Pepijn Schreinemachers, Thomas Berger:
How Important Is Growth in National Average Cereal Yield for Raising Food Security?

University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF), Department of Economics and Technological Change, Germany

<#8884#> Cereal yield is an important indicator guiding the formulation of food policies in developing countries. A recent decline in global cereal yields and cereal production per capita has intensified concerns about future food security. Some authors have claimed that in the light of continuous population growth, greater efforts are needed to boost average cereal yields so to reduce the number of people who are food insecure.

This paper, however, argues that a too strong focus on raising average cereal yield might be counter;SPMquot;=productive and deviate from reaching the actual goal of increased food security. Neither is average cereal yield a good indicator of food security, nor does an increase in average cereal yield necessarily go hand in hand with an increase in food security.

In the first part of this paper, we subsequently discuss: 1.) why national yield statistics should be treated with care; 2.) why the concept of average cereal yield is more suitable for countries in the temperate regions than for countries in the tropics; and 3.) why the trend in national average cereal yield is not necessarily compatible with trends in farmers' yields.

In the second part of the paper, we add a fourth argument, namely that the national average yield has become less meaningful over time. Using national and sub;SPMquot;=national data for a large number of countries, we show that growth in cereal yield has bifurcated both within and between countries. This bifurcation has important implications for food security because the people who are currently food insecure tend to live in those areas that have least profited from yield increases. Yet, one can take different positions on the implications of --- and required policy responses to such bifurcation. We discuss the three most likely of such positions: the theory of comparative advantage, the food sufficiency argument, and the entitlement approach.

We conclude that the relation between average cereal yield and food security is more complicated than frequently assumed. If food security is the goal, than an increase in average cereal yield is too blunt an instrument, and a more differentiated approach is required.


Keywords: Cereal yield, food security, food sufficiency, policy


<#8882#>Contact Address: Pepijn Schreinemachers, University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF), Department of Economics and Technological ChangeWalter-Flex-Straße~3, 53113~Bonn, Germany, e;SPMquot;~mail:<#8882#>