FAO’s third 2016 Crop Prospects and Food Situation Report was recently released. The report is published four times a year and provides a review of the food situation by geographic region and includes a section dedicated to the Low Income Food Deficit Countries (LIFDC) and a list of countries requiring external assistance for food.

The report estimates that 36 countries, including 28 in Africa, 7 in Asia, and 1 in Oceania, are in need of external assistance for food this year. The main causes for these stressed food security situations are persistent conflicts (including in Syria, South Sudan, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Burundi) and drought-induced production declines (including in most of Southern Africa and the Horn of Africa as well as parts of East Africa, Madagascar, and Papua New Guinea). The report documents that the food security situation has deteriorated in 20 of these countries, stayed the same in 15 countries, and improved in only one 1 (Ethiopia) since the last report in June 2016.

Regarding the LIFDCs, which are comprised of 37 countries in Africa, 12 in Asia, and 2 in Oceania, the report highlights that cereal production is expected to recover from last year’s low to reach 429.5 million tons. These increases are mainly due to improved production prospects in the East African countries and the Far East due to improved weather. In Africa, the improved weather significantly boosted production forecasts in Ethiopia and the Sudan; however in Southern Africa, continuing drought has sharply reduced outputs for Lesotho, Malawi, and Zimbabwe. Similarly in Asia, the increases in production are almost entirely due to a 13.5 million ton increase in India’s cereal crop. Small production gains are expected in other countries, with the exception of Bangladesh due to flooding in that country. The report highlights that aggregate cereal imports are forecast to increase marginally in 2016-2017 mainly driven by Southern African countries.

Globally, the FAO’s current forecast for 2016 world cereal production stands at about 2,566 million tonnes, which is 22 million tonnes (0.9 percent) above the July forecast. This mostly reflects upward revisions for maize and wheat due to favorable weather in some of the large producing countries.

In North Africa, a 22 percent below-average cereal output is expected due to droughts in Morocco, central Tunisia, and western Algeria. By contrast, in West Africa, overall crop prospects are favorable due to generally adequate rainfall which has production and more than offset production declines in some rainfall-deficit areas in the Sahel belt. In Central Africa, crop production is predicted to be average due to average levels of precipitation and ongoing conflict in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In East Africa, the report suggests mixed production prospects for different areas. In Ethiopia, Eritrea, and the Sudan, crops are generally progressing well. However, in Kenya and Uganda, production is generally predicted at below-average levels. As mentioned earlier, in Southern Africa, due to the ongoing drought, production of the main cereal crops is predicted to be 22 percent below average.

In the Far East, aggregate cereal production in 2016 is predicted to reach a record high due to abundant monsoon rains and rainfall in general. China is expected to produce record amounts of rice, and production in India, the Philippines, Thailand, Myanmar, Nepal, Lao, and Japan are expected to rebound after last year’s lows. By contrast, total cereal production the in the Near East is expected to be average at 68.2 million tons due to production decreases in the main producing countries (Turkey and Iran).

In Central America and the Caribbean, wheat yields are expected to recover and maize production is estimated at a very high level, driven by good weather prospects across the region. Similarly, in South America, production is expected to remain high but down from previous year’s record. This is due to a significantly below-expected maize crop in Brazil but a record crop in Argentina. In the rest of the region, Bolivia, Chile and Paraguay all experienced decreases in maize production, while Venezuela experienced an increase.

The next report will be published here on December 8th.

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