Double Y-axis chart of worldwide cereals production per capita and production yields compared with population growth from 1961 to 2007.  Cereals production per capita increased from 284 to 352 kilograms per person, at an annual average rate of 0.5%. Yields grew much faster from 1,353  kilogram/hectare in 1961 to 3,380 in 2007, at an annual average rate of  2.01%. Meanwhile world population grew from 3.1 billion in 1961 to 6.7 billion in 2007, at an annual average rate of 1.7%.

From 1961 to 2007, cereal production yields improved dramatically thanks to science-based agricultural methods that include high-yield variety selection, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, mechanisation and irrigation projects. In fact, cereal yields in 2007 were 2.5 times higher than in 1961, having grown at an annual average rate of 2.0%, faster than population (average annual growth rate of 1.7%). And yet, these productivity gains have not been strong enough to enable production per capita to effectively take off, the latter having increased at a snail rate of 0.5% per year, below what is needed to provide abundant food to everyone. If the law of diminishing returns starts playing with yields, then world cereals production per person may experience a worrisome setback.
[Primary Y-axis: production per person in kilograms, and yield in kilogram/hectare. Secondary Y-axis: population in millions. Dots represent actual data, for which the corresponding regression lines are provided in the same colour.]

 

World
Cereals Yields & Per Capita

Year

Population
(million)

Yield
(kilogram/hectare kg/Ha)

Production/person
(kilogram kg)

19613,0901,353284
19623,1501,428296
19633,2121,440296
19643,2771,494306
19653,3431,497299
19663,4111,611316
19673,4811,654323
19683,5521,697327
19693,6251,709323
19703,6991,766322
19713,7731,892344
19723,8491,858327
19733,9251,941346
19744,0011,893332
19754,0761,913334
19764,1512,026353
19774,2252,025345
19784,3002,213368
19794,3752,176351
19804,4512,161348
19814,5292,247360
19824,6082,369367
19834,6892,309347
19844,7712,499375
19854,8552,529375
19864,9412,556371
19875,0292,540352
19885,1182,460338
19895,2072,629359
19905,2952,755369
19915,3822,684351
19925,4672,783361
19935,5522,737343
19945,6362,814347
19955,7192,765332
19965,8022,943357
19975,8832,994356
19985,9643,063349
19996,0453,110345
20006,1243,062336
20016,2033,132340
20026,2813,074323
20036,3593,111328
20046,4373,362354
20056,5153,283348
20066,5933,271340
20076,6713,380352
Average change/year1.7%2.0%0.5%

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Sources: see FAOSTAT for cereals production data, and United Nations Statistics Division for population data.

 

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