Double Y-axis chart of worldwide cereals production yields from 1961 to 2007. Area harvested  grew from 647,999 thousand hectares in 1961 to a peak of 726,612 in 1981, after which it decreased to 695,599 in 2007.  Production went from 877 million tonnes in 1961 to 2,351 in 2007, with an annual change average rate of 2.17%. Yields grew from 1,353  kilogram/hectare in 1961 to 3,380 in 2007, at an annual average rate of  2.01%.

World cereals production has increased steadily from 1961 to 2007, at an annual average rate of 2.2%. This performance results mainly from yields improvement (annual change average rate of 2%). Areas harvested remained almost constant (annual change average rate of 0.2%). In fact, global areas harvested have been shrinking since the peak of 726,612 thousand hectares in 1981 to only 695,599 thousand hectares (96% of the peak value) in 2007.
This situation elicits three comments:
» The productivity improvements known as the "green revolution" that fuelled the production surge during the years 1945-1970 are likely to dry up. The pipeline of high-yield varieties is empty, the intensive use of fertilizers and pesticides is triggering adverse consequences, and irrigation suffers from the global freshwater scarcity.
» Harvested areas not only could continue shrinking, but also their marginal productivity could diminish, since the best arable land has already been exploited.
» To compound the problem, generalised soil erosion and exhaustion of aquifers are liable to hinder the growth of cereals output worldwide.
[Primary Y-axis: production in million metric tonnes, and yield in kilogram/hectare. Secondary Y-axis: area harvested in thousand hectares. Dots represent actual data, for which the corresponding regression lines are provided in the same colour.]

 

World
Cereals - Areas Harvested & Yields

Year

Area Harvested
(thousand hectares kHa)

Yield
(kilogram/hectare kg/Ha)

Production
(million tonnes)

1961647,9991,353877
1962653,8211,428933
1963659,2351,440949
1964670,1641,4941,001
1965667,1921,497999
1966669,6801,6111,079
1967679,8121,6541,124
1968684,0951,6971,161
1969685,2571,7091,171
1970675,4711,7661,193
1971686,8931,8921,300
1972677,2921,8581,259
1973699,3031,9411,357
1974700,8851,8931,327
1975711,0071,9131,360
1976722,5392,0261,464
1977719,1202,0251,456
1978715,0232,2131,582
1979706,5862,1761,538
1980717,2532,1611,550
1981726,6122,2471,633
1982714,3202,3691,693
1983704,6972,3091,627
1984714,9642,4991,787
1985720,1902,5291,821
1986717,3542,5561,834
1987697,5212,5401,772
1988702,3142,4601,727
1989711,7882,6291,871
1990708,4792,7551,952
1991704,0102,6841,890
1992709,3012,7831,974
1993695,3602,7371,903
1994695,3092,8141,956
1995686,4062,7651,898
1996704,0372,9432,072
1997699,7652,9942,095
1998680,4223,0632,084
1999670,5743,1102,085
2000672,7643,0622,060
2001672,8963,1322,108
2002660,5713,0742,031
2003671,4773,1112,089
2004678,4803,3622,281
2005690,5893,2832,267
2006684,5513,2712,239
2007695,5993,3802,351
Average change/year0.2%2.0%2.2%

[]

 

Sources: see FAOSTAT.

 

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