Understanding International Food Consumption Patterns
International food consumption has attracted a lot of attention in the literature. In particular, a series of studies have been conducted using the popular International Comparison Project (ICP) databases (released in the 1970s and 1980s). This paper adds to the growing literature by presenting an analysis of the 1995 ICP data. It aims to examine cross-country consumption patterns of individual food items such as cereals, meat, dairy products and other foods. Especially, it attempts to identify international food consumption norms and outliers, and gain insight into the impact of country-specific factors (eg. income, geography, culture etc) on food consumption. According to this study, as income rises, an average country in the world tends to spend proportionally less on food and its demand for food becomes less elastic too. This trend is however not very clear if the focus is the regions instead of income groups. At the disaggregate level, most food items (eg. cereals, meats, fruits and vegetables, dairy products and oils and fats) are found to be necessities. Aquatic products, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages however appear to be luxuries for most countries with the exception of the high-income ones. Income elasticities of demand in South Asia are found to be high for all food items except cereals and dairy products. In contrast to South Asia, dairy goods account for a small budget share in East Asia. It is also found that the Chinese diet mainly consists of cereals, meats, aquatic products, and fruits and vegetables. There are however considerable variations among the regions in large countries such as India and China. Regional issues can only be addressed by conducting detailed studies using household or regional data.
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