Grain Production Continues Growth After Mixed Decade

Alice McKeown | Oct 29, 2009

For the second year in a row, world grain production rose in 2008, with farmers producing some 2.287 billion tons.1 (See Figure 1.) The record harvest was up more than 7 percent over the previous year and caps a decade in which only half the years registered gains.2 Per capita production also recovered, reaching 339 kilograms per person.3 The total amount of land dedicated to grain harvests worldwide has remained relatively stable over the past 15 years at around 700 million hectares—though it was below the average experienced from 1975 to 1986—but yields have increased 146 percent over the last 46 years.4

Three of the top four global agricultural crops by quantity are grains: maize, rice, and wheat (sugarcane is the fourth).5 Other cereals and grains include millet, sorghum, oats, barley, quinoa, and rye. Together these crops make up nearly half of global daily calorie consumption and are considered critical for global food security.6 Some 35 percent of all grains in 2008 were used to feed industrial livestock, while 47 percent were consumed by humans.7

Farmers in Asia led grain production in 2008, growing 42 percent of the world total (969 million tons), of which some 43 percent was rice (milled equivalent).8 (See Table 1.) The Americas were the next largest growing region, with maize as the prominent crop, followed by Europe, which grew a significant amount of wheat.9

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