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Report points to 1999 cereal production falling below consumption requirements

World cereal production in 1999 is expected to be lower than last year, and insufficient to meet expected consumption requirements in 1999/2000. This is the key message of FAO's latest Food Outlook, which repeats a warning made in the last report, two months ago. If current forecasts materialize, global cereal reserves will have to be drawn on, leaving the stock-to-use ratio at the end of 1999/2000 at 16.4 percent, below the 17 to 18 percent range that the FAO Secretariat considers the minimum necessary to safeguard global food security.

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According to Food Outlook, "world cereal stocks at the end of countries' marketing seasons in 2000" are forecast to fall by 23 million tonnes, or 7 percent, below their opening levels.

FAO's latest forecasts put 1999's global cereal production at 1 858 million tonnes, 1.3 percent below last year's crop. Output for both wheat and coarse grains is forecast to fall: wheat by 2.6 percent to 579 million tonnes, and coarse grains down 1.5 percent to 891 million tonnes. Only rice production is tentatively forecast to rise, by 1.4 percent to 387 million tonnes (milled).

The forecast for world cereal trade in 1999/2000 is 212 million tonnes, 5 million tonnes up from the previous year. Trade in wheat and coarse grains is expected to rise, wheat by about 5 percent, and coarse grains by almost 2 percent. Trade in rice, on the other hand, is expected to fall "in response to better production prospects among several major importing countries".

Food Outlook also covers prospects for production and trade for pulses and sugar, and prices for fertilizer. World sugar production for 1998/99 is estimated at 129.6 million tonnes, 6.5 percent up from the previous year. "At this level, output would be above demand for the fourth year in succession and stocks would rise further", according to the Outlook. "Reflecting oversupply on international markets, sugar prices have contined to fall sharply this season."

A special section details the situation of countries afflicted by serious food supply problems. In Africa, civil strife and weather adversities are the major causes of food emergencies. In Somalia, drought has exacerbated a dire food supply situation caused by long-running civil strife and poor harvests and an estimated one million people are short of food. In Ethiopia, some 4.6 million people, including those affected by the failure of the current belg cropping season and those displaced by the fighting with Eritrea, are in need of food assistance. In Eritrea, an estimated 450 000 people affected by the conflict with Ethiopia need food assistance. In Sudan, nearly 2.4 million war-affected people are receiving emergency food assistance. In Tanzania, an estimated one million people affected by adverse weather are in need of food assistance. In southern Africa, renewed fighting in Angola has displaced an estimated 1.5 million people.

In Asia, the dire food supply situation in Korea DPR is expected "to worsen with the approach of the lean season which begins in June". In Indonesia, although rice production has recovered somewhat, economic problems continue to severely affect the livelihoods of the poorest people and their access to food. In the Near East, Jordan, Iraq, Syria and parts of other countries have been hard hit by a severe drought. In Central America, countries hit by hurricane Mitch continue to receive emergency food and technical assistance, although prospects for agricultural recovery in 1999/2000 are good. The food outlook in Cuba is uncertain because of inadequate precipitation at the start of the rainy season, which has already affected minor food crops.

In Europe, the major humanitarian crisis in the Kosovo Province of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has driven thousands of refugees to flee their homes and left a large number of internally displaced people in difficult conditions. "Continued international humanitarian assistance on a large scale will be required in the coming months", according to the report.

21 June 1999

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