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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The economic importance of cereal grains

Of all the plants on which humans have depended for food, those that produce the cereal grains are by far the most important, as they have been since earliest recorded time.

Cereals are widely cultivated and produce annually. Cereal grains are the seeds of cultivated grasses that include wheat, corn, oats, barley, rye, rice, sorghum, and millet.

All cereals belonging to the taxonomic family know as Gramineae. Other globally important crops in the Gramineae family include sugar cane and bamboo.

There are a number of reasons why cereals have been so important in our diet. They can be grown in a variety of areas, some even in adverse soil and climatic conditions.

They give high yields per acre as compared to most other crops, and once harvested, their excellent stored stability combined with their nutritional value makes them the most desirable of foods for holding in reserve. Cereals are the most important crops in the world, with total annual yields in excess of 2000 million tons compared with less than 700 million tons for root and tuber crops and about 380 million tones for legumes and oilseeds.

They are easy to package and transport and they can be used to produce a large variety of highly desirable foods both for humans and animals, as well as beverages for human consumption.

Cereal grains are the most important source of the world’s total food. Rice alone is reported to supply the major part of the diet for more than one half of the world’s population. In general cereals represent 60% of the calories and proteins consumed by human being worldwide.

Cereal grains are the staple food of the peoples of developing countries, providing them, with about 75% of their total caloric intake and about 67% of their total protein intake.

Cereal crops are energy dense, containing 10000-15000 kJ/Kg, about 10-20 times more energy than most succulent fruits and vegetables. Nutritionally they are important sources of dietary protein, carbohydrates, the B complex of vitamins, vitamin E, iron, trace minerals and fiber.

Per capita consumption of cereal grains has been rising in the developing countries of South and Southeast Asia, cereal consumption has reached a plateau.

The grains are eaten in many ways, sometimes as a paste or other preparation of the seed, more often milled and further processed into flour, starch, oil, bran, syrup, sugar, dried breakfast forms, and so forth.

From a culinary the point of view, consumers see a great variety of grains included in menu offerings: from soup and salads to desserts.

They are also used to feed the animals that provide us with meat, eggs, milk, butter, cheese, and a host of other foods.
The economic importance of cereal grains

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