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In-depth Analyses
What is an FAO food balance sheet?
The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has for many years collected statistical data on the production, trade, and utilization of agricultural commodities for all countries worldwide. These databases are used (among other things) to set up so-called food balance sheets (previously called supply utilization accounts), which provide essential information on a country's food system. The sheets consist of three sections:
Domestic supply of the various commodities; that is, production, imports, stock changes, and exports.
Domestic utilization, including use of the commodity for feed, seed, processing, waste, other uses, and food.
Per capita values for the supply of all commodities (in kilograms per person per year). This section also includes corresponding values for the calories, protein, and fat content. (This indirectly also provides conversion ratios for calories, protein, and fat for all commodities.)
Below are the first few rows of the FAO food balance sheet for China as an example. According to FAO estimates, China had a total wheat production of 110.6 million tons in 1996 (see column 1); China imported some 9.4 million tons of wheat, but also exported 972,000 tons (so the net import was roughly 8.4 million tons). One million tons of wheat where also available from stocks. This amounts to a total domestic supply of almost 120 million tons.
This domestic supply of wheat was used as follows: some 4 million tons were used to feed animals; 4.8 million tons were needed as seed; almost 1.8 million tons were processed for non-food purposes; more than 5.1 million tons were wasted; 467,000 tons were used in other ways; and 103.8 million tons were available for direct human consumption (food category).
If one divides the 103.8 million tons of domestic food wheat supply by the number of people in China (1,23 billion in 1996) we get a supply of 84.3 kg per person per year. This is equivalent to a per capita supply of 616 kcal, 17.5 g of protein, and 2.5 g of fat per day.
These balances are available not only for all cereals (including wheat and rice), but also for a large number of other commodities such as roots, vegetables, oil crops, meat, and fish. Several detailed Food Balance Sheets for China are available in the Food Indices Data section of this application. Detailed analyses are, for instance, available on China's Commodity Balance in 1996, as is an analysis of the Changes in China's Food Balance between 1964-1966 and 1994-1996.
Example: The first few rows in the FAO food balance sheet for China in 1996 (demand method)
  Domestic supply (1,000 tons) Domestic utilization (1,000 tons) Per capita supply
Products Production Imports Stock
Exports Total Feed Seed Pro-
Waste Other
Food Kg
per year
kcal Protein Fat
Cereals 388,032 18,305 6,982 1,828 411,491 129,557 9,385 11,057 23,089 972 237,431 192.7 1,671 36.8 5.1
Wheat 110,569 9,352 1,030 972 119,979 4,005 4,800 1,770 5,105 469 103,830 84.3 616 17.5 2.5
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Revision 2.0 (First revision published in 1999)  - Copyright 2011 by Gerhard K. Heilig. All rights reserved. (First revision: Copyright 1999 by IIASA.)