The world grain stock/use ratios (ratio of stock volume against use volume) which are the criteria for global availability of grain have shown a tendency to fall since 1987. According to USDA data, except for 1997/98 the world average stock/use ratio for all grain has been below 17% since 1994/95; FAO considers this a dangerously low level. The ratio is at around the lowest level since the war, and is about the same as the level during the food crisis year of 1974. The stock/use ratios for rice and coarse grain have been lower than the average stock ratio since 1989/90, and they have been lower than 17% since 1993/94. The ratio for rice is projected to be at the dangerously low level oflittle more than 11% in 1998/ 99. These low stock/use ratios are caused by the following long term factors: transformation in agricultural policy during the late eighties and the nineties in both Europe and the United States, the stagnation in agricultural technology improvement, scarcity in and degradation of natural resources such as soil and water, yield constraint due to increased cropping intensity, the world population explosion and the rapid increase in demand for feed grain caused mainly by the high economic growth in Asia, most notably in China.
In this paper, effects of these factors on the world food demand and supply in the past and in the near future are investigated and their implications to agricultural research are considered.
Since the last half of the eighties, the agricultural policies in Europe and the United States have changed from protectionist, surplus producing and dumping export policies to policies of reducing price support, subsidizing income on a decoupled basis, curtailment of surpluses, correction of interregional differences and environmental protection. Since these policy changes have been made under the influence of the Uruguay Round agricultural trade negotiations during 19861993 and under the WTO framework, these changes will continue into the 21st century and thus will keep the stock ratios for grain at a low level.
The limitation in agricultural technology improvements and in natural resources is clearly represented by the sharp decline in the growth rates in grain yields across the globe during the post-Second World War years. According to the FAO data, the annual growth rate of the yield has declined continuously from about 3% during the 70s to about 1% during 1985 and 1996. Agricultural research expenditures in the international and national research institutions have been decreasing considerably. Yield decline or constraint for grain due to increase in cropping intensity has been reported in many parts of Asia. In order to cope with the exploding population, the grain yield must grow at 3% annually, and this seems very difficult to attain in the near future.
Water shortage for agricultural production has been worsening, especially in fast growing Asia. Water demand for nonagricul-tural purposes has been growing at high speed in many developing countries. Annual stoppage of water flow in the Yellow River in China, which is a good indication of water shortage in northern China, has been rapidly worsening since 1990 in terms of number of days per year and distance of no water flow from the mouth of the river. In 1997 the number of days became more than 250 days and the distance became more than 700 km. In my interview with farmers and researchers in Punjab, India, which is the granary for the whole of the Indian people, in August this year, I heard that the underground water table in most of the Punjab is declining at about 50 cm per year because of too much pumping of water for agricultural production. This is also the case in many other places in India. If the decline continues at this speed, in the near future it will cause a severe reduction in Punjab grain production. Water supply suspension in most cities in India lasts very long hours every day, and rivers near large cities on the Deccan Plateau in India are extremely polluted.
Arable land and planted areas of grain have been decreasing the last two decades over the globe. Soil degradation such as erosion, desertification and salinization has been spreading very fast on the globe. A very wide area of forest has been cut and burnt on the globe, and afterwards the area has been used for agricultural purposes, often by extensive soil mining techniques.
The world population had increased by 2.5 billion over the past 4 million years. But, it increased by the same amount between 1950 and 1985. This population explosion started around 1960, and it will continue up to the year 2025.1 Annual growth of the world population is more than 70 million for the period of 1955/60 and 2020/25. It is more than 80 million during 1875/80 and 1995/ 2000. Population explosion is an important factor in increased food demand. Fast economic growth, especially in the developing countries, accelerates the increase in the world demand for food because fast income growth of the people causes shifts in the dietary pattern of the people from more carbohydrate consumption to more animal protein consumption. This leads to a rapid increase in the demand for feed grain. Recent negative economic growth of the developing countries caused by monetary crises creates a temporary reversal in this tendency.
Incorporating all the factors affecting world grain demand and supply discussed just above, using a simple projection model and assuming future values of exogenous variables of the model such as population, income, income elasticity and conversion ratio between feed and meat, I have projected the world demand and supply of grain in the year 2020. The projected world deficit of grain in 2020 is 417 million metric tons. The current world total grain trade is about 200 million tons, and the projected deficit is very large. Assuming world price elasticity of demand and supply of grain to be about 0.15, the world trade price of grain will increase by about 50% in the year 2020 compared to the base year of 1993. Lester Brown,2 Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery of Japan, and FAO3 predict a shortage of grain in the early 21st century. International organizations such as IFPRI and the World Bank predict that grain prices will decrease by 10 to 30%, and thus think that we will face a surplus of grain in the world in the early 21st century. Reading the publications projecting the surplus, I think the assumptions for their projection are too optimistic, for instance, no limitation in arable land and water, positive price response in planted areas of grain, and considerable yield growth of grain in the future supported by technological improvements in agricultural production.
A green revolution in rice and wheat that is based on intensification in modern inputs such as fertilizers, chemicals, agricultural machinery and irrigation water increased, on one hand, production of these grains in the world to reduce the huge number of world hungry. But, on the other hand, it destroyed natural environment and overused natural resources. Population explosion and income growth in the developing countries will cause an explosion of grain demand. This may lead to severe environmental destruction and exhaustion of natural resources if the demand is met by growth of grain production based on the conventional technology. The severe environmental destruction and exhaustion of natural resources will aggravate the constraints on the world grain supply, as has been shown by a large decline in the growth rate of grain yield during the last decade and a half. These factors will cause severe food shortage in the 21st century, and we will need further increases in food supply.
I believe that developing countries should take more measures to slow down the population explosion, and high income countries should slow down economic growth, as was recommended by the Club of Rome in 1972.4 On the other hand, agricultural research that has pursued only yield increase in the past must emphasize technological improvements which not only increase yield but also conserve environment and natural resources at the same time. This means that so called socially optimal yield increase must be sought in agriculture. Researches for crops' resistance to drought, pests, insects and salinity, etc. should be carried further, since improvement in these resistances will increase yield and at the same time reduce environmental destruction. Socioeconomic and engineering research may yield large supply increases of grain. Restructuring in the distribution of research funds is needed. Individual researchers would find it difficult to influence this restructuring because research is extremely sectionalized. There is a strong need for public research policy to direct and organize agricultural research in this direction.
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