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REVIEW OF 1995/96

FAO’s estimate of global end-of-season cereal stocks for crop years ending in 1996 has been reduced to about 260 million tons, 5 million tons less than anticipated in April and the lowest volume in 15 years. At this level, total cereal stocks would be 51 million tons, or 16 percent, less than their opening levels. Most of the decline would be on account of a sharp draw-down in coarse grain inventories from their high levels in 1994/95, but wheat stocks are also anticipated to fall for the third consecutive year. Rice carryovers are also expected to be down by 2 percent compared to the previous year. At the forecast level, aggregate world cereal stocks at the end of the current 1995/96 seasons would be about 14 percent of trend utilization in 1996/97, the lowest ratio since the world food crisis in the early 1970s, and well below the 17-18 percent range the FAO Secretariat considers the minimum necessary to safeguard world food security.


Crop year ending in:
1995 1996 estim. 1997 f'cast
(. . . . million tons . . . .)
Wheat 109.9 101.5 104.5
Coarse grains 146.2 104.9 117.4
Rice (milled) 54.6 53.5 49.2
TOTAL 310.6 259.8 271.1
of which:
Main exporters 108.8 74.8 90.6
Others 201.8 185.0 180.5


World wheat stocks for crop years ending in 1996, are now forecast at 101.5 million tons, 3 million tons less than the previous forecast and the smallest volume since 1980/81. At this level, world wheat stocks would be 8.4 million tons or about 8 percent below their opening levels. The decline in ending stocks is most notable among the major exporters whose aggregate stocks would be 6 million tons less than last season and approaching pipeline levels in some cases. Their aggregate share of world wheat stocks is estimated at 26 percent in 1995/96 compared to an average of over one-third in the 1990s and an average of 48 percent during the 1980s. This development largely reflects reduced exportable supplies in Argentina, Canada and the EC due to lower opening stocks and the 1995 production shortfall in the United States, the largest holder of inventories among the major exporters. Aggregate end-of-season wheat stocks held by other countries are likely to decline somewhat compared to the previous year, mostly due to production shortfalls in the CIS and South America.

The estimate of world closing stocks of coarse grains for crop years ending in 1996 has also been lowered since April, by 900 000 tons, to 105 million tons. At this level, coarse grain inventories would be 41 million tons, or 28 percent, below the high carryovers in 1994/95. Most of the decline is expected among the major exporting countries which, although they now account for only one-third of the global coarse grain stocks compared to 50 percent during most of the 1990s, maintain the bulk of the world's exportable supplies. For the major exporters as a group, total coarse grain ending stocks for 1995/96 are put at about 35 million tons, only about one-half of their opening level largely because of a sharp draw-down of inventories in the United States following the maize crop shortfall in 1995 and continued strong exports. Coarse grain stocks in the United States are now estimated at one-third of the total held by major exporters; normally they would account for 50-75 percent of the total. Aggregate coarse grain 1995/96 ending stocks held by other countries are also estimated to fall by over 13 million tons or 16 percent, from last year to 70 million tons. Latest estimates point to significant declines in Africa and the CIS, resulting mainly from poor production outcomes in 1995.

FAO's forecast for global rice stocks at the end of the marketing seasons in 1996 is 53.5 million tons, 1.1 million tons down from the 1995 level. Although global output of rice rose by about 3 percent, most of the increase was in China, while in many other major producing and consuming developing countries, output fell. Hence, while stocks in China are expected to recover marginally from the previous year's low level, in India, large exports in 1995 and a slightly reduced output are likely to result in a decline in its end-1996 season stocks.


Early indications for global cereal carryovers by the end of countries' marketing years closing in 1997 suggest a small build up from the sharply reduced opening levels. Based on the preliminary 1996 production forecasts and expected utilization levels in 1996/97, ending stocks are provisionally put at 271 million tons for the 1996/97 seasons, which would be just over 11 million tons or 4 percent above the estimate for the 1995/96 season. All of this modest recovery in global cereal inventories is expected in coarse grains and wheat while rice ending stocks may decline as production is expected to change little this year, while consumption would continue to increase. Consequently, assuming current production forecasts for 1996 materialize, the ratio of world cereal stocks by the end of the 1996/97 seasons to trend utilization in 1997/98 could increase slightly to between 14 and 15 percent, which would still be well below the 17-18 percent range considered by the FAO Secretariat the minimum necessary to safeguard global food security.

The situation is expected to remain particularly tight for wheat. World wheat stocks are forecast to increase by only 3 percent to 104.5 million tons, which would be the second lowest level since 1980/81. Furthermore, wheat inventories held by major exporters, which represent the most important buffer for global crop shortfalls are not anticipated to increase significantly due largely to an expected poor winter wheat crop in the United States. Although early indications point to a larger recovery of coarse grain carryovers at the end of the 1996/97 crop years by some 12 percent or 12.5 million tons, to 117 million tons, this level would still represent the second lowest volume since 1980/81. Most of the recovery in coarse grain stocks is anticipated among the major exporting countries, notably in the United States. As regards global rice stocks at the end of marketing seasons in 1997, these may fall. The forecast, however, is highly tentative as the bulk of the 1996 crop has not yet been sown.

Inter-Governmental Group on Rice, 38th Session, Seville, 14 - 17 May 1996

The Inter-Governmental Group on Rice met for its 38th session in Seville. 142 delegates representing 36 countries and international organizations were represented. Discussions were focused on: a) the major problems and issues facing the world rice economy, including its short-term market outlook and prospects; b) the longer term outlook taking into account the impact of the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture; c) environmental problems relating to rice production and policy measures for their control; and d) the policies adopted by countries in the recent year that could affect global production, trade, consumption, stocks and food aid in rice. Taking into account the environmental concerns expressed at the Meeting, the Group adopted Guidelines on environmental issues for prospective activities relating to rice production and trade. Acting in its capacity as an International Commodity Body of the Common Fund for Commodities, the Group reviewed the status of project development for submission to the Fund and made recommendations for future action.

The 38th Session was well-attended by representatives from the private industry. Two informal symposia on trade were held to promote a freer dialogue and exchange of views between the government and private sector. One topic was the impact of regional trade agreements, specifically NAFTA and MERCOSUR, on trade in rice and the other was on rice trade management practices.

For more details on the 38th Session, please contact:
Ms. Chan Ling Yap
Secretary, Inter-Governmental Group on Rice,
Commodities and Trade Division, FAO of the UN
Facsimile: 0039-6-5225-4495; Telephone: 0039-6-5225-6894; E-Mail:

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