Maize Production in the World: Trends, Challenges and Opportunities
Maize (Zea mays L.) is one of the most important staple crops in the world, with a global production of over 1.2 billion tons in 2021. It is a versatile crop that can be used for human food, animal feed, biofuel, industrial products and more. Maize is grown in diverse agro-ecological zones, from temperate to tropical regions, and from low to high altitudes. However, maize production also faces many challenges, such as climate change, pests and diseases, soil degradation, water scarcity and market volatility. In this article, we will review the trends, challenges and opportunities of maize production in the world, and discuss some of the research and development implications for improving maize productivity and sustainability.
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Trends of maize production in the world
According to FAOSTAT, the global area harvested for maize increased from 139 million hectares in 2000 to 197 million hectares in 2021, with an average annual growth rate of 1.7%. The global yield of maize increased from 4.3 tons per hectare in 2000 to 6.2 tons per hectare in 2021, with an average annual growth rate of 1.8%. The global production of maize increased from 596 million tons in 2000 to 1,220 million tons in 2021, with an average annual growth rate of 3.5%. The main maize producing countries in 2021 were the USA (361 million tons), China (259 million tons), Brazil (118 million tons), Argentina (51 million tons) and Ukraine (39 million tons), which together accounted for about 70% of the global maize production.
The global consumption of maize increased from 569 million tons in 2000 to 1,173 million tons in 2021, with an average annual growth rate of 3.6%. The main uses of maize are animal feed (60%), human food (20%), industrial products (10%) and biofuel (10%). The main maize consuming countries in 2021 were China (282 million tons), the USA (279 million tons), Brazil (73 million tons), Mexico (42 million tons) and Indonesia (32 million tons), which together accounted for about 60% of the global maize consumption.
The global trade of maize increased from 74 million tons in 2000 to 184 million tons in 2021, with an average annual growth rate of 4.7%. The main exporters of maize in 2021 were the USA (62 million tons), Brazil (38 million tons), Argentina (34 million tons), Ukraine (30 million tons) and Russia (8 million tons), which together accounted for about 90% of the global maize exports. The main importers of maize in 2021 were China (28 million tons), Mexico (18 million tons), Japan (16 million tons), Vietnam (11 million tons) and Egypt (10 million tons), which together accounted for about 45% of the global maize imports.
Challenges of maize production in the world
Despite the impressive growth of maize production in the world, there are still many challenges that threaten its sustainability and resilience. Some of the major challenges are:
Maize is sensitive to high temperatures and water stress, which can reduce its yield and quality. Climate change is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of heat waves, droughts, floods and storms, which can damage maize crops and increase the risk of crop failures. Climate change can also alter the distribution and severity of pests and diseases, which can reduce maize yield and quality. Moreover, climate change can affect the availability and quality of water and soil resources, which are essential for maize production.
Pests and diseases:
Maize is attacked by a variety of pests and diseases, such as insects, nematodes, fungi, bacteria, viruses and weeds, which can cause significant yield losses and quality deterioration. Some of the major pests and diseases affecting maize are fall armyworm, corn earworm, corn borer, corn rootworm, stem borer, aphid, thrips, leafhopper, cutworm, wireworm, nematode, Fusarium ear rot, Gibberella ear rot, Aspergillus ear rot, common rust, northern leaf blight, southern leaf blight, gray leaf spot, maize streak virus, maize dwarf mosaic virus, maize lethal necrosis disease, and Striga weed. These pests and diseases can reduce maize yield by up to 50% or more if not properly managed.
Maize production requires fertile and well-drained soils, but many maize-growing areas suffer from soil degradation due to erosion, nutrient depletion, salinization, acidification, compaction and pollution. Soil degradation can reduce maize yield and quality and increase the vulnerability of maize crops to abiotic and biotic stresses. Soil degradation can also affect the environmental services provided by soils, such as water regulation, carbon sequestration and biodiversity conservation.
Maize production depends on adequate and timely water supply, but many maize-growing areas face water scarcity due to climate variability, droughts, floods, population growth, urbanization and competing demands from other sectors. Water scarcity can limit maize yield and quality and increase the production costs and risks. Water scarcity can also affect the availability and quality of water for other uses, such as domestic, industrial and environmental purposes.
Maize production is influenced by the market conditions, such as prices, demand, supply, trade policies and regulations. Maize prices are subject to fluctuations due to changes in production, consumption, stocks, trade flows and external factors, such as weather shocks, biofuel policies, exchange rates and speculation. Maize price volatility can affect the profitability and stability of maize production, and the food security and livelihoods of maize producers and consumers.
