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Global Grain Production Falls Behind Demand

National Farmers Union of Canada
National Office
2717 Wentz Ave.
Saskatoon, Sask., S7K 4B6
Tel (306) 652-9465
Fax (306) 664-6226

SASKATOON, Sask.-Today, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its first projections of world grain supply and demand for the coming crop year: 2007/08. USDA predicts supplies will plunge to a 53-day equivalent-their lowest level in the 47-year period for which data exists.

"The USDA projects global grain supplies will drop to their lowest levels on record. Further, it is likely that, outside of wartime, global grain supplies have not been this low in a century, perhaps longer," said NFU Director of Research Darrin  Qualman.

Most important, 2007/08 will mark the seventh year out of the past eight in which global grain production has fallen short of demand. This consistent shortfall has cut supplies in half-down from a 115-day supply in 1999/00 to the current level of 53 days. "The world is consistently failing to produce as much grain as it uses," said Qualman. He continued: "The current low supply levels are not the result of a transient weather event or an isolated production problem: low supplies are the result of a persistent drawdown trend."

In addition to falling grain supplies, global fisheries are faltering. Reports in respected journals Science and Nature state that 1/3 of ocean fisheries are in collapse, 2/3 will be in collapse by 2025, and our ocean fisheries may be virtually gone by 2048. "Aquatic food systems are collapsing, and terrestrial food systems are under tremendous stress," said Qualman.

Demand for food is rising rapidly. There is a worldwide push to proliferate a North American-style meat-based diet based on intensive livestock production-turning feedgrains into meat in this way means exchanging 3 to 7 kilos of grain protein for one kilo of meat protein. Population is rising-2.5 billion people will join the global population in the coming decades.

"Every six years, we're adding to the world the equivalent of a North American population. We're trying to feed those extra people, feed a growing livestock herd, and now, feed our cars, all from a static farmland base. No one should be surprised that food production can't keep up," said Qualman.

Qualman said that the converging problems of natural gas and fertilizer constraints, intensifying water shortages, climate change, farmland loss and degradation, population increases, the proliferation of livestock feeding, and an increasing push to divert food supplies  into biofuels means that we are in the opening phase of an intensifying food shortage.

Qualman cautioned, however, that there are no easy fixes. "If we try to do more of the same, if we try to produce, consume, and export more food while using more fertilizer, water, and chemicals, we will only intensify our problems. Instead, we need to rethink our relation to food, farmers, production, processing, and distribution. We need to create a system focused on feeding people and creating health. We need to strengthen the food production systems around the world. Diversity, resilience, and sustainability are key," concluded Qualman.

For More Information: Darrin Qualman, Director of Research: 652-9465 Stewart Wells, NFU President: 773-6852

Backgrounder to the NFU's May 11, 2007 news release

The United States Department of Agriculture reports recent grain supply and demand numbers on its World Agriculture Sup ply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) website at

The longer-term data on world grains supply and demand is at Production, Supply, and Demand Online (PSD) at

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