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October 2001

Monitoring of global food supply and demand: more than just the estimation of crop production

One of the goals of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations is the reduction of food insecurity in the world. While the proper foundation of this goal lies, among others, in the increase of food production and ensuring access to food, there is also a need to monitor, on an operational basis, the current food supply and demand situation, so that timely interventions can be made when needed. Knowledge of crop production provides only part of the information required to obtain a clear picture of what is available and what is needed. Within FAO these monitoring activities are co-ordinated by the Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) on Food and Agriculture. While a large portion of the relevant data can be obtained through a network of information sources and collaborative activities, FAO also performs its own crop monitoring, which relies heavily on satellite remote sensing and agrometeorological techniques. The remote sensing support to GIEWS is provided by the SDRN ARTEMIS system, a system that has been operational since 1988. The main satellite systems used by ARTEMIS are METEOSAT for rainfall monitoring, and NOAA-AVHRR and SPOT/VEGETATION for vegetation monitoring. At present, ARTEMIS provides a global coverage at 1km resolution. Support for ARTEMIS data has been included in the "GIEWS Workstation", which provides PC based access to many of the GIEWS information sources. The use of remote sensing imagery in support of crop monitoring has greatly improved over the years, although many improvements that are still needed before remote sensing can provide the quantitative data required for crop production estimate models. Nevertheless, the data remains an essential, yet partial, component for the monitoring of food supply and demand to improve world food security.

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