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False Alarm: Largest Ever Cereal Harvest Predicted This Year

The world is expected to harvest the largest ever crop of cereals in 2012-13 according to an estimate released by the UN affiliated Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) recently. It is estimated that this year’s world cereal production will be a record 2371 million tonnes, marking a 1 percent, or 27 million tonnes increase over 2011.

India is forecast to produce a bumper harvest of 234.4 million tonnes of cereals, up from last year’s 232.3 million tonnes. Wheat production is expected to grow marginally from 86.9 million tonnes last year to 88.3 million tonnes this year and rice from 103.4 million tonnes to 105 million tonnes.

Cereals consist of wheat, rice and coarse grains (including maize). Increases are expected for coarse grains (3.7 percent) and rice (2.6 percent), while wheat may decrease by about 3.6 percent, mainly due to reduced output forecast for Ukraine, followed by Kazakhstan, China, Morocco and the EU.

Meanwhile prices of cereals, as measured by the FAO Cereal Price Index have dipped by about 11.7 percent during January to April this year compared to the same period last year, though they still remain on the higher side. The FAO’s price index hit a high last year at 247 but is currently down to 225. In April, wheat prices on average were roughly 21 percent, maize 15 percent and rice 4 percent lower than the corresponding month last year.

Total cereal utilization is anticipated to expand by 1.4 percent in 2012/13, to 2 357 million tonnes, with feed utilization growing fastest and food consumption keeping pace with population, the FAO report says.

After several years of strong gains, growth in industrial use of cereals for the production of biofuels is likely to stall, says the FAO report.

Based on these early estimates, world end-of-season cereal stocks for crop years closing in 2013 could increase to 524 million tonnes, roughly 9 million tonnes, or 1.7 percent, higher than their opening levels. This is not expected to result in any significant variation in the global stocks-to-use ratio, which is estimated by FAO to remain stable at roughly 22 percent.

World trade in cereals in 2012/13 is forecast to reach 295.5 million tonnes, slightly higher than in 2011/12. This increase mostly concerns maize, supported by rebounding supplies, more than offsetting an anticipated contraction in wheat, while rice trade is forecast to remain stable.

The Times of India, 12 June 2012


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