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Understanding International Food Consumption Patterns


  • Yanrui Wu

    () (UWA Business School, The University of Western Australia)


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Yanrui Wu, 2004. "Understanding International Food Consumption Patterns," Economics Discussion / Working Papers 04-05, The University of Western Australia, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:uwa:wpaper:04-05

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Huang, Jikun & Bouis, Howarth, 2001. "Structural changes in the demand for food in Asia: empirical evidence from Taiwan," Agricultural Economics, Blackwell, vol. 26(1), pages 57-69, October.
    2. Clements, Kenneth W. & Suhm, Frederick E. & Theil, Henri, 1979. "A cross-country tabulation of income elasticities of demand," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 199-202.
    3. Kenneth Clements & Yanrui Wu & Jing Zhang, 2006. "Comparing international consumption patterns," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 31(1), pages 1-30, March.
    4. Barten, Anton P, 1977. "The Systems of Consumer Demand Functions Approach: A Review," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 45(1), pages 23-51, January.
    5. Seale, James Jr. & Theil, Henri, 1986. "Working's model for food in the four phases of the international comparison project," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 103-104.
    6. Clements, Kenneth W & Selvanathan, Antony & Selvanathan, Saroja, 1996. "Applied Demand Analysis: A Survey," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 72(216), pages 63-81, March.
    7. Maureen T. Rimmer & Alan A. Powell, 1992. "Demand Patterns Across the Development Spectrum: Estimates for the AIDADS System," Centre of Policy Studies/IMPACT Centre Working Papers op-75, Victoria University, Centre of Policy Studies/IMPACT Centre.
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