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India's rising food subsidy leads to little change in food grain consumption

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The cost of India’s food subsidy policy has increased significantly since 2000, reaching about $13.5 billion annually in 2011/12 (April/March Indian fiscal year). The rising cost has been driven by higher support prices to farmers, unchanged issue prices for subsidized wheat and rice distributed through the government’s Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), and the cost of storing rising stocks. Per capita wheat and rice consumption has changed little, although TPDS grain now accounts for a larger share of consumption, potentially increasing the ability of recipients to buy other foods. Assessments of the TPDS indicate substantial leakages in the delivery of grains that have prevented many households from purchasing their full ration. India’s new National Food Security Act (NFSA), signed into law in September of 2013, aims to expand the share of households eligible for the most preferential subsidized prices and also implement a number of safeguards to improve the distribution of food grains. Whether reforms under the new legislation will have a significant impact on food and nutrition security given the historically poor functioning of distribution programs in a number of Indian states remains uncertain. Find this chart and additional analysis in “India Continues to Grapple with Food Insecurity” in the February 2014 Amber Waves.

Global soybean market outlook turns toward Brazil's large impending crop

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Although robust demand has recently supported soybean prices, the 2013/14 (October/September) soybean market outlook now hinges on the impending large crop forecast in Brazil, the world’s second-largest producer after the United States. The Brazilian forecast indicates a widening gap between soybean production and total use (crush plus exports), which may signal lower prices ahead. High prices are contributing to increased soybean area in Brazil, leading USDA to raise its 2013/14 soybean production forecast for Brazil to 89 million metric tons. The new forecast is up 1 million tons from the previous forecast, is well above last year’s record crop of 82 million, and is nearly equal to this year’s U.S. harvest of 89.5 million. Although abundant rainfall has created favorable growing conditions for Brazil’s 2013/14 soybean crop, the yield forecast is unchanged this month, with another 8-10 weeks of good weather needed if yields are to match or surpass the country’s 2010/11 yield record. While part of the increase in Brazilian supplies is expected to boost the country’s 2013/14 soybean crush and exports, the current outlook indicates a substantial increase in stocks. This chart can be found in the Oil Crops Chart Gallery, with supporting analysis in Oil Crops Outlook: January 2014.

Internationally, at-home food spending varies more than calorie availability

Friday, January 17, 2014

Per capita food-at-home spending varies widely across countries, reflecting general food price levels, prices for particular foods (grains versus meats), and for higher income countries, the mix of at-home and away-from-home spending. In poorer countries, diets consist mostly of lower cost grains, such as corn and sorghum, and roots such as cassava. In Kenya, corn makes up about one-third of total calories consumed. In 2012, food-at-home spending was $2,273 per person in the United States and $350 in Kenya. Calorie availability in 2009 displayed a narrower range from 3,688 calories per person per day in the United States to 2,092 calories in Kenya. Japanese consumers outspent U.S. consumers on at-home foods by $1,545 per person, but per-person calorie availability in Japan (2,723 calories per day) was lower. This chart appears in ERS?s data product, Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, updated December 9, 2013.

Editor's Pick 2013:<br>U.S. agricultural exports to China grow despite increases in China's domestic farm support

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

China has been an important source of recent growth in U.S. agricultural exports, and there has been concern about the implications of recent increases in China’s domestic farm support. While it is often presumed that subsidies and price supports give Chinese farmers an advantage, these policies actually may improve prospects for U.S. agricultural exports by raising costs and prices of Chinese commodities above international levels. As a World Trade Organization (WTO) member, China agreed to relatively low tariffs and eliminated most barriers to imports apart from tariff rate quotas for several types of cereal grains, cotton, and sugar. Consequently, as China raises domestic price supports above international prices, the country tends to attract more imports. As a result, China today is a net importer of the commodities that are the main targets of its domestic support programs—grains, oilseeds and cotton. This chart can be found in Growth and Evolution in China’s Agricultural Support Policies, ERR-153. Originally published on Tuesday, August 13, 2013.

Increased productivity now the primary source of growth in world agriculture

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The average annual rate of global agricultural growth slowed in the 1970s and 1980s but then accelerated in the 1990s and 2000s. In the decades prior to 1990, most output growth came about from intensification of input use (i.e., using more labor, capital, and material inputs per acre of agricultural land). Bringing new land into agriculture production and extending irrigation to existing agricultural land were also important sources of growth. Over the last two decades, however, the rate of growth in agricultural resources (land, labor, capital, etc.) slowed. In 2001-10, improvements in productivity—getting more output from existing resources—accounted for more than three-quarters of the total growth in global agricultural output, reflecting the use of new technology and changes in management by agricultural producers around the world. This chart is found in the ERS data product, International Agricultural Productivity, on the ERS website, updated November 2013.

