For this AgriData n°2, we are going to study cereal production at world level, which are the most cultivated cereals on the planet and how cereal production has evolved since the 1960s.
Figure 2.1 Changes in world cereal production since the 1960s (in metric tons)
Grain production (including rice) increased by a factor of 3.4, from 876.9 million metric tons in 1961 to 2962.9 million tons in 2018.
Figure 2.2 Evolution of the areas devoted to the cultivation of grains in the world (in ha)
The area devoted to grains cultivation increased from 648 million hectares in 1961 (about 11.9 times the area of metropolitan France) to 728.1 million hectares (about 13.4 times the area of metropolitan France). As can also be seen, the area devoted to grain cultivation declined between 1981 and 2002.
Figure 2.3 Share of individual cereals in total world cereal area (in %)
Wheat has been the most widely grown cereal in the world since the 1960s and the area under wheat has ranged from 33.4% to 29.4% between 1961 and 2018. There has also been an increase in the share of cereal area devoted to maize, from 16.4% in 1961 to 26.6% in 2018. This increase was to the detriment of barley, millet and especially oats and rye, which have seen their shares decline steadily since the 1960s.
Figure 2.4 Evolution of the yields of the different cereals cultivated in the world (in metric tons/hectare)
Apart from sorghum and millet, cereal yields have increased since the 1960s. Corn is the most productive crop, with yields increasing from 1.94 metric ton per hectare in 1961 to 5.92 metric tons per hectare in 2018. Rice has increased from 1.87 metric ton per hectare in 1961 to 4.68 metric tons per hectare in 2018. Finally, wheat increased from 1.09 metric ton per hectare in 1961 to 3.43 metric tons per hectare in 2018.
Figure 2.5 Evolution of world cereal production (in millions of metric tonnes)
Maize is now by far the most produced cereal in the world with 1148 million metric tons in 2018, ahead of rice with 782 million metric tons and wheat with 734 million metric tons. Until the mid-1990s, wheat, maize and rice competed in terms of quantity produced, but maize took off in the early 2000s. Thanks to the increase in surface areas but above all to the rise in yields, maize production increased 5.6 times between 1961 and 2020. Rice production increased by a factor of 3.6 and wheat by a factor of 3.3. To a lesser extent, barley, sorghum and millet production also increased. Conversely, oat and rye production has declined.
Figure 2.6 Evolution of the share of the different cereals in relation to total production in volume (in %)
Maize, rice and wheat together account for 89.9% of world cereal production.
While wheat and rice competed for the world’s most important cereal production in the 1960s, wheat remained the world’s most important cereal from 1976 to 1993. In the 1990s, the quantities produced of wheat, maize and rice were roughly equivalent. It was not until the early 2000s that maize definitively became the world’s most produced cereal.