By April Reeves
From AC360: Next up was a look at grain consumption. Grain has always been an indicator of even the most basic of civilization, so a look at how the middle-classing of developing countries would affect the food supply based on grain usage seemed appropriate.
This time, I used data from the Economic Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture Production. Worldwide, humans consume about 1.9 billion metric tons of grain each year.
Today, the United States consumes about 287 million metric tons of grain, or about 14.8 percent of the world’s total supply.
China consumes slightly more than we do, at about 406 million metric tons of grain, or about 21 percent of the world’s supply.
India has a lot of starving people, and that shows in its grain use. India consumes only about 196 million metric tons of grain, about 10 percent of the world’s total. You can see India’s ups and downs written in the numbers. Some years, like 1993, their grain consumption went up 5.6 percent. But other years, like 2001, their grain consumption dropped by 4.3 percent. Neither of these are big fluctuations, but it does show some years Indian citizens ate a little more and other years, they ate a little less.
What if they consume grain at the same rate as we do here?
Today, the U.S. consumes 14.8 percent of the world’s grain supply, but has only 4.6 percent of the world’s population. In this case, though, the U.S. produces more grain than virtually any other country. The United States produces 364 million metric tons of grain cereal per year.
Only China produces more, at 426 million metric tons. India is in third place, producing 233 million metric tons. Most other countries produce only about 10 percent of the big three’s average output.
All that brought me back to the same question I asked about energy. What if China and India consumed grain at the rate we do?
On a per capita basis, every man, woman, and child in the United States consumes almost a metric ton of grain each year.
What if more and more Chinese and Indian citizens enter the middle class, and what if they consume grain at the same rate as we do here in the U.S.?
If everyone in China consumed grain at the same rate we do here, China would consume 1.16 billion metric tons of grain per year, or 60 percent of the world’s total output. And if every one of India’s 1.2 billion people were able to not only have enough food to be above the starvation level, but consume grain at the same rate we do here, they’d consume an additional 1 billion metric tons of grain, or 52% of the world’s total supply.
Once again, the implications are profound.
If citizens in China and citizens in India were to live like citizens in America, China and India alone would consume 112 percent of the world’s grain supply – and that doesn’t count the food needs of everyone else on the planet.
Grain is a constantly renewable resource.
There is one key difference between grain and energy. Grain is a constantly renewable resource. Energy, generally, is not. One strategy for coping with more people worldwide leaving behind starvation is to improve our farming output and to keep improving it, year after year.
And here’s one of the first places where there’s genuinely good news. Most countries are only using a bare fraction of their available agricultural land. The United States, for example – one of the world’s top producers – is using only 5.5 percent of its available agricultural land.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, only 5.6 percent of the world’s arable and permanent cropland and permanent pasture is under irrigation. That gives humanity a lot of room to grow.
Mother Earth actually has the capacity to feed her people, even the billions that live on her now. As more and more people need to be fed, more and more people can be put to work farming, planting, and engineering new food management solutions.
This is one area were humanity’s increased consumption can lead to feeding more people and increasing employment. Let’s keep that in mind as we explore how to save jobs.
From April Reeves: Wow, left a lot of valuable information out here, such as climate change heating up hot countries (why do these ‘experts’ continue to look at the earth with such short vision?) to where they are no longer inhabitable or able to produce on (China unable to grow rice in 2009: too hot for the rice to germinate, but they can grow/eat potatoes?). We can feed the population now. That’s not the issue. It’s corporate takeover of lands and small poor farmers. Monsanto does not feed the hungry now and never will (and they are becoming a monopoly). Any food leaves those countries and heads to the US. As countries become unable to grow and sustain what little they have now, governments will fall. Those left will migrate to better land, only to be shot (neighbor countries can’t take them) or die before reaching their destinations. Downstream countries (Egypt) watch their only water sources disappear. They threaten upstream countries with war if they build dams.
Then there’s the issue of North American farmland taken for housing. And farmers leaving because the middle man rapes everyone. Or they are tired of paying for seeds and having to pull out super weeds that they can no longer kill. I’m not being mean, I’m just keeping it real. I also don’t assume humans have humanity. Corporations are proof of this.
I will quit here, but I can go on for hours. My favorite saying: there’s nothing more dangerous than a conscious man without vision.