By Lester R. Brown Overnight, China has become a leading world grain importer, set to buy a staggering 22 million tons in the 2013–14 trade year, according to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture projections. As recently as 2006—just eight years ago—China had a grain surplus and was exporting 10 million tons. What caused this […]
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Between 2007 and mid-2008, world grain and soybean prices more than doubled. As food prices climbed everywhere, some exporting countries began to restrict grain shipments in an effort to limit food price inflation at home.Importing countries panicked. Some tried to negotiate long-term grain supply agreements with exporting countries, but in a seller’s market, few were successful. Seemingly overnight, importing countries realized that one of their few options was to find land in other countries on which to produce food for themselves.
Have yields of major grains, such as rice, corn, and wheat, started to plateau after decades of growth? Lester Brown explores this phenomenon in Chapter 7 from his recent book Full Planet, Empty Plates.
The world is in transition from an era of food abundance to one of scarcity. Learn more about this frightening transition in chapter one of Lester Brown’s Full Planet, Empty Plates.
More than 150 data sets accompany Lester R. Brown’s latest book, Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity. These tables and graphs help to explain the precarious situation in which humanity finds itself, as the world leaves an era of food surpluses and enters one of food scarcity. Here are some highlights from the collection.
More than a quarter of all the meat produced worldwide is now eaten in China, and the country’s 1.35 billion people are hungry for more. In 1978, China’s meat consumption of 8 million tons was one third the U.S. consumption of 24 million tons. But by 1992, China had overtaken the United States as the world’s leading meat consumer—-and it has not looked back since.
2011’s grain harvest was massive: the largest ever. Given the number of lean years prior to it, though, the grain produced will not replenish global stocks… and, thus, stabilize food prices.
World consumption of animal protein is everywhere on the rise. Meat consumption increased from 44 million tons in 1950 to 284 million tons in 2009, more than doubling annual consumption per person to over 90 pounds. The rise in consumption of milk and eggs is equally dramatic. Wherever incomes rise, so does meat consumption. As […]
By Lester R. Brown Many countries are facing dangerous water shortages. As world demand for food has soared, millions of farmers have drilled too many irrigation wells in efforts to expand their harvests. As a result, water tables are falling and wells are going dry in some 20 countries containing half the world’s people. […]
By Lester R. Brown In 1994, I wrote an article in World Watch magazine entitled “Who Will Feed China?” that was later expanded into a book of the same title. When the article was published in late August, the press conference generated only moderate coverage. But when it was reprinted that weekend on the front […]
“Our early 21st century civilization is in trouble. We need not go beyond the world food economy to see this. Over the last few decades we have created a food production bubble—one based on environmental trends that cannot be sustained, including overpumping aquifers, overplowing land, and overloading the atmosphere with carbon dioxide,” notes Lester R. […]
By Lester R. Brown After several decades of rapid rise in world grain yields, it is now becoming more difficult to raise land productivity fast enough to keep up with the demands of a growing, increasingly affluent, population. From 1950 to 1990, world grainland productivity increased by 2.2 percent per year, but from 1990 until […]
By Lester Brown Around midnight on Wednesday, August 11th, a group of commodity analysts will gather at a meeting site in the massive South Building of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Washington, D.C. Once they are assembled, the door will be locked. Cell phones will be collected. Phone and Internet lines will be […]