Cereal stocks up but still below minimum safe levels


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World cereal stocks in 1997 should rise for the first time in four years following good harvests in several key countries, but the total is still expected to remain below minimum safe levels for ensuring global food security, according to the latest report from FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS).

With most of the world's 1996 cereal crops already harvested or about to be gathered, FAO's global production forecast has become more firm and now indicates a larger recovery from 1995 than earlier anticipated. The World Food Summit issue of Food Outlook puts 1996 global cereal production at 1 849 million tonnes (including milled rice) -- up almost 7 percent from 1995's sharply reduced level.

Although aggregate cereal carryovers are expected to increase, the ratio of carryovers to forecast consumption in 1997/98, now estimated at 15.4 percent, is still well below the 17 to 18 percent range that FAO considers the minimum necessary to safeguard world food security and thus insufficient in the event of a major production shortfall in 1997.

And severe food shortages continue to grip several low-income food-deficit countries (LIFDCs). Yet aggregate cereal food aid shipments to the LIFDCs are estimated to have fallen to 5.7 million tonnes in 1995/96, 2.2 million tonnes less than in the previous year and the lowest level on record, according to Food Outlook.

Civil strife, population displacement and localized crop failures are the main contributors to severe food supply difficulties in much of sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in Burundi, Rwanda and Zaire, with pockets of famine reported in parts of Liberia.

Elsewhere, food security remains tight in several Asian countries, with a large number of vulnerable people reported to be in need of relief assistance in Afghanistan and Iraq. Supply difficulties also continue in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Laos, where devastating floods have caused serious damage to crops.

11 November 1996


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