Europe: population rise as cereal production falls
July 7th 2012
EU cereal production is set to drop by 1.4 per cent over the next growing year. Meanwhile the European population continues to grow. In fact the population has been growing uninterrupted for more than half a century.
According to EU statisticians the number of mouths to feed will rise from 502 million today to 525 million by 2035 before peaking in 2040. By 2060 the UK will have the largest population in the EU, that’s assuming it is still in the EU, with 79 million inhabitants. And the highest growth rate in Europe? That’ll be Ireland.
Given the pending millions to feed it is not surprising that a few agricultural commentators raised an eyebrow when they learned about the expected fall in EU cereal production. Although to be honest the news has slipped by fairly unnoticed in Brussels. According to the European farmers’ union Copa the cereal growing area has actually increased by one per cent this year, but a combination of severe weather events including floods, droughts and frosts will likely see an overall reduction in cereal production of about four million tonnes. Farmers have tried to rectify the situation, replanting over 1.5 million hectares, but many were restricted by a lack of commercialised seed. The situation isn’t helped by a near flat-lining in yield gains.
Cereals are vital to world food security as the most important source of food for both humans and animals. But farmers are faced with a near impossible conundrum of producing more and impacting less. The availability of key resources such as water, land and energy are diminishing. Farmers are required to reduce pesticide use and cut greenhouse gas emissions. And if you throw in the unpredictable weather events (such as this year) or the prospect of a major exporting country banning wheat exports (like Russia did last year) it is no wonder some people are more worried about food security than ever before.
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