Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

El Nino persist in 2003 with lesser impact; China overtakes Thailand as world's top fish exporter

13 Feb 2003 -- Bangkok -­ El Nino will continue to trouble agriculture in Indonesia, Micronesia, northern/northeastern Australia in early 2003, though with much less impact than in 1997-98, according to FAO’s latest survey of global food production and trade.

The world food agency’s February 2003 Food Outlook cites recent reports from the major climate monitoring systems – IRI (International Research Institute for Climate Prediction); BOM (Australian Bureau of Meteorology); and NOAA/CPC (US Climate Prediction Center) – as “confirming a virtually 100 percent probability of El Niño conditions persisting in early 2003… (with) drier-than-average conditions” expected to persist over most of these areas.

According to the report, the world's top fish producer China is now also the world's biggest fish exporter having overtaken Thailand's fishery exports in 2002.

Thailand and China are the world’s major exporters of fish products in value terms, with US$4 000 million each. "China has impressively expanded its performance as a fish exporter in recent years and is likely to have overtaken Thailand as major fish exporter in 2002," says the FAO report.

Latest estimates show that China was by far the top producer of fish with some 42.6 million tonnes in 2001. Peru (8 million tonnes) recovered its second position among the main producing countries with India being the third major fishing nation with 5.7 million tones in 2001. Thailand was in the ninth spot with 3.6 million tonnes.

Aggregate cereal production in the Asia region decreased in 2002, entirely as a result of a sharp reduction in the paddy crop, which more than offset increased output of wheat and coarse grains. FAO’s latest forecast puts the region’s aggregate wheat crop at 250.7 million tonnes, about 2 percent up from 2001, while output of coarse grains also rose by 2 percent to 214.4 million tonnes. By contrast, and largely the result of erratic monsoon rains, the region’s paddy output fell by almost 16 million tonnes. The bulk of the decline was accounted for by the world’s two major producing countries, i.e. China and India.

In China, wheat production declined in 2002 for the third year in succession, to 89.3 million tonnes (5 percent below 2001 and 17 percent below the average of the past 5 years). The decline mostly results from a further reduction in the area dedicated to wheat production. The declining trend in wheat plantings over the past few years is reported to have continued again this year, with a further reduction estimated in the winter wheat area for harvest this summer

In Mongolia, extreme winter weather following drought during the summer, has affected the livelihoods of some 665 000 people, with 2.3 to 2.5 million of their animals expected to die before the next spring. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has appealed for $2.85 million to assist 115 000 most affected people for 10 months

A recent FAO/WFP Mission to DPR Korea in October found that the food deficit remains in excess of one million tonnes (or about 20 percent of its total consumption needs) despite increased food production in 2002. However, very little international food aid has been received to date. As a result, WFP has announced that it would be removing over 3 million vulnerable people from its food distribution list.

World cereal output in 2002 is now estimated at 1 838 million tonnes (including rice in milled equivalent), which is 63 million tonnes less than the previous year’s harvest. However, with total cereal utilization in 2002/03 rising, world cereal stocks for crop years ending in 2003 are expected to plunge to their lowest level since the early 1970s.

RAP 03/02

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