Grain Harvest Sets Record, But Supplies Still Tight

Brian Halweil | Dec 12, 2007

Following several years of declining harvests, the world’s farmers reaped a record 2.316 billion tons of grain in  2007.1 (See Figure 1.) Despite this jump of 95 million tons, or about 4 percent, over the previous year, commodity analysts estimate that voracious global demand will consume all of this increase and prevent governments from replenishing cereal stocks that are at their lowest level in 30 years.2

The global grain harvest has nearly tripled since 1961, during a time when world population doubled.3 As a result, the amount of grain produced per person grew from 285 kilograms in 1961 to a peak of 376 kilograms in 1986.4 (See Figure 2.) In recent decades, as the growth in grain production has matched population growth, per capita production has hovered around 350 kilograms.5

But output per person varies dramatically by region. For instance, it stands at roughly 1,230 kilograms per year in the United States, most of which is fed to livestock, compared with 325 kilograms in China and just 90 kilograms in Zimbabwe.6

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