FAO/GIEWS - Food Outlook No.5, November 1998

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After two consecutive years of expansion, world cereal stocks by the close of the seasons ending in 1999 are forecast to contract. Contrary to earlier indications, cereal carryovers are now expected to decline by nearly 8 million tonnes from their revised opening level to 323 million tonnes. This would be about 7 million tonnes less than was reported last month, mainly reflecting the expected drawdown in stocks in the Russian Federation to compensate for a sharply reduced harvest. As compared to the previous season, declines are expected in rice and wheat inventories, whereas, coarse grain stocks are anticipated to increase. At the current forecast level, the ratio of global cereal carryovers to trend utilization would be 17 percent, within the 17 to 18 percent range which the FAO Secretariat considers as the minimum necessary to safeguard world food security.

World stocks of wheat for crop years ending in 1999 are forecast at about 131 million tonnes, some 4 million tonnes less than was reported in September and 4 million tonnes below their opening level. The forecast for this year’s global wheat stocks has been lowered this month because of the likelihood of a marked drawdown of grain inventories held in the CIS. The most significant decline is likely to occur in the Russian Federation, where with this year’s production estimated to fall to 26 million tonnes, a reduction of wheat stocks by over 7 million tonnes is expected. Stocks held in Kazakhstan and the Ukraine are also forecast to decline this year, by about 2 million tonnes in total. In China, the anticipated fall in wheat production is also expected to result in a decline of stocks of some 3 million tonnes. By contrast, aggregate wheat stocks held by major wheat exporters, which usually provide the main buffer against variations in world output, are anticipated to rise to 48.5 million tonnes, up nearly 8 million tonnes, or 19 percent, from the previous year and 1.5 million tonnes more than was reported earlier. Most of the expansion would be on account of larger carryovers in the EC and the United States. The increase reflects higher production, particularly in the EC, following this year’s bumper crop.


Crop year ending in:
1997 1998 estim. 1999 f'cast
(. . . . million tonnes . . . .) 
Wheat  112.6  135.1  130.9
Coarse grains  130.3  139.2  142.1
Rice (milled)  56.4  56.5  50.3
TOTAL 299.4 330.8 323.2
of which:       
Main exporters  101.2  128.0  142.4
Others  198.2  202.8  180.8

Global coarse grain inventories for crop years ending in 1999 are forecast to rise for the third consecutive year to nearly 142 million tonnes, up 3 million tonnes from last year and slightly lower than was estimated in September. The revision reflects downward adjustments to forecasts for stocks held among the major exporting countries, only partially offset by increases elsewhere. Aggregate coarse grain stocks in major exporting countries are now forecast to approach 78 million tonnes, up 10 million tonnes, or 14 percent, from their revised opening level but 8 million tonnes lower than was reported in September. In the United States, based on the latest official estimates, utilization in 1998/99 is expected to expand much faster than was earlier projected and, consequently, ending stocks are now forecast at 47 million tonnes, down 5.5 million tonnes from the previous report, although still 9 million tonnes more than their opening levels. In the EC, following this month’s downward adjustments to the production for 1998 coupled with somewhat better export prospects than was envisaged earlier, ending stocks are expected to reach 24 million tonnes, up slightly from last year but 3 million tonnes less than was reported in September. Despite the forecast increase in barley and rye exports, however, the EC’s stocks held in intervention, currently estimated at about 12 million tonnes, may rise further. Elsewhere, the largest decline in stocks of coarse grains is expected to materialize in the CIS, particularly in countries where this year’s production was cut drastically. In the Russian Federation, the expected poor harvest could result in total coarse grain inventories falling to 3 million tonnes, against 10 million tonnes last year. By contrast, China could see its stocks replenished by almost 3 million tonnes, given this year’s anticipated increase in maize production combined with a possible decline in feed use and exports.

FAO’s forecast for global rice stocks at the end of the marketing seasons in 1999 has been reduced from the previous report to about 50 million tonnes, down by 11 percent from the estimated closing stocks for the marketing seasons ending in 1998. The decline is largely due to the need to make up for the crop losses due to floods in order to meet domestic requirements, particularly in China (Mainland) and Bangladesh.

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