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The Agricultural Implications of Declining Birth Rates

How record low fertility rates are shaping the future of food demand.
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Recently, a number of countries have reported record low population fertility rates for 2023. The majority of countries are now below the generally accepted population replacement level of 2.1. Canada is emblematic of the developed western world and posted a record low rate of 1.33 in 2022. At the extreme low end South Korea is forecasted to have fallen to 0.72 in 2023. China, the most populous country until recently, is estimated to have declined to 1.09 in 2023. India, now the most populous country has fallen to just below replacement level. Globally we are already 12 years past the peak in births – 144m in 2012, with 2021 seeing only 134m. 

While population shifts tend to play out over decades the overall trend does raise important questions about the future demand for food. While rising global income standards and extended life expectancies should support food demand growth for the next couple of decades. It’s also quite possible that demand growth for agricultural outputs continues to also come from non-food uses such as fuel, fibre and other materials.