Latest "Food Outlook" presents FAO's first forecast for cereal production in 2000

The April 2000 edition of "Food Outlook" gives FAO's first forecast for cereal production in 2000. The report puts global cereal production in 2000 at 1 890 million tonnes, about 1 percent up from 1999, and above the average of the last five years. Larger outputs of wheat and coarse grains would more than offset an anticipated decline for rice after last year's record crop.

Although still a very tentative forecast, at this level, aggregate cereal output in 2000 would not meet expected utilization requirements for 2000/2001, and a draw down of global cereal reserves would be necessary for the second consecutive year.

In North America, production is expected to fall, largely because less land is being sown with cereals. In Africa, "production is expected to remain constrained close to last year's reduced level" because of poor weather conditions in the main wheat-producing countries of North Africa. In Asia, output is forecast to remain steady at last year's level. Only in Europe is a rise in production expected, because "a significant expansion in plantings has been recorded," says the report.

World cereal trade up

FAO's latest forecast for world cereal trade in 1999/2000 is 222 million tonnes, 4 percent up from the previous year. This increase is due to larger imports of wheat and coarse grains, which more than offset reduced trade in rice. "For the developing countries as a group," the report says, "aggregate cereal imports are forecast to reach a record volume of about 160 million tonnes." However, with prices generally below those of the previous year, the developing countries' 1999/2000 cereal import bill looks set to decline by nearly 3 percent to about US$21 billion.

"International grain prices have been volatile and slightly higher in recent weeks," the report says, "reflecting active trade and concern over adverse weather for the 2000 crop in the major producing areas of the United States." Meanwhile, rice prices have fallen because of ample supplies and dull trading. In March, the FAO Export Price Index for Rice was at its lowest level since June 1994.

Global milk production is forecast to increase slightly in 2000, but steady import demand is expected to leave exportable products like milk powder in short supply. "As a result, international prices for most dairy products, and especially milk powder, are expected to increase during 2000."

Food shortages and emergencies

"Food Outlook" has a regular feature on countries in the grip of food emergencies. As FAO warned in its recent Africa Report, nearly 16 million people in eastern Africa are facing critical food shortages and famine. Three years of little or no rain have left pastoralists in Ethiopia, Kenya and Eritrea on the verge of starvation.

In Asia, a quarter of the population in Mongolia have been left desperately short of food by the worst winter weather in 30 years. (see Mongolia Special Alert.) In East Timor, the food supply situation is expected to continue improving thanks to international food aid and domestic food crops that will be harvested in the next few weeks. In the Democratic Republic of Korea, however, chronic food supply problems persist. In North Africa, several countries are suffering from severe drought. (see North Africa Special Alert).

In Latin America, food assistance is being provided in Cuba, Honduras, Nicaragua, Venezuela, El Salvador, Guatemala and Haiti. In Europe, about 2 million people have become impoverished and are in need of food aid as a result of the prolonged strife in the Balkans.

12 April 2000

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