According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the world’s population is projected to grow from 7.0 billion to 8.4 billion during 2012-32, with 93 percent of the increase occurring in non-NAFTA countries. Two continents account for 87 percent of the projected increase: Asia, due to its large current population, and Africa, with projected rapid population growth. In addition, real (inflation-adjusted) per capita income growth in several Asian countries is expected to average more than 5 percent per annum over the next 20 years, well above the average annual rates projected for the United States (1.77 percent), Canada (1.65 percent), and Mexico (2.08 percent).

Census projections also indicate that the NAFTA region will be a growing market. This growth will mainly be driven by the U.S., which, among the NAFTA countries, is expected to have the largest increase in population over the next decades. Between 2012 and 2032, the region’s population is projected to increase by 64 million in the U.S., 22 million in Mexico, and 5 million in Canada. This anticipated growth will heighten the attractiveness of the U.S. market, not only to Canadian and Mexican producers, who enjoy duty-free access because of NAFTA, but also to U.S. producers.

The rates of population growth in each NAFTA country, however, are projected to slow over the next 20 years. For Canada, this deceleration will be particularly sharp, from 0.78 percent growth annually in 2012 to 0.44 percent 20 years later. Among the world’s major agricultural exporters, Canada and the European Union are among the few that anticipate little increase in domestic demand in the coming two decades.

The median age of the population in each NAFTA country will also increase over the next two decades, particularly in Mexico. A 2007 ERS study of U.S. household food expenditures suggests that the aging of the population is likely to lower per capita spending on food and shift demand toward fruit and vegetables and away from eating at restaurants and other foodservice establishments.

In Mexico, however, the aging of the population will initially coincide with a reduced number of dependents (defined as children plus persons over age 65) per working-age adult, a development that could help to boost household incomes and food demand. In a 2005 study, Building Human Capital in an Aging Mexico, Richard Jackson emphasizes that the number of dependents in Mexico is projected to decline from roughly 80 per 100 working-age adults in 2005 to 65 in 2030 and then start to increase as the Mexican population ages.

According to the same study, Mexico’s brief demographic dividend of fewer dependents per working-age adult may diminish pressures on social service budgets, facilitate higher savings rates and larger investments in education, foster a shift toward more capital-intensive economic activities, and decrease international migration—all factors that could lead to higher rates of economic growth. This, in turn, could increase levels of food spending per capita, which tends to rise with household income.