The FAO Crop Prospects and Food Situation Report for the last quarter of 2017 reports that 37 countries remain in need of food assistance. Twenty-nine of those countries are in Africa, seven are in Asia, and one is in Latin America and the Caribbean. Persistent conflict coupled with weather shocks resulting in production shortfalls are behind most of these needs. All of these factors have limited food access and availability in the affected countries, in some cases severely.

Regional trends remain varied. North and Southern Africa have seen improved weather conditions recently, which have significantly improved production and reduced the number of food-insecure people in those areas. At the same time, drought conditions throughout East Africa continue to pose food security challenges. In addition, continuing conflicts in Nigeria, Somalia, and South Sudan have resulted in severe food insecurity, and even the threat of famine, throughout those countries.

In Asia, conflict continues to drive severe food insecurity in Yemen, as well as in Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic. In the Far East, on the other hand, 2017 production is forecast to be above that of 2016, particularly for wheat. Lower cereal output is expected for CIS Asian countries, however.

In South America, Brazil and Argentina are expected to have record high cereal outputs for 2017. However, recent hurricanes have reduced agricultural output of second-season crops in many Caribbean countries, negatively impacting food security throughout that region.

Globally, the report expects increased 2017 cereal production, up 0.6 percent from 2016. This increased forecast is driven mainly by increased maize production in the US and Indonesia and higher-than-expected wheat production in the EU. Global cereal utilization is also expected to rise for 2017, up 1.2 percent from 2016. Large cereal supplies and lower prices have increased the use of cereal for feed; food consumption of wheat is also expected to reach an all-time high of 504 million tonnes. Global cereal ending stocks are also anticipated to reach a record high of 726 million tonnes.

Low-income, food-deficit countries (LIFDCs) are also expected to have higher food production in 2017, according to the report. Aggregate cereal output for 2017 in LIFDCs is estimated to be 1.7 percent higher than 2016 levels. Most of this growth has taken place in Far East Asia and Southern Africa. Cereal imports by LIFDCs are expected to rise slightly in 2017-2018, particularly in Kenya, South Sudan, Bangladesh, and the Near East. Other countries, including Senegal, Zimbabwe, and India, are expected to reduce their imports due to sufficient domestic outputs.

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