Strong projected growth in global poultry meat imports

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The United States is the world’s second largest poultry meat exporter behind Brazil, with U.S. exports valued at $4.2 billion and accounting for 20 percent of U.S. broiler meat production in 2012. According to USDA’s long-term projections, world import demand for poultry meat is expected to grow 1.56 million tons over the next 10 years. Brazil’s poultry exports—aided by relatively low production costs—are expected to grow 27 percent by 2022, compared with 11 percent projected growth in U.S. exports. Strong growth in poultry imports is projected for much of the world, except for Russia and the European Union. Continued growth is projected in the Africa and the Middle East region—including Sub-Saharan Africa, Saudi Arabia, and Other North Africa and Middle East—which now accounts for more than 40 percent of poultry imports by major importers. In this and other developing regions, rising consumer incomes, population growth, urbanization, and the typically low cost of poultry meat relative to other meats are key drivers of expanding poultry demand. This chart can be found in Assessing Growth in U.S. Broiler and Poultry Meat Exports, LDPM-231-01, released November 8, 2013.

Afghanistan emerges as major importer of wheat flour

Friday, November 15, 2013

Afghanistan is among the world’s largest importers of wheat flour, with imports growing since 2000 because of a recovery in internal demand, and inadequate water supplies that continue to limit domestic wheat production. Afghan flour production—the nation’s largest official agro-industry—faces competition from imported flour, much of it from neighboring Pakistan where wheat producers and flour millers benefit from Government support. Efforts to support Afghanistan’s flour-milling sector by increasing border protections on flour and wheat—if enforceable along the country’s rugged borders—would have uncertain impact on water-constrained wheat production, and impose higher costs on consumers. Unhindered wheat and flour imports, including imports from Pakistan, may support growth in domestic flour consumption, with relatively small losses in farm output. This chart appears in Afghanistan’s Wheat Flour Market: Policies and Prospects.

Cerrado region remains key to growth in Brazil's farm output

Monday, September 16, 2013

The successful agricultural transformation of Brazil’s Cerrado, a broad savannah that accounts for 24 percent of the country’s total area, has driven past growth in farm output in Brazil and is likely to remain important to future growth. The average output of Cerrado farms increased 192 percent in volume terms between 1985 and 2006. By 2006, Brazil was the second-largest global producer of soybeans after the United States, with 49 percent of that production coming from the Cerrado. The Cerrado’s tropical soils, with good physical structure but low fertility, high acidity, and susceptibility to degradation, are generally deficient in important nutrients, but improved varieties and management practices developed by Brazilian research institutions were central to making crops and pastures more productive. ERS research examining productivity across Brazilian environmental zones—or biomes—indicates that average farms in the Cerrado achieved a total factor productivity (TFP—a measure of total output to total input) growth rate of less than 1 percent per year between 1985 and 2006, far less than the 4.3 percent achieved by the biome’s most-efficient farms. This productivity gap suggests considerable room for continued output growth for most farms in the region. This chart can be found in “Evaluating the Resource Cost and Transferability of Brazil’s Cerrado Agricultural ‘Miracle’” in ERS’s September 2013 Amber Waves magazine.

China's agricultural subsidies rise following establishment of general-input subsidy program

Monday, August 26, 2013

China’s expansion of agricultural support is driven by a mix of factors, including a campaign to “modernize” agriculture by inducing adoption of modern inputs and increased investment, concerns about rural-urban income inequality, and concerns about maintaining “food security.” Growth in subsidy payments reflects the strategy of increasing subsidies annually. Most of the growth in payments is in the “general-input subsidy” that aims to offset rising production costs in order to maintain net returns to grain producers. From 2004 to 2012, the direct payment to grain producers grew marginally. During the same period, the improved-seed subsidy increased tenfold to $3.4 billion by adding more crops and extending the geographic coverage of the program. The machinery-purchase subsidy was increased by an even greater margin, reaching $3.1 billion in 2012. However, increase in expenditure on the general-input subsidy exceeded the combined growth of these other subsidies and it was the dominant type of direct-subsidy expenditure in 2012. Central Government policies describe a “dynamic adjustment mechanism” indicating that the general-input subsidy is determined by increases in prices of grain, fertilizer, fuel, and other inputs to keep net returns to grain producers from falling. This chart can be found in Growth and Evolution in China’s Agricultural Support Policies, ERR-153.

