Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

Other reports in this collection Grain Supply and Demand in Asia

Figure 11-8: Trends in net grain exports in major world regions (USDA, 1999).

Asia's total cereal production more than tripled between 1961 and 1999, from 329.5 to nearly 1,025.8 Mt; the increase in harvest area was only marginal (from 271.8 to 324.5 Mha) during this period. Rice paddy production in Asia jumped from 198.7 to 533.5 Mt while the harvest area increased from 106.9 Mha in 1961 to 136.5 Mha in 1999. Similarly, wheat production in Asia increased from 45.8 to 261.7 Mt while the harvest area increased from 61.2 Mha in 1961 to 97.2 Mha in 1999. A three-fold increase in production of sugarcane and almost five-fold increase in oil crops took place in Asia during 1961-1999. Asian production of starchy roots also doubled during this period. Even as the Asian population increased a little more than two-fold—from 1.70 billion to 3.58 billion people—during this time, per capita consumption of calories in Asia has increased since the 1960s (FAO, 1999a). This improvement in the food situation has been the consequence of an increase in production, resulting from technological advances, that has outpaced population growth in Asia. However, because there is a limit to the amount of arable land, while the Asian population continues to grow, the per capita area of harvest has consistently decreased.

The population growth rate has been a primary factor in the increase in demand for food grains in Asia. Since the mid-1980s, rapid changes in food supply and demand structures have been observed in most developing countries. Declines in self-sufficiency for grains have been particularly dramatic in countries with advanced economies, such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan (China), and Malaysia, where the grain self-sufficiency rate has fallen below 30% in recent years. The rapid decline in grain self-sufficiency in these countries is unprecedented in any region of the world. Between 1970 and 1996, grain self-sufficiency fell from 45 to 27% in Japan, from 68 to 31% in Korea, from 61 to 19% in Taiwan (China), and from 60 to 25% in Malaysia (FAO, 1996). Declines in grain self-sufficiency also have been observed in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka. Populous countries such as China, India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan have long maintained grain self-sufficiency of more than 90%, but as these countries shift to industrialization it is possible that declines will be observed there as well. In contrast, Thailand and Vietnam, which encompass the great grain-producing regions of the Menam and Mekong River deltas, continue to maintain better than 100% self-sufficiency for grains.

The annual per capita consumption of meat in principal Asian countries also has shown an upward trend in recent years. Since the 1970s, South Korea and China have reported the most rapid increases in meat consumption. In South Korea, per capita meat consumption grew about seven-fold, from 5.2 to 40 kg between 1970 and 1997; in China, it increased nearly five-fold, from 8.8 to 42.5 kg. During the same period, per capita meat consumption more than doubled in Japan (42.2 kg in 1997) and Malaysia (51.9 kg in 1997). Meat consumption in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and India grew only marginally, remaining below or at 5 kg even in 1997—considerably lower than the level in east Asia. The increasing trend in meat consumption in temperate Asia means higher demand for livestock feed for the production of meat. Demand for this feed in Asia increased from 25.2 Mt in the 1970s to 61.2 Mt in 1980, 147.0 Mt in 1990, and 163.0 Mt in 1999. The demand for feed grain in Asia has grown at an annual rate of about 6.6% and has been a principal factor in the rapid increase in demand for world grain imports.

The world is moving toward a tighter grain supply and demand, and instability in the world grain market is rising. At the same time, Asia is becoming increasingly dependent on the world grain market. As shown in Figure 11-8, net grain import in Asia was 20.3 Mt in 1961; it increased to 80.9 Mt by 1998. The continuing increase in grain imports is a result of increasing populations and increased demand for grain that accompanies economic growth, with which increases in grain production within the region cannot keep pace.

The impact of global warming on the international supply and demand of rice and wheat has been evaluated by Nakagawa et al. (1997) through the use of a partial equilibrium-type dynamic model for world supply and demand. Based on a world rice and wheat supply and demand model and a unit harvest scenario, the study projected that the serious impacts of global warming would be felt as early as the year 2020. The study suggests that the early impacts will not be so severe that humans are unable to control them. However, the gap between supply and demand may grow in some regions of Asia, resulting in considerably increased reliance on imports. Furthermore, the problem of short-term fluctuations in the market because of an increased frequency of droughts, floods, and other extreme weather events will be exacerbated, making it necessary to promote measures to combat climate change on a global scale.

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