FAO/GIEWS - Food Outlook March/April 1997

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World carryover stocks of cereals at the close of national crop years ending in 1997 are forecast to recover partially from last season's depleted levels to reach 294 million tons, unchanged from the last report. This level represents an increase of 33 million tons above opening levels, or almost 13 percent. All of the build-up in carryover cereal stocks is expected in the major exporting countries while ending stocks among other countries as a group are likely to decline by 9 million tons, or about 5 percent. Almost three-fourths of the increase, or some 24 million tons, would be in coarse grains, while wheat stocks are forecast to grow by 12 million tons and rice to contract by about 3 million tons. At about 16 percent, the ratio of world cereal stocks at the end of the 1996/97 seasons to trend utilization in 1997/98 would show a substantial improvement as compared with the previous year but would still be below the 17-18 percent range which the FAO Secretariat considers the minimum necessary to safeguard world food security.

Global wheat stocks for crop years ending in 1997 are forecast at 117 million tons, up about 11 percent from their opening levels but still well below the average levels of the first half of the 1990s. Among the major wheat exporters, end-of-season wheat stocks are anticipated to increase by between 3-4 million tons each, in Autralia, Canada, the EC and the United States. A large build-up in EC wheat stocks is expected due to a record crop in 1996 and limited prospects for exports in 1996/97. Intervention stocks, in particular, are currently forecast to triple in size to around 10 million tons. The United States also expects an increase in wheat carryovers, largely on account of sharply curtailed exports, though stocks would still remain below average levels. A record wheat harvest in Australia and bumper crops in Canada, combined with shipping delays at the West Coast, are expected to boost carryovers to above normal levels in these two countries.


Crop year ending in:

1995 1996 estim. 1997 f'cast

(. . . . million tons . . . .)
Wheat 117.6 104.9 116.8
Coarse grains 146.9 103.8 127.5
Rice (milled) 54.9 52.7 50.0
TOTAL 319.4 261.3 294.3
of which:

Main exporters 109.1 76.4 118.3
Others 210.3 185.0 176.0


Aggregate wheat ending stocks for 1996/97 in other countries are forecast to be drawn down by 1.4 million tons from last year's low levels. The major downward adjustments are expected in the CIS, in particular the Ukraine Republic, due to a decline in production, and in Saudi Arabia because of reduced output following the Government's policy to cut wheat production. Countries which are forecast to show a significant increase in wheat carryovers compared to the previous season include China and Morocco, because of improved harvests in 1996, and in Poland due to a Government decision to increase cereal reserves.

World coarse grains stocks at the end of 1996/97 crop years are forecast to rise by about 23 percent from last season to 127 million tons, which is still below the average of the last few years. As with wheat, all of the expansion in coarse grain carryover stocks is likely to occur among the major exporting countries. By far the largest build-up is expected in the United States which would account for 21 million tons of the total global increase of 24 million tons. Other increases in inventories are also likely in the EC and Canada, mostly for barley.

Among the other countries, end-of-season coarse grain stocks in 1996/97 are forecast to contract by 3.3 million tons compared to last year. Estimated production shortfalls in a number of countries in 1996, including Brazil, Colombia, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia and the Ukraine, are likely to reduce aggregate coarse grain stocks there. In a number of countries in Africa, however, a return to more normal production levels is expected to allow some rebuilding of stocks following last season's drought-reduced harvest, particularly in Morocco, South Africa and Sudan. In Japan, larger coarse grain imports forecast for this season are likely to increase stocks after a decline last year.

FAO's forecast for global rice stocks at the end of the marketing seasons in 1997 has been reduced from 51.7 to 50 million tons, to reflect the lower estimates of paddy rice produced in Myanmar and India. By contrast, the forecast for rice stocks in China has been raised because of a marginally bigger than earlier anticipated output. The fall in global rice stocks in 1997 would be the fourth in successive years. Although the bulk of the reduction is projected to be in Asia, there has been little impact so far on the region's rice market because the reduction in stocks was mainly in countries where there had been a previous build-up.

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