Meat vs Fuel: grain trends in China 1995-2008
A change in Chinese meat consumption habits since 1995 is diverting eight billion bushels of grain per year to livestock feed and could empty global grain stocks by September 2010, according to a new study from Biofuels Digest, now available for download here in an expanded version.
The Study, "Meat vs Fuel: Grain use in the U.S. and China, 1995-2008" concluded that, even if the U.S. ethanol industry were shut down tomorrow, rising Chinese demand for meat, and the ensuing livestock feed demand, will empty global grain stocks as soon as 2013. The report offers gloomy news for policymakers who have hoped to address global food vs. fuel concerns by restraining U.S. ethanol demand.
The study found that the US produced 349 million tones of corn last year, up from 192 million tones in 1995, but the 157 million tonne increase has not kept pace with rising demand. The US ethanol industry, which has been criticized as the primary cause of grain shortages and rising prices, increased its grain usage by 31 million tonnes during the 12 year period. By contrast, livestock grain demand to supply Chinese meat consumption increased by 199 million tonnes.
"Given that the US population has grown 15 percent in the past 13 years, the 82 percent increase in US corn production left plenty for people, plenty for livestock, and plenty for ethanol."¯ said Lane. "The bad news is that the grain was Shanghaied, leaving us with a fuel crisis and a food crisis. The good news is that it's easier to find a steak in Beijing."
The study resolves several questions that had been unanswered in the fuel vs. fuel debate by focusing on rising demand from China as well as the U.S. The report identified that rice, rather than corn or wheat, suffered the largest price increases over the 12-year period, despite the fact that rice is not used for biofuel production. The study also ties falling global grain stocks to corresponding increases in Chinese consumption.