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Floods reduce rice yields in Asia, dampen positive global cereal outlook

The outlook for world cereal supplies in 1998/99 has improved, with production now estimated to be just below anticipated consumption needs, according to the February issue of Food Outlook, FAO's bimonthly report on the global food situation.

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"Global stocks would have to be drawn upon, but very slightly," according to the report, but would remain within the 17 to 18 percent range considered the minimum for world food security by the FAO Secretariat.

Flooding to blame for sharp reduction in Asian rice output in 1998

World cereal output in 1998 in now put at 1 880 million tonnes (including rice in milled terms), 8 million tonnes above the previous estimate. The increase reflects upward revisions for wheat and coarse grains, mostly in the Russian Federation, which more than offset a sharp reduction for rice in Asia.

FAO's current estimate for world paddy rice production in 1998 is 557 million tonnes, down by 4 million tonnes from the previous report and 20 million tonnes from the revised 1997 record output. Extensive flood damage in a number of the major northern hemisphere rice producing countries in Asia have forced the recent downward revision. At an estimated 191 million tonnes, mainland China's 1998 paddy output is 9 million tonnes less than last year's record, largely the result of widespread flooding in central and southern China during most of July and August.

Early outlook for 1999 cereal crops is mixed

Lower winter wheat plantings are reported in the United States, Europe and the Russian Federation, but growing conditions are generally favourable. In Asia, persistent drought has affected wheat in China, while prospects are favourable in India and Pakistan. In the southern hemisphere, conditions are mostly favourable for coarse grains and the early rice crops.

World cereal trade forecast up slightly

The latest forecast of world trade in cereals in 1998/99 is 204 million tonnes, 3 million tonnes more than earlier anticipated, but still some 3 percent below the previous year's volume. Latest indications point to a modest decline in global wheat imports, a virtually unchanged volume of coarse grain trade, but a sharp reduction for rice, after a record year. Because of generally weak import demand and under pressure from abundant stocks among the major exporters, international wheat and coarse grains remain weak.

Unprecedented natural disasters exacerbate food emergencies

Serious food emergencies afflict several Asian and Latin American countries following extreme natural disasters in late 1998, according to the report. Honduras and Nicaragua were particularly hard hit by Hurricane Mitch. In Africa, despite generally favourable 1998/99 cereal production throughout the region, localized food supply difficulties persist in several countries as a result of adverse weather and/or civil strife. In Sierra Leone, the food supply situation has seriously deteriorated following the recent escalation of violence, according to the report, "virtually wiping out the modest gains in food security resulting from the recently harvested 1998 rice crops."

The report on countries suffering food emergencies is a standing special feature of Food Outlook.

23 February 1999

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