 Mt a year, prorating to almost 80 kg/capita in rich countries and to about 25 kg/capita in the poor world. Poultry production (near 60 Mt/year) is now ahead of the combined beef and veal output and it will continue to rise. Consumption of hen eggs is now at more than 40Mt a year, and recent rapid growth of aquaculture (its combined freshwater and marine output is now close to 30Mt a year, equal to nearly a quarter of ocean catch) has put cultured fish, crustaceans, and mollusks ahead of mutton.
After a period of decline and stagnation the global marine catch began rising once more during the mid-1990s and is now close to 100 Mt/year but major increases are highly unlikely. A conservative assessment of the global marine potential concluded that by 1996 the world ocean was being fully fished, with about 60% of some 200 major marine fish resources being either overexploited or at the peak of their sustainable harvest (FAO, 1997). Consequently, if long-term marine catches were to be kept at around 100 Mt a year then 50 years from now the population growth would cut per capita fish supply by more than half compared to the late 1990s level. The importance of this harvest is due to its nutritional quality. During the late 1990s the world’s aver-age per capita supply of some 14 kg of marine species contained only a few percent of all available food energy, but it supplied about one-sixth of all animal protein. More importantly, aquatic species provide more than a third of animal protein to at least 200 million people, mostly in east and southeast Asia (FAO, 2001).


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