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Report forecasts reduction of cereal stocks for first time in four years


The February 2000 issue of FAO's Food Outlook forecasts that 1999 world cereal production will not meet demand in 1999/2000. As a result, global cereal stocks will have to be reduced for the first time in four years.


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FAO's current estimate for 1999 global cereal output is 1 872 million tonnes (including rice in milled terms), slightly less than the previous year, but still above the average of the last five years. The shortfall in production, to meet expected utilization, is put at 10 million tonnes.

However, stocks are not expected to be depleted below safe levels - the stock to utilization ratio for 2000/01 is forecast at 17.4 percent, within the 17 to 18 percent range that FAO considers the minimum necessary to safeguard world food security. Also, the report says, "the percentage share of global cereal stocks held by the major exporting countries, which are the main buffer against any major production shortfall, is expected to remain stable at around the previous year's level of 45 percent."

Mixed outlook for cereals in 2000

The early outlook for cereal crops in 2000 is mixed. While winter wheat plantings fell in the United States, spring wheat plantings could rise in Canada. Meanwhile, in Europe, winter wheat planting expanded in the European Community and in several eastern European countries. Prospects are good for coarse grain crops in South America, but in southern Africa, the outlook is less favourable than earlier anticipated because of floods in early February. Rice plantings in the equatorial belt and southern hemisphere were reduced, and output will be down.

World trade in cereals for 1999/2000 is forecast at 222 million tonnes, 7 million tonnes up from the previous year. "Latest indications point to an increase of about 6 percent in global wheat shipments and 3 percent for coarse grains, but a 4 percent reduction for rice," says the report.

As well as detailed information on the cereal situation, including a regional breakdown, Food Outlook reports on production and trade for meat and meat products; oilseeds, oils and oilmeals; and fertilizers. The February issue also publicizes a new email-based Meat and Livestock Market Network set up by the Commodities and Trade Division. The network is for the exchange of information on developments in the global meat market and the circulation of relevant FAO reports.

Food shortages and emergencies

Food Outlook has a regular feature on countries in the grip of food emergencies. Eastern Africa has been hard hit by drought, and the following countries are suffering food supply difficulties - Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. In western, central and southern Africa, past and present insecurity is severely constraining food security for people in Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

In Asia, food supply difficulties persist in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Mongolia and East Timor, despite significant improvements in the latter country. In the Near East drought has caused food supply difficulties in Iraq, Jordan and Syria, while in Afghanistan drought, long-running civil conflict and pest outbreaks have combined to constrain food security.

Natural disasters in Latin America have left Cuba, Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela in need of food assistance, while structural economic problems have had the same effect in Haiti. In Europe, food aid continues to be necessary for displaced people in the Balkans, especially in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In the Russian Federation, the report says,"the plight of displaced people in and around Chechnya has been aggravated by the bitterly cold weather." Hundreds of thousands of people are surviving "with inadequate shelter, food, clothing and medical care and are increasingly prone to disease, particularly flu and tuberculosis".

29 February 2000


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