The data shows that the world’s population is increasing at about 1.15 percent per year, down from a 1.3 percent growth rate at the beginning of the decade. World grain yields are rising at a fast enough pace to keep pace with the increase in population.

World food shortages may be overblownBased on the most recent 10 years of data, world grain yields are rising at more than 1.6 percent per year. If we take the United States out of the equation, we don’t have much impact on the world population growth rate, but grain yields outside the U.S. are rising at a slightly slower pace, at 1.55 percent per year. Still, at least based on what has been happening recently, the growth in world grain yields is more than keeping pace with gains in population.

World grain area has also increased during the last decade. World grain area in 2010 is reported to total 688 million hectares, compared to 667 million in 2000. Area harvested was down in 2010 in several key wheat producing countries due to adverse weather conditions.

World food shortages may be overblownIf we use the 2009 area as a base instead of 2010, world grain area increased by 27 million hectares during the decade. World oilseed area increased by 37 million hectares from 2000 to 2010 with a 28 million hectare increase in soybeans alone. Cotton area was also up during the last decade, but by a very modest 1.5 million hectares. The increase in grain area during the decade was a rebound following a decade of declines during the 1990s. The high for grain area was 732 million hectares recorded back in 1981.

The data for the last decade shows significant increases in world crop area are possible and that gains in yields are at least keeping pace with population growth. There are some gains in per capita consumption, but overall the gains are fairly small. Conditions change in agriculture fairly quickly, but the recent developments suggest that concerns about world food shortages may be overblown.