Photo Credit: FAO GIEWS

The latest Crop Prospects and Food Situation report from FAO was recently released. Published quarterly, these reports focus on developments affecting the food situation of developing countries and Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries (LIFDCs). The report also includes an overview of global cereal production prospects and highlight countries that require external food assistance.

This quarter’s report estimates that 37 countries around the world are currently in need of food assistance. Twenty-nine of these countries are in Africa, while seven are in Asia and one is in Latin America and the Caribbean. Continuing conflict has negatively impacted agricultural production, markets and food access, and overall food security in many places; in addition, weather shocks like flooding and drought have further hampered food availability and access.

The FAO’s forecasts for global cereal production increased by 18.4 million tonnes from the last forecast released in July; this number puts global cereal production at 2,611 million tonnes, which is slightly above the 2016 record. Increases in wheat and coarse grain production are driving this rise, with global wheat production forecasts rising 8.9 million tonnes from July and coarse grain production forecast up by 9 million tonnes. Global rice production is also forecast to reach an all-time high of 503 million tonnes, up 0.5 percent from 2016 production.

As a result of this increased production, global cereal stocks are anticipated to reach a new high of 719 million tonnes, the report says. Global wheat stocks will themselves hit an all-time high of 262 million tonnes, largely on expectations of a build-up of inventories in the Russian Federation. Global coarse grain stocks are also expected to increase by 8.7 million tonnes, driven largely by increased maize stocks in Brazil. Global rice inventories are also expected to rise slightly by 0.3 percent to reach 171.2 million tonnes.

Prospects for cereal trade in 2017-2018 have also improved. Global cereal trade forecasts increased to a record 403 million tonnes in this most recent report, reflecting a growth of 2.2 percent from trade in 2016-2017. Stronger import demand by Brazil and India has increased expected wheat trade, while trade in maize is expected to reach an all-time high of 144 million tonnes due largely to higher imports by China, the EU, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Mexico. World rice trade is also expected to rise marginally over 2016-2017 levels due to demand in the Near East and West Africa.

Regionally, the report expects cereal production in Africa to increase by 12 percent to 183.3 million tonnes. This rise will be driven mainly by recovering production in North and Southern Africa. In West Africa, overall production forecasts remain positive despite flooding in localized areas. In Central Africa, conflict and civil insecurity continue to hamper production in some areas, but generally favorable weather is anticipated to increase the region’s aggregate cereal output. East Africa continues to face erratic rainfall that is hampering production and aggregate output prospects; however, the report still anticipates overall production in East Africa to be above average. Several African countries continue to face unfavorable production prospects and significant food insecurity, including southeastern Ethiopia, northern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and the Central Africa Republic.

Cereal production in Asia is forecast slightly higher than 2016-2017 levels, at 1,140 million tonnes. This increase largely reflects increased production of wheat and paddy rice in the Far East. Cereal production is also expected to increase slightly in the Near East due to favorable weather; however, conflicts in that area continue to challenge outputs. In CIS countries, production is expected to remain high but will be lower than last year’s bumper crop.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, aggregate cereal production is expected to reach 258.8 million tonnes – 20 percent higher than year-earlier levels and the previous five-year average. This significant increase is being driven by record maize outputs in Argentina and Brazil. In Central America and the Caribbean, Mexico is also anticipated to see above-average cereal production. However, in the Caribbean islands, the damage caused by Hurricane Irma is expected to depress production prospects.

By: Sara Gustafson, IFPRI

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