Labor costs drive increases in costs of grain production in China

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Available Chinese data indicate that average cash expenses rose during 2003-11 by $190 to $220 per acre for corn, wheat, and long-grain rice, while expenses for short-grain rice rose by nearly $400 per acre. While discussion tends to focus on increases in cash expenses for inputs like fertilizer and fuel, the increase in production costs has been more broadly based. The data show that the implicit cost of unpaid family labor was the dominant component of farm production costs. The imputed cost of family labor rose from $94 per acre to $244 per acre during 2003-11, a reflection of rising wages and opportunity costs of farm labor. Other inputs that are the object of subsidy programs—seeds and mechanized services—also contributed to increases in production costs. Overall, the increases in production expenses far exceeded the increase in subsidy payments during that period. Growth in off-farm work opportunities poses the biggest challenge to maintaining agricultural output. As prospective off-farm wages rise, farmers require higher net returns to induce them to continue planting crops or raising livestock. This chart can be found in Growth and Evolution in China’s Agricultural Support Policies, ERR-153.

U.S. agricultural exports to China grow despite increases in China's domestic farm support

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

China has been an important source of recent growth in U.S. agricultural exports, and there has been concern about the implications of recent increases in China’s domestic farm support. While it is often presumed that subsidies and price supports give Chinese farmers an advantage, these policies actually may improve prospects for U.S. agricultural exports by raising costs and prices of Chinese commodities above international levels. As a World Trade Organization (WTO) member, China agreed to relatively low tariffs and eliminated most barriers to imports apart from tariff rate quotas for several types of cereal grains, cotton, and sugar. Consequently, as China raises domestic price supports above international prices, the country tends to attract more imports. As a result, China today is a net importer of the commodities that are the main targets of its domestic support programs—grains, oilseeds and cotton. This chart can be found in Growth and Evolution in China’s Agricultural Support Policies, ERR-153.

China's agricultural support program is expanding

Monday, August 5, 2013

China’s agricultural support program began in 2004 when it introduced three small subsidies targeted at grain producers: a direct payment, a subsidy for improved seed varieties, and a partial rebate for farm machinery purchases. The Government’s direct role in grain markets was reduced to an indirect one of buying and selling reserves to maintain food security and stabilize prices. Since 2004, expenditure on the initial set of programs has grown rapidly and new ones have been added. China’s support for agriculture is now large and wide-ranging. In 2012, China’s Ministry of Finance reported budgeted spending for agricultural production rose to $75 billion, equal to $127 per metric ton of grain produced. The programs shown in this Chart of Note accounted for about half of that total. Other major expenditures included $9.8 billion for subsidized loans and storage of commodity reserves and $17.3 billion for irrigation/water projects and onfarm infrastructure. Smaller amounts were spent on agribusiness support, drought mitigation, and technical services. This chart can be found in Growth and Evolution in China’s Agricultural Support Policies, ERR-153, August 2013.

Strong expansion seen for Brazil's soybean exports after big crops

Monday, July 15, 2013

Although the USDA estimate of Brazil’s record 2012/13 soybean crop has been lowered to 82 million tons, strong expansion of Brazil’s soybean exports is forecast for 2012/13 and 2013/14. Brazil’s soybean exports are forecast to surpass those of the United States in both 2012/13 and 2013/14, making Brazil the world’s largest soybean exporter in both years. Despite lower yield expectations for the 2012/13 crop, export prospects have improved as extended weekday operations at major ports have trimmed a backlog of soybean exports. As a result of the enhanced capacity, soybean exports for the country set a monthly record in May at 7.95 million tons and more large monthly shipments are expected to follow. USDA forecasts Brazil’s 2012/13 soybean exports at a record 37.9 million tons and 2013/14 exports at another record of 41.5 million tons. This chart is adapted from one found in the Oil Crops Chart Gallery.

China has emerged as the world's dominant importer of soybeans, bolstering demand for U.S. exports

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Rising incomes in China have led to a major shift in Chinese diets to include more livestock products. This dietary change, along with policy measures to spur growth in the industrialized feed industry and modern livestock production, has supported remarkable growth of soybean imports used to feed Chinese livestock while Chinese soybean production has been declining in favor of corn and rice production. The elimination of raw soybean import quotas and a surge in foreign investment in the Chinese soybean processing sector following China’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001 facilitated soybean imports from the United States and other world suppliers. The bulk of soybeans produced in China are for human consumption, while soybeans from the United States and South America, China’s two primary import sources, are crushed for feed and commercial oil uses. China has more than a 60-percent share of global soybean imports. This chart is found in the June Amber Waves article, “Crop Outlook Reflects Near-Term Prices and Longer Term Market Trends.”

Agricultural productivity improving in Sub-Saharan Africa, but very slowly

Monday, February 25, 2013

Agricultural productivity growth is a critical factor in controlling the economic and environmental costs of feeding the world’s growing population. New ERS research finds that agricultural productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa has been growing by about one percent per year since the 1980s. A major driver has been adoption of new agricultural technologies developed through agricultural research. Investment by the CGAIR Consortium of international agricultural research centers has been particularly important, providing about $6 in productivity impacts for every $1 spent by these centers on research. However, rates of new technology adoption and agricultural productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa are still low relative to other developing countries. Resource degradation, policies that reduce economic incentives to farmers, the spread of HIV/AIDS, armed conflicts, and low national research and extension capacity have hindered agricultural productivity improvement in the region. This chart is based on the ERS report, Resources, Policies and Agricultural Productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa, ERR-145, released February 2013.

