Global food production on the rise but at a slower pace

04 August 20236 min reading
Global agricultural and food production are projected to continue to increase over the next ten years, but at a slower pace of growth than the previous decade due to demographic trends, according to a report released by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2023-2032 is the key global reference for medium-term prospects for agricultural commodity markets. While uncertainty has risen due to geopolitical tensions, adverse climate trends, animal and plant diseases and increased price volatility for key agricultural inputs, global production of crops, livestock products and fish are projected to grow at an average annual rate of 1.1 percent during the period, half the pace recorded in the decade ending in 2015. Total food consumption is expected to rise by 1.3 percent per annum to 2032, indicating an increase in the share of agricultural commodities used as food.

These projections assume a fast recovery from recent inflationary pressures, normal weather conditions, no major policy changes and on-trend evolution in consumer preferences. The possibility that inflationary pressures remain persistent poses downside risks to global food demand and production.
In a special assessment of key farming input prices, which have risen significantly in the past two years, the Outlook calculates that every 10 percent increase in fertilizer prices leads to a 2 percent increase in food costs, with the burden falling hardest on the poor, who spend a larger share of their budget on food. The Outlook highlights the importance of policies to ensure greater efficiency and resilience.

  Global trade in agricultural commodities covered in the Outlook is projected to expand by 1.3 percent annually - half the pace recorded in the past decade - due mostly to slower growth in demand by middle-income countries. 
  Maize, wheat and soybeans contributed the most to the overall agricultural trade growth in the past decade; however, they are projected to experience the biggest drop in trade growth over the next 10 years.
  After becoming a net importer of agricultural commodities in recent years, South and Southeast Asia’s net imports are projected to increase further, driven mainly by continuing strong demand growth within the subregion.
  Sub-Saharan Africa’s trade deficit in major food items is projected to almost double by 2032, largely reflecting rapid population growth compared to other regions.
In Latin America, the agricultural trade surplus is expected to expand by 17 percent, raising the exported share of agricultural production to 40 percent by 2032.
  North America is projected to remain the second largest exporter of agricultural commodities to world markets over the next 10 years, but strong domestic consumption growth is expected to slightly curb its net export position. The region’s agricultural sector may play a key stabilizing role allowing it to expand production to normalize high price cycles.

Global production of cereals is projected to increase from its current level by about 320 million tonnes to 3.1 billion  tonnes by 2032, largely from maize and rice. As over the past decade, the increase is expected to originate primarily in Asian countries, which will account for about 45% of global growth. Africa, where maize and other coarse grains will be the primary drivers of growth, is expected to contribute larger shares to global growth of cereal production than over the past decade. Latin America will also generate a substantial portion of the increase, largely of maize. 
Overall, 17% of global cereal production was traded internationally in 2022. However, this share varies across the different cereals ranging from 10% for rice to 25% for wheat. This ratio is expected to remain stable over the next decade. Asia is projected to maintain its position as world largest rice exporting region, while countries in Latin America will mostly import wheat and export maize. Many African and Asian countries are expected to become more reliant on cereal imports during the next decade.

It is projected that world cereal trade will increase by 11%, totalling 530 million tonnes by 2032. Wheat will contribute to 43% of this growth, while the rest is shared by maize (34%) and rice (20%) and other coarse grains (3%). Russia is projected to remain the largest wheat exporter, supplying 23% of global exports in 2032. The United States will remain the leading exporter of maize closely followed by Brazil, while the European Union will remain the main exporter of other coarse grains. India, Thailand and Viet Nam will continue to be the leading rice exporters, with Cambodia and Myanmar playing an increasingly significant export role. As in the past years, Chinese feed demand is expected to be a key factor in cereal markets. The projections assume Chinese imports of maize and wheat stay below recent peaks and reach 19 million tonnes and 7.5 million tonnes respectively by 2032.
The 2023/24 season is expected to continue to see high nominal grain prices. However, assuming average yields and geopolitical stability, the long-term downward trend in real terms may resume and continue until 2032.

Cereal demand will continue to be dominated by food use closely followed by feed use. In 2032, 41% of all cereals will be directly consumed by humans, while 37% will be used for animal feeds. Biofuels and other uses are projected to account for the remaining 22% These shares, however, differ across the different cereal types. While wheat and rice is mainly used for food, feed use dominates maize and other coarse grains.
Wheat consumption is expected to be 11% higher in 2032 than in the base period. Four countries account for two-fifths of this increase: India, Pakistan, Egypt, and China. Global use of wheat for food is projected to increase by 57 million tonnes but to remain stable at about 66% of total consumption; growth will be slower compared to the previous decade as the rate of increase in world population slows down.
Globally, the projected increase in consumption of wheat for food is more than three times larger than that for feed, especially in Asia where there is increasing demand for processed products, such as pastries and noodles. These products call for higher quality, protein rich wheat, produced in the United States, Canada, Australia and, to a lesser extent, in the European Union. Countries in the North Africa and Western Asia, such as Egypt, Türkiye and Iran, will remain major consumers of wheat with high levels of per capita consumption. 

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