World Grain Production Down in 2010 but Recovering

Richard H. Weil | Nov 22, 2011

Maize, rice, and wheat are the three major grain crops in the world. Together they account for almost two thirds of humanity’s staple food intake.1 In addition, they are critical for animal feed and industrial uses. In 2010, production of both maize and rice set record levels, but a significant drop in wheat output left overall grain totals slightly below 2008 levels.2 (See Figure 1.) Preliminary data for 2011 indicate that production has increased, however, and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently forecast that cereal output in 2011–12 will be 3 percent higher than in 2010–11.3

Vital Signs Trend Grain Figure 1

Since the 1960s maize production has quadrupled, while paddy rice and wheat output have tripled.4 From 1961 to 2010 the world’s annual harvest of these three crops increased from 643 million to 2.2 billion tons.5 This is remarkable, given that the amount of land used for agriculture increased only 35 percent.6 (See Figure 2.) Thus the average farmland yield increased by 156 percent.7 (See Figure 3.)

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