Increased China corn production boosts 2012/13 global output

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

World coarse grain supplies for 2012/13 were projected higher in December, mostly due to a large record corn crop reported for China. USDA projects China’s corn crop at 208.0 million tons, up 8.0 million tons from the previous forecast. With this revision, China’s 2012/13 corn crop is projected to exceed the previous year’s record by 8 percent. The record crop, also forecast by China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), is supported by economic information, weather data, and satellite imagery. NBS reported a record 34.95 million hectares of corn harvested in 2012/13, a 4-percent increase from the previous year. Price conditions at planting favored corn over alternative crops, especially soybeans or cotton, and favorable growing conditions limited crop losses. Corn area expansion has been strongest in the two northernmost provinces, Heilongjiang and Inner Mongolia, and temperature and rainfall conditions were favorable in these regions. This chart appears in ERS’s Feed Outlook: December 2012, FDS-12l.

Brazil is now the world's leading exporter of soybeans and soybean products

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

In recent years, Brazil’s production of soybeans and soybean products have risen sharply as most areas of Brazil have seen rapid increases in area planted to soybeans and rising yields. Relatively high profits for soybean producers are expected to lead to an average increase in planted area of about 2 percent per year over the next decade, with increasing soybean plantings in the Cerrado region and expansion extending into the Legal Amazon region of Brazil. Brazil’s soybeans and soybean product exports have also increased significantly and are projected to continue doing so during the next ten years, making the country the world’s leading exporter of soybeans and soybean products, ahead of the United States and Argentina. In 2011, Brazil accounted for slightly more than 32 percent of world trade in soybeans and soybean products, as income and population growth in China, other Southeast Asia, Latin America, North Africa, and Middle Eastern countries contributed to rising demand for soybean and soybean product imports. This chart is an update of one found in the Brazil topic on the ERS website.

Per capita food spending varies more internationally than per capita food availability

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Per capita food-at-home spending differs widely across countries. For example, in 2011 food-at-home spending was $2,239 per person in the United States, $452 in lower middle-income Cameroon, and just $276 in low-income Kenya. However, higher food spending does not always translate into higher food consumption. South African consumers, for example, spent more per person on at-home foods than Chinese consumers, but per person calories available for consumption were about the same in both countries. Japanese consumers outspent U.S. consumers on at-home foods, but per person calorie availability in Japan was lower. At-home food spending reflects general food price levels, prices for the particular foods purchased (grains versus meats), and, for higher income countries, the mix of at-home and away-from-home eating. While the average consumer in the United States spends more than 8 times as much on food at home as the average person in Kenya, per capita calorie availability is less than 80 percent higher. All eight countries had per capita calorie availability over 2,000 per day, but averages can mask large differences in food spending, access, and consumption within a country. This chart is based on data from the ERS Food Expenditures data product, updated October 2012.

Residents of low-income countries devote a greater share of their total spending to food

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

At-home food spending as a share of consumption expenditures varies between countries, with higher income countries spending a relatively small share and lower income countries spending a larger share. The United States has the lowest at-home food spending share and Cameroon one of the highest. Consumption expenditures include personal spending on goods and services in the domestic market. As incomes rise, food spending typically increases in absolute terms, but declines as a share of total consumption expenditures. Between 2008 and 2011, food spending as a share of consumption expenditures remained relatively flat in both the United States and Japan. Food spending's share in the other six countries fell during this time, especially in India which saw large increases in income and total consumption expenditures. This chart is based on data from the ERS Food Expenditure Series data product, updated October 2012.

Improvement in agricultural total factor productivity is highly variable among and within countries

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Estimates of agricultural total factor productivity (TFP) growth vary widely among and within countries. In China, TFP growth is strong in coastal areas but less so in the interior. Brazil has robust TFP growth in coastal areas and in some parts of the interior where soybeans and cotton are now produced. Productivity growth is concentrated in the western and northern regions of Indonesia where production of export commodities like palm oil and cocoa is expanding rapidly. In the United States, productivity growth is moderately strong in the Corn Belt and Lake States but low in the Plains States, Appalachia, and major horticultural States of California and Florida. While a few countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are experiencing growth, others are recovering from earlier decades when their agricultural sectors suffered from the effects of war. Raising agricultural productivity growth in Sub-Saharan Africa will likely require significantly higher public and private investments, especially in agricultural research and extension, as well as policy reforms to strengthen incentives for farmers. This chart appears in "New Evidence Points to Robust But Uneven Productivity Growth in Global Agriculture" in the September 2012 issue of ERS's Amber Waves magazine.

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