The Area of Cereals

Global and Local Changes in Production

Cereals are the most important group of crops in the world. “Cereals” include arable plants from the Poaceae family such as maize and rice; the “traditional” cereals: wheat, barley, triticale, rye, oats and other less familiar species. The total area of all cereal species grown across the world amounted to ca. 670 million ha [1].

Over time the “traditional” cereals area grown globally has been in decline whereas the areas of maize and, to a lesser extent rice, (Graph 1), have shown a corresponding increase. Over the last 34 years the traditional cereals’ area has decreased by nearly 61 million ha (17%), whilst over the same time period, the maize area increased by 69 million ha (53%).

Graph 1: The global cereal area in 1980-2014. Source: FAOSTAT

A similar but much less pronounced, trend can be observed within Europe (EU28) [2]. Here the traditional cereals’ area grown since 1980 has decreased by just under 5 million ha (from nearly 57 to over 52 million ha), which represents just under 8%, whilst at the same time the maize area increased from nearly 10 to over 12 million ha, that represents over 20% (Graph 2).

Graph 2: The cereal area for EU28 countries in 1980-2014. Source: FAOSTAT.

Of the EU 28 countries Poland is the third largest in terms of the traditional cereals area grown, just behind France and Germany, and on a global scale is ranked fourteenth greatest area produced [3].

A characteristic of the Polish cereal production area is the significance of the Rye crop area, estimated to be 1,3 million hectares (2014). This makes Poland the largest Rye crop producer, globally, and is approximately twice as great as Belarus, which has the second largest area of Rye production in the world with 500,000ha. In total, the global area of Rye production was 5,6 million ha.

Over several years, a gradual decrease in the area of rye, oats and, to a lesser extent, barley, grown in Poland has been observed. In the mid 90’s nearly 2,5 million ha of Rye was grown and today sources state that between 700 to 900 thousand ha. The decrease in the area of these cereals corresponds with an increase in the area of triticale, however, this crop’s increase does not compensate for the reduction in the cereal acreage (Graph 3). 

Graph 3: The area of individual basic cereals in Poland in 1990-2014. Source: FAOSTAT.

There is also an interesting correlation between wheat and barley. In the years the wheat area decreases, the barley area usually increases goes up and vice versa. This is probably a reflection of the season of sowing for these cereal crops. Wheat is first of all sown as a winter crop and barley as spring one. Consequently, in the years when winter crops are winter-killed, many farmers compensate their losses by sowing spring barley.

The forthcoming years will show whether the traditional cereals’ acreage is going to remain in decline or stabilize.

The indications are that it will continue to fall, and in Poland, specifically, to the benefit of such crops as oilseed rape and maize.



Andrzej Kledzik

Project Manager AMIS

Kleffmann Group Polska


[1] Source: FAOSTAT data for 137 countries of 27-04-2017. Only barely, wheat, rye, oats, triticale, maize and rice. Relates to 2014.

[2] Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Spain, Netherlands, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Latvia, Malta, Germany, Poland, Portugal, Rumania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Hungary, Italy, Great Britain.

[3] As per FAOSTAT, data of 2014.