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Sunday, May 4, 2008

US eats 5 times more than India per capita

Even as the world spins into a global food crisis, a popular theory — voiced by the likes of US President George W Bush and secretary of state Condoleezza Rice — is that the Chinese and Indians are responsible.
The 'logic': due to zooming incomes, they are eating more, causing worldwide shortages. But is that true? Due to their huge populations, countries like India and China may appear to consume gigantic amounts of food.
But the real elephant in the room that nobody is willing to talk about is how much each person gets to eat. And the answer will shock many. Total foodgrain consumption — wheat, rice, and all coarse grains like rye, barley etc — by each person in the US is over five times that of an Indian, according to figures released by the US Department of Agriculture for 2007.
Each Indian gets to eat about 178 kg of grain in a year, while a US citizen consumes 1,046 kg. In per capita terms, US grain consumption is twice that of the European Union and thrice that of China.
Grain consumption includes flour and by conversion to alcohol. In fact, per capita grain consumption has increased in the US — so actually the Americans are eating more. In 2003, US per capita grain consumption was 946 kg per year which increased to 1046 kg last year. By way of comparison, India’s per capita grain consumption has remained static over the same period.
It’s not just grains. Milk consumption, in fluid form, is 78 kg per year for each person in the US, compared to 36 kg in India and 11 kg in China. Vegetable oils consumption per person is 41 kg per year in US, while Indians are making do with just 11 kg per year.
These are figures for liquid milk, not for cheese, butter, yogurt and milk powders which are consumed in huge proportion in the more advanced countries. A significant proportion of India’s population is vegetarian, and so, this is all the food that they get, apart from vegetables and pulses. But the source of carbohydrates and fats is mainly derived from food grains and oils. As far as meat consumption is concerned, the US leads the world in per capita consumption by a wide margin.
Beef consumption, for example, is 42.6 kg per person per year, compared to a mere 1.6 kg in India and 5.9 kg in China. In case you are thinking that perhaps Indians might be going in for chicken, think again. In the US, 45.4 kg poultry meat is consumed every year by each person, compared to just 1.9 kg in India. Pork consumption is negligible in India, while it is a major item elsewhere. In the European Union, 42.6 kg pork is consumed per person every year, while in the US, 29.7 kgs are consumed. Pork is a staple for Chinese, and so over 35 kg are consumed per person per year. And, we are not talking about various other types of meat, like turkey. All these comparisons are for powerful economies, whether of the west or the east.
But the story would not be complete without mentioning the plight of Africa, where foodgrain consumption in 2007 was a mere 162 kg per year for each person, or about 445 grams per day. Don’t forget they are not getting any meat or milk products out there.
Perhaps, it is time to include the lifestyle choices of the West in the whole feverish debate on how to tackle the global food crisis. These figures are collated by the US Department of Agriculture. US per capita grain consumption rose from 946 kg in 2003 to 1046 kg last year. India’s per capita

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