Summer 2012 . . . was it a total disaster for farming and a potential challenge to the whole British (and indeed world) economy, with droughts in North America and a deluge this side of the pond?
There are conflicting views – but undoubtedly belts will need to be tightened, and enhanced, more realistic, world strategies introduced in the long term.
But despite the extreme climatic events, global grain production is expected to reach a record high of 2.4 billion tonnes this year, an increase of 1% on 2011.
That's according to new research by the Worldwatch Institute, using data from the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
The figures show the production of grain for animal feed is growing faster than for human consumption, up 2.1% on the year, and 1.1% respectively.
India is the largest consumer, followed very closely by China, with the USA a long way third.
There are evidently 50,000 edible plants in the world, but wheat, maize and rice (in that order) account for two-thirds of global food energy intake.
Maize production in the USA – the world's largest producer – was expected to reach a record 345 million tonnes in 2012, but of course the big drought on the Great Plains altered this estimate severely, and the total is now likely to be down 13% on the year, to around 274.3 million tonnes.
In fact the drought in the Mid West was the worst in the USA since 1962, coming close to matching the infamous Dust Bowl of the late 1930s, and one of the most expensive weather-related financial disasters in that nation's history.
And, naturally, the knock-on effect will be felt here and elsewhere in Europe – despite the fact that successful harvests for other major producers will see global maize production up by 4.1% to around 916 million tonnes, according to the FAO.
Incredibly, since 1961 when records started, grain production has increased 269% globally and grain yield by 157%, though the grain harvest area has grown by only a quarter.
That's high-yielding varieties progress and development for you.
Still the FAO maintains crop production globally will be insufficient to cover demand this year.
In the EU, however, Farms Commissioner Dacian Ciolos assures us there is no "crisis", that overall EU cereal production will be up about 2% on the five-year average, and that Member States should avoid "emotional" reactions, such as grain export restrictions.
And Argentina is planning to step up maize exports by an extra 2.75 million tonnes to ease the tight global market situation.
The Argentine agriculture minister, Norbert Yauhar, reported prospects for the forthcoming harvest were positive, with 15 million tonnes of maize and five million tonnes of wheat already earmarked for export.
Meat Trade News Daily Supporting British Pig Farmers
Source: Argentine Beef Packers S.A.
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