Food Outlook No.4 - October 2002 p.1

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The global supply and demand balance for cereals is pointing to a tighter situation in 2002/03 than was anticipated earlier in the wake of deteriorating crop prospects in a number of major producing countries. Based on the production and consumption forecasts for 2002/03, world cereal stocks for crop years ending in 2003 are expected to plunge sharply.

The humanitarian crisis in southern Africa is deepening as international response has so far seriously fallen short of needs. Globally, 32 countries are presently facing food emergencies and need food assistance.

FAO’s forecast of global cereal output in 2002 has been revised downward to 1 830 million tonnes, 3 percent down from last year and the smallest crop since 1995. On latest indications, output of wheat is forecast at 563 million tonnes, down 3 percent, that of coarse grains at 874 million tonnes would be down by close to 4 percent, while rice production, at 394 million tonnes (milled basis), would be down by 1.4 percent.

World cereal trade (exports) in 2002/03 is forecast at 236 million tonnes, which would be some 4 million tonnes below the previous season’s record volume. The expected decline is exclusively on account of a sharp contraction expected in world wheat trade, while trade in coarse grains and rice is expected to rise.

World cereal utilization is forecast at 1 940 million tonnes in 2002/03, which would represent a negligible growth from the previous year, and stand about 10 percent, below the 10-year trend.

World cereal stocks by the end of the crop seasons ending in 2003 are forecast to fall sharply to 466 million tonnes, 108 million tonnes down from their already reduced opening level. Apart from poor crops in several important producing countries, the continuing policy of significant stock reductions in China, would still account for a large proportion of the total anticipated decline in stocks at the global level.

International wheat and coarse grain prices have increased in recent months, fuelled by growing evidence of tighter exportable grain supplies in traditional grain exporting countries. By contrast, for rice, large supplies in major exporting countries are keeping prices under pressure.

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