The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations defines food security as access by all people, at all times, to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Three key components to food security according to FAO are:
- Availability through domestic production and imports.
- People’s access to food through household purchasing power.
- Stability of supply in the face of climatic, political and economic factors.
World trade of agricultural products advances all three of these critical objectives. It allows countries to access larger markets for food. It provides consumers within those countries with enhanced access to lower cost, higher quality, and more varied food than if they had to rely on domestic sources alone. And when their trading partner is U.S agriculture, their food supplier is the most stable and reliable in the world.
Countries such as China, Japan, Brazil and many others have used international agricultural trade to raise their standards of living. Unfortunately, however, many other nations continue to struggle with hunger and poverty because they have not yet fully accepted trade as a tool in building food security.
Japan is currently the largest international customer for U.S. coarse grains and is an excellent example of how trade helps ensure food security. Since the 1960s, Japan has enriched its diet through expansion of its domestic livestock industry, based heavily on imported U.S. grain, as well as increased meat imports. Today, the Japanese livestock producer and the U.S. grain farmer are longstanding partners and crucial pillars
of that nation’s food security system.
Population growth, a rapidly expanding middle class and increasing affluence in developing countries will continue to generate rapidly rising demand for food, both as bulk commodities as well as for processed and higher value-added foods.
Current research by Informa Economics for the U.S. Grains Council shows that food consumption patterns in developing countries are likely to shift from subsistence diets based on traditional cereals to a greater reliance on animal protein-based foods such as meats, dairy products and eggs.
Many countries face significant land, water, and other production constraints and these are likely to increase over time, as populations continue to grow. These nations will therefore have an increasing incentive to utilize agricultural imports to help meet rising demand. The Council is working to establish and sustain U.S. agriculture as their preferred and most reliable supplier.