Grain trade

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Table 3.5 shows the world production and trade figures for grain for the year 1990. Total grain movement across national borders was approximately 225 million tonnes, representing some 12% of grain production. This large trade in grain highlights the need for both national and international standards to ensure uniformity in quality and quantity of grain.

Table 3.5. World Grain Statistics.

Year: 1990 Production
'000 t
'000 t
7000 t
Africa 87751 27785 2725
N + C America 402095 16270 115770
S America 68503 8517 11227
Asia 859650 98878 15808
Europe 283238 40078 62527
Oceania 24587 787 14802
USSR 228854 32862 1641
World 1954678 225177 224500

Source: FAO Trade and Production Year-book


National requirements

It could be argued that a commodity standard should be country-specific, containing factors such as percentage brokers, foreign matter, moisture content that reflect the types of end-use, be it for commercial or domestic purposes. Government policy on the liberalization of the grain market may reduce the significance of domestic quality standards, and it is up to the buyer and seller to decide on quality and price. Although a government may retain the use of standards under particular circumstances e.g. for national food reserves, where quality control will be important.


Regional requirements

End-usage, and hence standards, may vary from one country to the next. Where standards vary considerably between countries, the movement of grain may be hindered. A country may have a single standard that covers both internal and external grain movement. This may not facilitate the trade of a commodity between countries, particularly if the standard permits a greater degree of defective grains than its potential trading partner.

Regional food security may be impaired if the quality of the commodity is not acceptable by some of the countries in the region. Therefore a quality grading standard, acceptable by all users would be necessary for a commodity stored as part of a regional food security programme.


International trade

International trade of grain may be possible without a standard, if buyer and seller are aware of each others' requirements. However when country-specific information and requirements are not known, a standard will provide the guide-lines that ensure the maintenance of quality, and safeguard consumers' rights. The need for detailed standards may be lessened if a country adopts the "fair average quality" system of assessing quality and price of grain consignments (see below).

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