Economic and Social Department

 global information and early warning system on food and agriculture

 food outlook
No. 1 Rome, April 2004

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Cereal Supply/Demand Roundup




World Cereal Utilization

Food Aid

Cereal Import Bill



World Cereal Utilization

Cereal utilization rises in 2003/04 but remains below the long-term trend

Global cereal utilization in 2003/04 is forecast at 1 971 million tonnes, up 1 percent from 2002/03 but still slightly below the 10-year trend. In spite of a significant increase in international cereal prices so far during the 2003/04 marketing season, global cereal utilization is set to expand faster than in 2002/03, partly sustained by a strong rebound in domestic feed and industrial use in the United States.

World Cereal Utilization

 (million tonnes)
Total utilization   
World 1 947 1 950 1 971
Developing countries1 1811 1851 213
Developed countries766765759
Food consumption 1 /   
World 969 975 990
Developing countries795801816
Developed countries174174174
Feed use   
World 714 710 711
Developing countries265267275
Developed countries449443436
Other uses 2 /   
World 263 265 270
Developing countries121116121
Developed countries143149148
Source: FAO . Note: Total computed from unrounded data.
1/ For direct human consumption. 2/ Other uses include seed,
industrial uses and post harvest losses.

Overall, the growth in world food cereal consumption in 2003/04 is expected to keep pace with the rise in population, with the total consumption rising to 990 million tonnes. Thus, per caput food use of cereals is forecast to remain stable at about 157 kg. Similarly, per caput food consumption in the LIFDCs, as a group, is likely to remain stable at 165 kg, helped by above-average harvests in several countries.

Per Caput Food Consumption of Cereals

 (kg. per head)
Developing countries165164165
Developed countries132131131
TOTAL 158 157 157
Low-income food-
deficit countries



(excluding China
and India)



Coarse grains292829
Rice (milled)595959

Source: FAO

Total cereal feed use in 2003/04 is forecast at 711 million tonnes, roughly the same as the previous season’s reduced level. A rebound in coarse grains production in the United States is helping to meet this season’s feed demand, which is forecast to increase in spite of the discovery of BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopath) in December. Feed use of cereals in Brazil is also forecast to increase significantly, especially for maize, on the back of large supplies and strong demand from the poultry sector. By contrast, increased grain prices in Europe and the CIS have resulted in a significant decline in cereal feed use in these regions. This is especially evident in the case of wheat, feed use of which is forecast to decline by 15 percent in Europe. Also in the CIS countries, Ukraine in particular, feed use is seen to drop significantly as farmers slaughter their cattle and pigs rather than feed them with expensive feed grains. In addition, a rapid spread of the lethal avian flu in Asia, where millions of birds have been eliminated since January, is depressing demand for feed grains for poultry production in the affected countries.

Other uses of cereals, which include post harvest losses, seeds and industrial uses, are estimated to have peaked in 2003/04, at 270 million tonnes. While the increase in rice and coarse grains production in 2003 would also give rise to higher post-harvest losses, the more remarkable feature is the increase in industrial use of cereals, mainly maize, which has been growing steadily in recent years. The increase in industrial use is mostly confined to China and the United States, mainly driven by a growing demand for maize-based ethanol production.

food outlook

In the United States, the industrial use of maize continues to expand, mostly for production of ethanol. Based on the latest official figures, maize used to make ethanol-based fuel is forecast to hit a new record, at around 29 million tonnes, 4 million tonnes more than in 2002/03, an increase of 150 percent in 10 years. Among other industrial uses, maize use for high fructose maize syrup (known as HFCS) is expected to remain at around 13.6 million tonnes, while the use for starch is likely to increase slightly, to around 6.6 million tonnes.

Review of world cereal utilization in 2002/03
World total utilization of cereals in 2002/03 is estimated at 1 950 million tonnes, only 3 million tonnes more than in 2001/02 and 0.4 percent below the 10-year trend. For the most part, the slow growth in total cereal utilization in 2002/03 reflected a decline in the overall use of coarse grains in North America and Australia.

Aggregate food consumption of cereals (excluding indirect uses, such as for alcohol, starches and sweeteners) in 2002/03 is estimated at 975 million tonnes, up only 0.6 percent from the previous season (see the box on Dietary Patterns of Cereals). Growth in food consumption has been most subdued in countries with a strong economy and rising incomes. In those countries, the shares of cereals in dietary intakes continue to decline, mainly in favour of vegetable oils and animal products. This is particularly evident in China, the world’s most populous country, where per caput cereal food consumption has fallen by as much as 10 kg over the past decade, to around 181 Kg in 2002/03.

World feed use of cereals, which represents more than one-third of total cereal utilization, contracted slightly in 2002/03 to about 710 million tonnes. A significant decline of around 11 million tonnes occurred in the United States alone, mainly because of reduced supplies and high prices. Nonetheless, the decline in the United States was partially offset by continuing expansions in several Asian countries, especially China, as well in the EU.

Other uses of cereals (seed and industrial purposes plus post-harvest losses) including seed and industrial use) moved up for the third consecutive season. The main factor behind the increase has been the rise in industrial use of maize, especially a continuation of strong demand in the United States for maize-based ethanol production.

Dietary Patterns of Cereals 1 /

Wheat is the primary staple food for almost one-third of the world’s population (including most developed countries). Among the developing countries, wheat ranks first in dietary shares in countries in the Near East and North Africa, in many localities in Latin America, Pakistan, and the North of India. It is also the secondary staple for over 3.3 billion people in developing regions (or 70 percent of this population). Wheat is not a homogeneous grain. For instance, in the Near East and North Africa, and in parts of South Asia (India and Pakistan), wheat is processed into an unleavened bread; in East and South East Asia, it is eaten in the form of noodles; and in North Africa, as ‘couscous’. Other wheat preparations featuring in many diets include bread, biscuits, and bakery products.

Rice is grown in many regions, under a wider variety of climatic and soil conditions than any other crop. It is nearly always eaten in boiled form, without further processing other than milling, which is in contrast with most other cereals. However, in some countries in the Far East, manufactured rice products appear in diets, mainly in the form of rice noodles, which compete to some extent with wheat noodles. Rice is the major cereal for roughly 3.4 billion people in developing countries.

Among the major coarse grains, maize represents either the major staple or main supplementary staple for 1 billion people in developing regions, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Latin America, white and yellow maize is extensively used to make unleavened bread (‘tortilla’), and also eaten ‘on the cob’, while in Sub-Saharan Africa white maize is processed into various products, but popular forms include starchy pastes such as porridge. In the Near East, maize flour is commonly used to make bread, while in South and South East Asia (notably Indonesia and the Philippines) it is consumed in a number of diverse ways. Millet and sorghum are major foods for around 60 million people concentrated in the inland areas of tropical Africa, who consume them mostly in the form fermented or unfermented preparations. These grains also appear in diets in large parts of India and Pakistan, where they are consumed predominantly as unleavened bread. Among the other coarse grains, barley is popular in North Africa and the Near East, where it is used to make bread and as an ingredient added to soup dishes. It is also widely eaten in parts of East Asia (Republic of Korea and Japan particularly), where it is added to rice. Rye is commonly used to make bread in many developed countries, particularly those in Northern and Eastern Europe, but also in areas of North Africa and the Near East.

1/ For a comprehensive analysis of cereal dietary changes over time see, Cereal and Other Starch-Based Staples: Are Consumption Patterns Changing? FAO, 2004. Available at:

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