First, a flash of good news in the generally dismal area of food scarcity. Despite trials and tribulations, global grain production is expected to reach a high of 2.4 billion tonnes in 2012, an increase of 1 per cent from 2011 levels, according to new research conducted by the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project. There is also encouraging news on production of grain for animal feed too. UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) registered the growth of grain for animal feed at 2.1 per cent.
In 2011, the amount of grain used for food totaled 571 million tonnes, with India consuming 89 million, China 87 million, and the US 28 million, according to the International Grains Council. The world relies heavily on wheat, maize (corn), and rice for daily sustenance; of the 50,000 edible plants, these three grains account for two-thirds of global food energy intake. Grains provide the majority of calories in diets worldwide, ranging from a 23 per cent share in the US to 60 per cent in Asia and 62 per cent in North Africa.
Maize production in the US was expected to reach 345 million tonnes in 2012; however, drought in the Great Plains altered this estimate. Maize yields for the 2012-13 growing season are now expected to decrease 13 per cent from 2011 production, to a total production of 274.3 million tonnes.
Worldwatch Institute strikes a warning note. The reliance on grain crops for food security is threatened by extreme climatic events. According to the UN International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction, the World Food Programme, and Oxfam International, some 375 million will be affected by climate change-related disasters by 2015. By 2050, 10-20 per cent more people will be subject to hunger based on the changing climate’s effects on agriculture, and 24 million more children are expected to be malnourished.
“The relationship between food security, grain production, and climate change is important in 2012,” said Nierenberg, a Worldwatch senior researcher. “The recent drought affecting the US and the rest of the world shows the need to reduce price volatility, move away from fossil fuel-based agriculture, and recognise the importance of women farmers.”
The drought taking place in the Midwest and Great Plains of the US is considered the country’s worst in 50 years. The drought is expected to cost many billions of dollars and could top the list as one of the most expensive weather-related disasters in US history. The global market will be affected by this drought.
What India ought to do
- Reduce dependence on grain as staple food
- Control population on an urgent basis
- Stop converting arable land into non-agricultural purposes like SEZ
- Encourage and raise the strength of women farmers who are more resilient and productive than men
About the Author (Author Profile)
PK Surendran is senior editor at Postnoon.