1997 cereal harvests will meet needs but reserves will remain inadequate, says latest FAO Food Outlook

Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS): 

FAO's Food Outlook for July/August/September 1997 estimates the 1997 global cereal harvest at 1 869 million tonnes (including milled rice), 18 million tonnes less than the previous FAO forecast. Although indications point to another above trend harvest, this will only be just enough to meet current needs, leaving cereal reserves at below safe levels.

Reserve stocks will remain at 15 percent of expected consumption, considerably less than the 17 to 18 percent considered necessary by the FAO Secretariat. "Replenishment of cereal stocks to a level that would ensure global food security will have to wait at least another year", the report says. "However, prospects for next year's crops are already uncertain in some areas where the strongest impact of El Niño is expected."

The low level of reserve stocks means that even a relatively minor deterioration in crop outlook could lead to sharp price rises with serious consequences for the food security of many low-income food-deficit countries, particularly those that depend on imports to meet a large part of their food requirements.

Wheat production for 1997 is forecast at 600 million tonnes, 10 million tonnes up from 1996 record crop. Coarse grains, however, are now forecast at 888 million tonnes, 18 million tonnes less than last year. Global rice production is forecast, as before, to remain virtually unchanged at 381 million tonnes (milled).

Food emergencies persist in 29 countries

Despite the generally strong cereal harvests, food emergencies persist in some 29 countries, mostly in Africa. In several East African countries, the food supply situation is worsening because of adverse weather conditions - Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Somalia and Tanzania are all harvesting reduced crops. Elsewhere in Africa, in countries affected by civil strife, such as Sierra Leone, Liberia, Burundi and Rwanda, the food situation remains precarious. In southern Africa, several countries continue to require food assistance, in particular Angola and Mozambique. Meanwhile Madagascar has reported locust damage to crops.

In Asia, after two years of severe floods in Korea DPR, the country's 1997 crops have been hit by prolonged drought and a destructive typhoon. "Food output is likely to fall appreciably, which will undoubtedly have serious and long reaching repercussions on the country's already grave food supply situation, especially in 1998", says the report. In Mongolia, vulnerable sectors of the populations are still going hungry, while in Iraq, although the food-for-oil deal has eased the situation, malnutrition persists throughout the country.

30 September 1997

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