Increased grain production improves global food outlook


Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS):


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World cereal stocks continue to climb, with the latest production figures for 1996 showing an even greater improvement than earlier anticipated, according to the first issue of FAO's authoritative Food Outlook report for 1997. Despite this increase, however, global carryover stocks are expected to remain below minimum safe levels.

The ratio of end-of-season stocks to forecast consumption in 1997/98, although nearly reaching 16 percent, would still be below the 17 to 18 percent range that FAO considers the minimum necessary to safeguard world food security, according to the report from FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS). Another good cereal crop will be required in 1997 to avoid the need to draw on limited available reserves, and, so far, early signs are mostly satisfactory, said the report.

FAO's latest estimate puts world cereal production in 1996 at 1 872 million tonnes (including rice in milled equivalent), up 23 million tonnes from the end 1996 forecast and more than 8 percent above 1995's reduced level. This is mainly the result of larger than expected wheat output in key countries in South America and Australia, where harvests have just been completed, and a significant upward adjustment in the final estimate of the United States' harvest of coarse grains (mainly maize). Bountiful crops should lead to a substantial replenishment of carryover stocks for the first time in four years.

Despite the generally positive outlook, severe food supply difficulties persist in various trouble spots throughout the world. In Africa, food prospects are particularly bleak for a large number of people in the Great Lakes Region due to a combination of civil unrest, population displacement and poor harvests. The outlook for eastern Zaire, where timely distribution of food will pose a major challenge to the international community, also gives cause for serious concern.

In Asia, floods damaged 1996 crops in Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam. And in North Korea, which has suffered heavy flood damage for two consecutive years, substantial food assistance will be needed in 1997 to meet minimum food requirements.

The oil-for-food deal implemented in Iraq should improve the food and nutrition situation of its population, although the allocation for food is estimated to cover only slightly more than half the food import requirements. More accurate and detailed information about the situation in Iraq will be available after an FAO assessment mission scheduled to take place in May and June.

The cereal supply situation remains precarious in several vulnerable food-deficit countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States, particularly Armenia, Georgia and Tajikistan.

3 March 1997


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