First forecast points to drop in 1999 world cereal production


FAO's first global cereal production forecast for 1999 is put at 1 850 million tonnes, about 1.5 percent below 1998 but still above the average of the last five years. If current forecasts materialize, according to the April issue of Food Outlook, cereal output would not be enough to meet expected consumption requirements in 1999/2000 and global cereal stocks accumulated over the last two seasons would have to be drawn down to below safe levels.


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The forecast cereal output, which includes rice in milled terms, is based on the condition of crops already in the ground and those expected to be sown later in the year, and assumes normal weather for the remainder of the 1999 cropping seasons.

Wheat and coarse grains output to decrease, rice expected to climb

Wheat output is provisionally forecast at 580 million tonnes, about 3 percent down from 1998 and below trend for the first time since 1995. Output is expected to fall in Asia, North America and Europe. Global output of coarse grains in 1999 is forecast at 890 million tonnes, about 2 percent down from 1998. Early indications point to reduced levels of production throughout all regions, with the exception of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), where some recovery is expected after severely reduced crops in 1998. A recovery in global rice production is expected in 1999 to 380 million tonnes compared to the revised estimate of 375 million tonnes in 1998. The rice forecast is a tentative one as the rice season has yet to begin in most of Asia, where the bulk of the crop is grown.

Global cereal utlization for 1998/99 constant

The Outlook's latest forecast of global cereal utlization for 1998/99 - at 1 881 million tonnes - remains virtually unchanged since the February issue, and only marginally above the previous year's level. The report cites reduced use of cereal as feed because of the economic difficulties in Asia and the CIS as the main reason for the limited growth in utilization. By contrast, the report notes, food consumption of cereals is forecast to expand by 1.7 percent. The increase will maintain global per caput food consumption at last year's level of 162 kg.

Cereal food aid shipments in 1998/99 expected to increase

Cereal food aid shipments in 1998/99 are expected to reach 9 million tonnes, up 3.2 million tonnes from the revised estimate for 1997/98. The increase reflects greater availability of grain supplies from major donor countries combined with higher food aid requirements, particularly from Asia, Central America and the CIS. Meanwhile, in Africa, cereal food aid shipments are expected to be about 24 percent lower than in the previous season, mainly the result of average-to-record 1998 harvests in several major cereal importing countries.

Food supply difficulties persist in 34 developing countries

Serious food supply problems persist in 34 developing countries around the world, according to the Outlook's special feature. Most of these countries are in sub-Saharan Africa. In southern Africa, "the food outlook has become increasingly bleak in Angola", according to the Report. Although rains have been abundant in most of the country's regions since October, crop production is expected to be considerably reduced because of recently renewed civil strife. Farmers are reported to be abandoning their lands to join the rapidly increasing number of displaced people or to flee to neighbouring countries. In many areas, food supplies can only be delivered by air.

In Asia, the Outlook reports persisting food supply problems in Korea DPR, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Laos and Mongolia. Recent FAO missions have been fielded to Indonesia and Laos to assess first-hand the situations there.

In Europe, the Report expects that the unprecedented exodus of refugees from the Kosovo Province of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to surrounding countries will require continued international humanitarian assistance on a large scale in the coming months.

New email network exchanges information on pulses

The Food Outlook also includes an announcement of an new email information exchange service for the pulses sector, called Pulses Market Network (PMN). Established by the Basic Foodstuffs Service of the Commodities and Trade Division, the network will allow the exchange of information on developments in the world's pulses market. More information can be obtained from: Pulses-L@mailserv.fao.org.

16 April 1999


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