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The Worldwide Demand and Production of Wheat

A very interesting question came in regarding the production of wheat and specifically dealing with gluten. The question was (paraphrased); if people are turning away from wheat because of gluten-free diets, is the production of other grains increasing to make up for the lost wheat production?

The answer is rather interesting and it says a great deal about the culture in America.

The worldwide demand and production of wheat are steadily increasing. It isn’t dropping. In 2007, the worldwide production of wheat was about 606.7 million metric tons. In 2017, only 10 years later, the worldwide production was 771.7 million metric tons. That is a substantial increase and year by year, the production is going up. 

Europe, China, India, and Russia all produce much more wheat than the US does. So even though there was a decrease in wheat produced in the US from 2007 to 2017, that decrease was only about 7 million metric tons of wheat, which was easily offset by the production in other countries.

The production of rice, corn, rye, barley, and oats were also up, worldwide. However, none of these were even close to the increase in the production of wheat. 

None of this is surprising. About 1% of Americans are actually gluten intolerant and this percentage isn’t increasing. This percentage is probably about the same everywhere in the world. However, American’s have a predilection for self-diagnosis, so as many as 10-20% of Americans think they are gluten intolerant, even though they aren’t. Thus, the gluten-free diet isn’t much more than a fad in the US, but it does mean that there is a decrease in the demand for wheat in the US.

People in the rest of the world aren’t nearly as inclined to self-diagnose or to be taken in by fad diets, so the demand for when continues to increase throughout the world. 

Don’t get me wrong. For the 1% who actually are gluten intolerant, gluten really is a legitimate concern. That is true regardless of where in the world that they live. For people who really are gluten intolerant, though, there are alternatives, particularly rice, oats, and corn. However, it is primarily in the US that wheat production is down and rice, oats, and corn production is up a bit, even without an increased medical need for it.

  • Are you or anyone you personally know on a gluten-free diet?

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Written by Rex Trulove

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