Cereal crop forecast for 1997 looks good but food shortages persist

 

Cereal crop forecast for 1997 looks good but food shortages persist



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FAO's early forecast for 1997 cereal crops puts world production close to the record levels of 1996, according to the latest issue of the Organization's Food Outlook. The forecast for world cereal output of 1 880 million tonnes (including milled rice) would meet anticipated consumption requirements in 1997/98 and could also further replenish cereal reserves. Assuming favourable conditions until harvest, wheat output is forecast at 590 million tonnes, coarse grains at 910 million tonnes and rice is tentatively forecast to repeat last year's harvest of 380 million tonnes.

Despite this, food emergencies exist in 29 countries around the globe, mostly in Africa. In Zaire, deaths from starvation among Rwandan refugees have already been reported. Continued fighting in the country has forced refugees to flee from camps into areas that are inaccessible to relief agencies and they are now trapped in the middle of the conflict where their food situation is critical. In Rwanda itself the food situation remains tight following a large repatriation of refugees last November/December. In Burundi recent poor harvests and economic sanctions by neighbouring countries have severely affected food supplies.

In eastern Africa, although the main cereal crops for 1996/97 were satisfactory, large numbers of people are suffering severe food shortages as a result of the failure of secondary coarse grain crops. A food emergency has been declared in the pastoralist southern regions of Ethiopia and emergency food assistance is needed in eastern and northeastern parts of Kenya, in northern Tanzania, eastern Uganda and Somalia. In western Africa the food situation remains precarious in Liberia, while in Sierra Leone the food situation has improved somewhat following the recent peace accord.

In Asia the already critical food situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea continues to deteriorate. In early March rice rations were cut to 100 g a day, a mere 20 percent of their normal level of 500 g. Flood damage in Laos has left 420 000 people in need of emergency assistance. In Mongolia economic transition continues to cause problems for food production, while in Sri Lanka drought and civil strife are hampering food production in the north. In the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Tajikistan remains in need of food aid.

Cereal availability for food aid in 1996/97 is forecast at 7.5 million tonnes, unchanged from last year, but down by about 50 percent from the levels of the early 1990s. The low-income food-deficit countries would receive about 5.9 million tonnes of food aid grain in 1996/97, about 10 percent of their forecast cereal import needs.

The recovery in global cereal production in 1996 has eased the exceptionally tight supply/demand situation of last year. As a result of this, international cereal markets have stabilized in recent months. However, the latest issue of Food Outlook warns that the ratio of end-of-season stocks to forecast consumption in 1997/98, which is now estimated at close to 16 percent, would still be below the 17 to 18 percent range that FAO considers the minimum necessary to safeguard world food security.

25 April 1997


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