Opportunities for maize production in the world
Despite the challenges, there are also many opportunities for improving maize production in the world. Some of the major opportunities are:
Maize production can benefit from technological innovations that can enhance the genetic potential, agronomic management and post-harvest handling of maize. For example, improved maize varieties that are resistant or tolerant to pests, diseases, droughts, heat and other stresses can increase maize yield and quality under adverse conditions. Precision agriculture techniques that use sensors, drones, satellites and artificial intelligence can optimize the use of inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, water and pesticides. Digital platforms that provide information, communication and financial services can improve the access to markets, extension and credit for maize farmers. Post-harvest technologies that reduce losses, improve quality and add value can increase the profitability and competitiveness of maize products.
Maize production can be sustainably intensified by increasing the productivity per unit of land, water and other resources without compromising the environmental and social outcomes. Sustainable intensification practices include conservation agriculture, integrated pest management, integrated soil fertility management, water harvesting, irrigation, agroforestry, intercropping, crop rotation, and organic farming. These practices can improve soil health, water use efficiency, nutrient cycling, biodiversity, carbon sequestration, and resilience to stresses.
Value chain development:
Maize production can be enhanced by developing the value chain that links the producers with the processors, traders, retailers and consumers of maize products. Value chain development can improve the quality standards, traceability, certification, branding, and marketing of maize products. Value chain development can also increase the value addition, diversification, innovation, and competitiveness of maize products. Value chain development can create more income opportunities, employment, and empowerment for the actors involved in the maize sector.
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Maize production can be supported by policies that create an enabling environment for investment, innovation, and inclusion in the maize sector. Policy support can include improving the infrastructure, institutional capacity, and governance of the maize sector. Policy support can also include providing incentives, subsidies, insurance, and safety nets for maize farmers. Policy support can also include promoting regional integration, trade facilitation, and market access for maize products.
Maize is a vital crop for food security, livelihoods, and economic development in many parts of the world. However, maize production faces many challenges that require urgent attention and action. There are also many opportunities that can be harnessed to improve maize productivity and sustainability. There is a need for further investments in research and development to generate and disseminate technological innovations that can address the challenges and exploit the opportunities of maize production in the world.
Maize production in the world: trends and challenges
Maize (Zea mays L.) is one of the most important staple crops in the world, with a global production of over 1.2 billion tons in 2021. It is a versatile crop that can be used for human food, animal feed, biofuel, and industrial purposes. Maize is grown in diverse agro-ecological zones, from temperate to tropical regions, and from sea level to high altitudes. Maize is also a major source of income and livelihood for millions of smallholder farmers, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and parts of Asia.
Maize production trends
The global maize production has increased by 54% since 2000, driven by rising demand and technological advances. The main maize producing countries are the USA, China, Brazil, Argentina, Ukraine, Indonesia, India, and Mexico, which together account for over 80% of the total production. Maize production is expected to continue growing in the coming years, as maize is projected to become the most widely grown and traded crop by 2030.
The global maize yield has also improved over time, reaching an average of 6 tonnes per hectare in 2021 . This is mainly due to the adoption of improved varieties, better agronomic practices, and increased use of inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides. However, there is still a large gap between the potential and actual yields of maize, especially in developing countries where many farmers face constraints such as poor soils, pests and diseases, droughts and floods, and limited access to markets and services.
Maize production challenges
Despite the impressive growth of maize production, there are still many challenges that need to be addressed to ensure food security, income generation, and environmental sustainability. Some of these challenges are:
- Climate change: Maize is highly sensitive to temperature and water stress, and climate change is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of these stresses. Climate change may also alter the distribution and severity of pests and diseases that affect maize. Therefore, there is a need for developing and disseminating climate-resilient maize varieties that can cope with abiotic and biotic stresses.
- Nutritional quality: Maize is a staple food for many people in the world, but it has low levels of essential micronutrients such as iron, zinc, vitamin A, and protein. This can lead to malnutrition and health problems, especially for children and women. Therefore, there is a need for enhancing the nutritional quality of maize through biofortification or fortification methods.
- Post-harvest losses: Maize is prone to post-harvest losses due to improper handling, storage, processing, and marketing. These losses can reduce the quantity and quality of maize available for consumption or sale and increase the risk of contamination by aflatoxins and other toxins. Therefore, there is a need for improving the post-harvest management of maize along the value chain.
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