Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Food Outlook
Global Information and Early Warning System on food and agriculture

No. 1, 1999 - Rome, February 1999


Export prices Graphic

The outlook for cereal supplies in 1998/99 has improved slightly, following upward revisions for the 1998 wheat and coarse grains harvests. Global cereal production in 1998 is now estimated at 1 880 million tonnes, just below the anticipated consumption requirements in 1998/99. Global stocks would have to be drawn upon, but very slightly, and would remain within the minimum safe range for world food security.

Serious food emergencies afflict several Asian and Latin American countries following extreme natural disasters in late 1998. Also in Africa, despite generally favourable 1998/99 cereal production throughout the region, localized food supply difficulties persist in several countries due to adverse weather and/or civil strife.

The early outlook for 1999 cereal crops is mixed. In the northern hemisphere, winter wheat plantings have fallen in the United States, Europe and the Russian Federation, but overwinter weather has been generally favourable so far. In Asia, persistent drought has affected the crop in China but prospects are satisfactory in India and Pakistan. In the southern hemisphere, prospects are favourable for the 1999 coarse grains in southern Africa and South America. In the equatorial belt and the southern hemisphere, the outlook for the 1999 rice crop is mostly favourable.

FAO’s latest forecast of world trade in cereals in 1998/99 is 204 million tonnes, 3 million tonnes more than earlier anticipated but still some 3 percent below the previous year’s volume. Latest indications point to a 2.5 percent reduction in global wheat shipments, a virtually unchanged volume of coarse grain trade, but a sharp reduction for rice, after a record in the previous year.

International wheat and coarse grains prices remain relatively weak due largely to sluggish import demand. By contrast, rice prices strengthened slightly in early 1999 in response to a revival in trade of high quality rice and concerns over supplies due to drought affecting the second Thai crop.

Global meat production is forecast to grow by two percent in 1999, boosted again by low feed prices. International trade in meat should remain close to the 1998 level, as special measures by major exporters could help restore meat flows to the Russian Federation. While world beef and sheep meat prices are expected to strenghten this year, relatively large supplies may delay a recovery of pig and poultry meat prices.

Global output of oilseeds is forecast at a record 305 million tonnes in 1998/99, outstripping the expected increased in demand. As a result, stocks of oilcrop-based products are forecast to build up, putting downward pressure on prices.

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