Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture
The new 2002/03 marketing season could mark the beginning of a much tighter supply and demand situation for cereals: opening stocks are smaller than in the previous season, production is forecast to fall and consumption is expected to rise.
A total of 31 countries throughout the world are currently experiencing severe food shortages and require international food assistance. A new food crisis has emerged in southern Africa, following two successive years of poor harvests in most countries of the subregion, calling for immediate international response.
FAO’s forecast of global cereal output in 2002 has been revised downward to 1 878 million tones, considerably less than expectations in May, and marginally below last year’s level. On latest indications, output of wheat is forecast at 578 million tonnes, down 0.6 percent, while that of coarse grains would be down 0.3 percent at 903 million tones. Production of rice is seen to remain virtually unchanged from the previous year, at 397 million tonnes (milled basis).
World cereal trade in 2002/03 is forecast at 235 million tonnes, down 1 million tonnes from 2001/02, mostly due to smaller wheat and rice imports, while trade in coarse grains is expected to increase slightly. A sharp reduction in imports by the developed countries would be almost offset by a large increase for the developing countries.
World cereal utilization is forecast to reach 1 938 million tones in 2001/02, 1.4 percent up from the previous year’s level. Early indications for 2002/03 indicate that the growth in cereal utilization could continue but at a slower pace.
World cereal stocks by the end of the crop seasons in 2003 are forecast to fall sharply to 498 million tonnes, 71 million tonnes down from their already reduced opening level. At the global level, the anticipated decline in wheat inventories would be most significant but reductions in coarse grains and rice stocks are also expected to be substantial.
International cereal prices moved up in the past two months. Wheat prices rose considerably in response to poorer crop prospects in a number of major exporting countries. Maize prices have also strengthened, largely reflecting faster pace in import purchases in recent weeks. Rice prices rose slightly, reflecting tighter supplies in some exporting countries and policy measures in others.