Man Does Not Live by Bread Alone

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Man Does Not Live by Bread Alone

In the April 2012 issue of Trends,1 we highlighted the breakthroughs in agriculture and food processing that are emerging to supply the world’s growing demand for food. This month, we’re focusing on the factors driving the dramatic change in the quantity and quality of that demand, and their implications.

To get an appreciation of what’s ahead, consider this: By 2060, it is estimated that the world’s 9.1 billion people will demand at least 70 percent more food than today’s 7 billion.2 Between now and then, it’s estimated that the world will consume more food than has been consumed since the beginning of agriculture 10,000 years ago.

This demand won’t only be due to an expanding global population. If trends hold, increased demand will also come from an increase in food consumption per person, per day. Figures from 1966 show this global per-capita consumption at 2,358 calories per day. For industrialized nations, the number was 2,947 calories. By 1999, the global number had risen to 2,803 calories per day, and the industrial number had risen to 3,380. Projections put the global average at 3,050 calories per day by the year 2030, with the industrialized average climbing to 3,500 calories.

Two countries that will particularly influence demand for food will be China and India, due mainly to the sheer size of their populations.3 Combined, they represent one-third of the world’s population. Though lagging behind industrial nations in per-capita calorie intake, both are on the rise. In East Asia in 1966, daily intake was 1,957 calories. By 1999, it had grown to 2,921 calories. Predicted intake by 2030 is 3,190 calories. Multiplying these increases over billions of people will have a substantial effect.

Experts predict that the Chinese population will grow and reach its maximum by 2030, after which it will decline. During this time, as China becomes more industrialized, its nutritional demands will likely shift to foods that require more water to produce, such as beef.4 This will stress China’s already scarce water resources, which in turn will undoubtedly force China to become a net importer of certain foods.

Evolving food consumption in India is also expected to place new demands on global food supplies. From 1994 to 2000, per-capita consumption of cereals dropped slightly, while meat, egg, and fish consumption saw an increase of about 20 percent. During this same time period, milk and milk products showed a substantial increase of around 44 percent.

Other global population trends that will affect the nature of food demand in the future include the growth of mega-cities with populations of 30 million to 40 million people...

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