World cereal production will reach a new high of almost 2 500 million tonnes, including rice in milled terms, according to new FAO estimates. The figure is almost 8.4 percent more than last year and some 6 percent above the previous record in 2011, according to the latest issue of the Crop Prospects and Food Situation Report.

While global cereal production is expected to increase, FAO warned that food security conditions in several parts of Africa and elsewhere are deteriorating.

In the Sahelian countries of West Africa - Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal - crops and pastures have been affected this year by late onset and early cessation of rains. The situation could lead to a new surge in food insecurity and malnutrition in the 2013/14 marketing year. A large Malian population displacement due to civil unrest is also contributing to regional food insecurity.

In Central African Republic, 1.3 million people are in need of emergency food assistance due to civil unrest.

In Southern Africa, prices of cereals are near or at record levels in several countries, underpinned by tighter supplies in the 2013/14 marketing year. Dry weather has delayed planting of the 2014 crops in parts.

In the Philippines, 14 million people have been adversely affected by Typhoon Haiyan. FAO has appealed for over $30 million for agricultural rehabilitation and the World Food Programme has proposed emergency food assistance for 2.5 million people.

In Syria and Yemen, continued civil conflicts have resulted in severe food insecurity for 6 million and 4.5 million people, respectively, requiring emergency food assistance.

International food prices stable

The FAO Food Price Index, also published today, remained stable in November. It averaged 206.3 points last month, almost unchanged from the revised value of 206.6 points in October, but 9.5 points (4.4 percent) below its November 2012 value. A sharp decline in sugar prices last month nearly offset the rise in oils. Cereals averaged slightly lower, but meat and dairy values were stable.

The index measures the monthly change in the international prices of a basket of 5 commodity groups, including some 73 price quotations.

» The FAO Cereal Price Index averaged 194.2 points in November, down 2 points (1 percent) from October, and as much as 61 points (or 24 percent) below its November 2012 level. A record cereal crop this year has helped to improve the global supply situation, weighing on the international prices of all cereals, including wheat, maize and rice.

» The FAO Vegetable Oil Price Index averaged 198.5 points in November, up 11 points (or 5.6 percent) from October. The rise in the index has been driven mainly by palm oil: the concurrence of strong global import demand, including for biodiesel production, and below-expectation output in Southeast Asia (following excessive rainfall) have pushed palm oil prices to a 13-month high. International prices for soy, sunflower and rapeseed oil also firmed on sustained demand, further contributing to the rise in the index.

» The FAO Dairy Price Index averaged 251.4 points in November, practically the same as in October. Demand for milk powder, especially from China, remained strong and processors in the southern-hemisphere focused on this product rather than on butter and cheese. Southern-hemisphere milk production has passed its seasonal peak; however, supplies are adequate to meet current demand. Overall, the index stands 23 percent above its level in November 2012.

» The FAO Meat Price Index averaged nearly 187.1 points in November, unchanged from October and similar to its level one year ago. Regarding the different categories of meat, prices for bovine and ovine meat increased further, while those for pig meat moved lower and poultry was stable. In the case of bovine and ovine meat, limited export supplies lent support to prices, while pig meat and poultry benefited from the reduced cost of feed.

» The FAO Sugar Price Index averaged 250.6 points in November, down 14.2 points (5.3 percent) from October. The decline was mainly attributable to improved harvesting operations in Brazil, the world’s largest sugar producer and exporter. Speculations of a possible surge of exports from Brazil and India, owing to the weakening of currencies against the US dollar in November exacerbated the price slide. Overall, sugar prices were particularly volatile amid continued uncertainties on the extent of the anticipated production surplus for the new 2013/14 season.

Crop prospects

The latest estimates for world cereal production mostly reflect adjustments to estimates of maize output in the United States, the Russian Federation and Ukraine, which became firmer towards the completion of the harvests.

Based on the latest figures, the overall increase in world cereal output this year comprises a rise of 7.8 percent in wheat production, of 12 percent for coarse grains, and of only 1 percent for rice.

Early prospects for the winter wheat crop, already planted in the northern hemisphere, to be harvested in 2014, are mostly favourable.

World cereal stocks are predicted to increase to 572 million tonnes by the close of the 2014 crop seasons, which is 13.4 percent, or nearly 68 million tonnes, more than in the previous year. This forecast is almost 9 million tonnes higher than reported in November, reflecting upward revisions to ending stocks of wheat and coarse grains, while ending rice inventories were reduced slightly.

The sharp expansion in world cereal stocks this season would result in the global cereal stocks-to-use ratio reaching 23.5 percent, well above the historical low of 18.4 percent registered in 2007/08