FAO/GIEWS - Food Outlook, February 1998

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This month’s forecast for global wheat stocks for crop years ending in 1998 has been raised to slightly above 125 million tonnes, up 4 million tonnes from the previous report. At this level, world wheat inventories would be about 13 million tonnes, or nearly 12 percent, above their opening levels. Of the total carryover, about 40 million tonnes are expected to be held by major wheat exporters, about 4 million tonnes more than in the previous season and the highest in 4 years. This increase reflects a rise expected in carryovers in the United States and Australia only partially offset by reductions anticipated in Canada and the EC due to reduced production. Elsewhere, above-average to record crops in several countries, especially China, Bulgaria, Hungary, India, the Russian Federation and the Ukraine are expected to result in sharp increases in their inventories. By contrast, stocks in Morocco, Tunisia and the Republic of South Africa are likely to decline this year, mainly because of lower production. Little change is anticipated in the size of stocks in countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Global coarse grain inventories for crop years ending in 1998 are currently forecast at 115.7 million tonnes, some 6 million tonnes, or 5 percent, below their opening levels but as much as 10 million tonnes more than was anticipated in the previous report. Most of this month’s upward adjustments reflect larger stocks expected in the major exporting countries, partly reflecting lower exports to Asia and the improved production prospects in southern hemisphere countries, where the impact of this year’s El Niño appears to be less serious than earlier anticipated. Total coarse grain stocks held by major exporters are currently forecast to rise by nearly 7 million tonnes, due primarily to an anticipated increase in inventories held in the EC and the United States. In the case of the EC, and despite the expected growth in domestic feed utilization, the forecast of lower exports and larger production could result is this year’s ending stocks exceeding 22 million tonnes, up 6 million tonnes from the previous year and the highest since 1991/92. In the United States, total coarse grain stocks could rise to 29 million tonnes, up 2 million tonnes from their opening levels, despite an expected 4 percent growth in domestic utilization.


Crop year ending in: 
1996  1997 estim.  1998 f'cast
(. . . . million tonnes . . . .) 
Wheat  103.8  112.3  125.4
Coarse grains  102.9  121.7  115.7
Rice (milled)  53.9  56.3  53.6
TOTAL  260.7  290.3  294.7
of which: 
Main exporters  74.8  102.2  113.0
Others  185.9  188.1  181.7

Overall, this year’s biggest decline in global coarse grain stocks is forecast to occur in China where end of season maize stocks may be about 13 million tonnes, or 50 percent, lower than at the start of the season. This decline would be on account of smaller production coupled with larger exports. Elsewhere, as in the case for wheat, coarse grain stocks among most of northern African countries are likely to decline, mainly due to reduced barley production. In addition, maize stocks are anticipated to decrease in the Republic of South Africa, Uganda and Zambia while sorghum stocks are likely to fall in the Sudan. By contrast, higher maize carryovers are anticipated in the Russian Federation and the Ukraine, as well as in Brazil, Hungary, Mexico and Romania following larger domestic production in 1997.

FAO’s forecast for global rice stocks at the end of the marketing seasons in 1998 has been increased by 1.6 million tonnes from the previous report to about 53.6 million tonnes. The upward revision reflects a 2 million tonnes rise in the 1997 world rice production estimate. However, rice stocks, at the forecast level, would still be 2.7 million tonnes lower than opening levels. The bulk of the decline is projected to be in Asia, especially in Indonesia as a result of drought-reduced 1997 output and delayed seeding of the 1998 main-season crop. Rice carryovers in India are also forecast to fall due to a bigger domestic demand and a projected increase in exports. By contrast, stocks in Japan, which have been rising steadily since 1992 under the impact of four successive bumper harvests and since 1995 due to mandatory imports under its Uruguay Round commitments, are now anticipated to reach a peak of 4.5 million tonnes, up from 3.7 million tonnes estimated for 1997.

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