Food Outlook No.5 - December 2002 p.1

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Latest information confirms a sharp drop in global cereal production in 2002, to 1 833 million tonnes. As a result of this, and a marginal rise expected in total cereal utilization in 2002/03, world cereal stocks for crop years ending in 2003 are forecast to plunge sharply, by 110 million tonnes from their opening level, to 466 million tonnes.

The number of countries facing severe food emergencies worldwide stands at 39. Serious food shortages have emerged in eastern Africa, and the food situation remains critical in southern Africa.

World cereal trade in 2002/03 is forecast at 236 million tonnes, 5 million tonnes below the previous year's record level. The decline comes exclusively from a sharp reduction in wheat trade, as trade in coarse grains is expected to rise a bit and the early prospects for rice trade in 2003 point to a similar volume to that of 2002.

International prices for most cereals weakened over the past few weeks, as non-traditional exporters continued to shift more of their domestic surpluses onto the world market, taking advantage of the sharp reduction in exportable supplies among traditional exporting countries.

Global pulse production is forecast to rise in 2002 but poor crops in key producing and exporting countries will likely keep the global supply tight. Smaller exportable supplies are expected to result in reduced trade and higher international prices.

Global output of oils/fats and oilmeals/cakes is expected to increase only marginally during the 2002/03 season and is certain to be surpassed by demand, especially for oils/fats. The resulting decline in the stocks-to-use ratio is forecast to provide upward support to the oilseeds complex prices during the season.

International prices for dairy products began to recover in the latter part of 2002, after falling for most of the year. Prices are expected to increase during the first-half of 2003 and possibly beyond.

FAO forecasts world sugar production in 2002/03 at almost 141 million tonnes, 6 million tonnes up from the previous season. Expectations of a considerable global surplus of sugar may result in weaker prices in the coming months.

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