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3. Global and regional food consumption patterns and trends: Previous page | 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9

Diets in developing countries are changing as incomes rise. The share of staples, such as cereals, roots and tubers, is declining, while that of meat, dairy products and oil crops is rising. Between 1964-1966 and 1997-1999, per capita meat consumption in developing countries rose by 150% and that of milk and dairy products by 60%. By 2030, per capita consumption of livestock products could rise by a further 44%. Poultry consumption is predicted to grow the fastest. Productivity improvements are likely to be a major source of growth. Milk yields should improve, while breeding and improved management should increase average carcass weights and off-take rates. This will allow increased production with lower growth in animal numbers, and a corresponding slowdown in the growth of environmental damage from grazing and animal wastes.

In developing countries, demand is predicted to grow faster than production, resulting in a growing trade deficit. In meat products this deficit will rise steeply, from 1.2 million tonnes per year in 1997-1999 to 5.9 million tonnes per year in 2030 (despite growing meat exports from Latin America), while in the case of milk and dairy products, the rise will be less steep but still considerable, from 20 million tonnes per year in 1997-1999 to 39 million tonnes per year in 2030. An increasing share of livestock production will probably come from industrial enterprises. In recent years, production from this sector has grown twice as fast as that from more traditional mixed farming systems and more than six times faster than that from grazing systems.

World fisheries production has kept ahead of population growth over the past three decades. Total fish production has almost doubled, from 65 million tonnes in 1970 to 125 million tonnes in 1999, when the world average intake of fish, crustaceans and molluscs reached 16.3 kg per person. By 2030, annual fish consumption is likely to rise to some 150-160 million tonnes, or between 19-20 kg per person. This amount is significantly lower than the potential demand, as environmental factors are expected to limit supply. During the 1990s the marine catch levelled out at 80-85 million tonnes per year, and by the turn of the century, three-quarters of ocean fish stocks were overfished, depleted or exploited up to their maximum sustainable yield. Further growth in the marine catch can only be modest.

Aquaculture compensated for this marine slowdown, doubling its share of world fish production during the 1990s. It is expected to continue to grow rapidly, at rates of 5-7% per year up to 2015. In all sectors of fishing it will be essential to pursue forms of management conducive to sustainable exploitation, especially for resources under common ownership or no ownership.

3.8 Conclusions

A number of conclusions can be drawn from the preceding discussion.

  • Most of the information on food consumption has hitherto been obtained from national Food Balance Sheet data. In order to better understand the relationship between food consumption patterns, diets and the emergence of noncommunicable diseases, it is crucial to obtain more reliable information on actual food consumption patterns and trends based on representative consumption surveys.

  • There is a need to monitor how the recommendations in this report influence the behaviour of consumers, and what further action is needed to change their diets (and lifestyles) towards more healthy patterns.

  • The implications for agriculture, livestock, fisheries and horticulture will have to be assessed and action taken to deal with potential future demands of an increasing and more affluent population. To meet the specified levels of consumption, new strategies may need to be developed. For example, a realistic approach to the implementation of the recommendation concerning high average intake of fruit and vegetables, requires attention to be paid to crucial matters such as where would the large quantities needed be produced, how can the infrastructure be developed to permit trade in these perishable products, and would large-scale production of horticultural products be sustainable?

  • A number of more novel matters will need to be dealt with, such as:

    • the positive and negative impacts on noncommunicable diseases of intensive production systems, not only in terms of health (e.g. nitrite in vegetables, heavy metals in irrigation water and manure, pesticide use), but also in terms of dietary quality (e.g. leaner meats in intensive poultry production);
    • the effects of longer food chains, in particular of longer storage and transport routes, such as the higher risk of deterioration (even if most of this may be bacterial and hence not a factor in chronic diseases), and the use and misuse of conserving agents and contaminants;
    • the effects of changes in varietal composition and diversity of consumption patterns, for example, the loss of traditional crop varieties and, perhaps even more significantly, the declining use of foods from “wild” sources.

  • Trade aspects need to be considered in the context of improving diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases. Trade has an important role to play in improving food and nutrition security. On the import side, lower trade barriers reduce domestic food prices, increase the purchasing power of consumers and afford them a greater variety of food products. Freer trade can thus help enhance the availability and affordability of food and contribute to a better-balanced diet. On the export side, access to markets abroad creates new income opportunities for domestic farmers and food processors. Farmers in developing countries in particular stand to benefit from the removal of trade barriers for commodities such as sugar, fruits and vegetables, as well as tropical beverages, all these being products for which they have a comparative advantage.

  • The impact that agricultural policies, particularly subsidies, have on the structure of production, processing and marketing systems - and ultimately on the availability of foods that support healthy food consumption patterns - should not be overlooked.

All these issues and challenges need to be addressed in a pragmatic and intersectoral manner. All sectors in the food chain, from “farm to table”, will need to be involved if the food system is to respond to the challenges posed by the need for changes in diets to cope with the burgeoning epidemic of noncommunicable diseases.

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