Current abundance does not assure long-term wheat food security
Share Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest Near record production and higher beginning stocks that added to a comfortable level of world wheat supplies, got the lion’s share of attention in USDA’s first estimate of wheat supply and demand for marketing year 2015/16. Looking beyond the snapshot of today’s situation, however, there are trends and other information that could present unseen challenges — and demand new solutions.Over the past few years, good conditions blessed the majority of the world’s wheat farmers. They produced record yields of 717 million metric tons (MMT) in 2013/14 and increased that to 726 MMT in 2014/15. USDA’s initial forecast for 2015/16 is down, but only to 719 MMT. The International Grains Council forecast is even less optimistic, with production at 708 MMT for 2015/16. The global stocks-to-use ratio of a 28% forecast by USDA matches the five-year average and adds comfort for buyers.However, the trend in world demand is even more impressive. If USDA’s forecast of 717 MMT holds, 2015/16 will be the eighth year in a row of record-setting use. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said annual average per capita wheat consumption is stable at 67.0 kilograms, indicating that demand is growing with population. For 4 billion of the world’s poorest people, wheat provides 20% of their protein. Most of these people live in developing countries with fast growing populations that rely on world wheat trade to source this valuable food ingredient.It will take continued record production every year and increased market access to meet future wheat demand. The “Wheat Initiative,” created by G20 agricultural ministers, expects wheat demand to increase 60 percent as world population nears 9 billion in 2050, and to meet that demand annual wheat yield improvement must grow from its current level of less than 1% to at least 1.6%. U.S. Wheat Associates has argued that global trade volume will have to double to move wheat to where it is needed most.Considering that for 30 years farmers everywhere have been replacing wheat planted area with crops that offer more potential income, the global wheat industry ignores longer-term threats at their peril. That is why farm organizations from Canada, Australia and the United States published a joint statement in 20141 supporting responsible innovation in wheat.As demand for wheat increases, they said, “we must find ways to ensure it remains abundant while meeting the highest quality and nutrition standards.” They noted the value of advanced breeding techniques and research in biotechnology traits aimed at growing “more and better quality wheat safely, responsibly and in a more sustainable manner through the use of less water, fertilizer, fuel and pesticides.”U.S. wheat farmer organizations support the ability of our wheat customers to choose the specific traits they want and need. We are also certain that to continue providing high-quality wheat at affordable prices, we must support research and development in all innovations.