FAO’s latest forecast for world cereal production in 2020 has been lifted by 17 million tonnes from the previous report in February to 2 761 million tonnes, now pointing to a 1.9-percent increase year-on-year. The adjustment principally reflects a 7.5-million-tonne increase in the world wheat production estimate, driven by recently released official data from Australia, the European Union (EU), Kazakhstan, and the Russia Federation. The world coarse grains output estimate has also been raised, by 6.9 million tonnes, with most of the monthly increase concentrated in West Africa, where recent official data showed larger-than-previously-expected maize outputs, and in the EU, where the estimate for maize output in Romania was revised upwards on higher yields. An upward revision to global barley production, reflecting improved yields in Australia and the Russian Federation, further bolstered the estimate for global coarse grains production. The forecast for global rice production has also been raised by 2.6 million tonnes from last month, and is now 2.1 percent above the revised estimate for 2019. This month’s upward revision primarily mirrors more buoyant expectations for production in India, where plantings of the secondary Rabi crop were reported to have significantly exceeded year-earlier levels. Production has also been raised for the United Republic of Tanzania and the Islamic Republic of Iran, more than offsetting modest downward revisions for various other countries.

The forecast for global cereal utilization in 2020/21 has been raised to 2 766 million tonnes, 4.3 million tonnes higher than in the previous report and 2.0 percent (54 million tonnes) above the 2019/20 level. Following a 2.2-million-tonne upward adjustment, global rice utilization in 2020/21 is now anticipated to expand by 2.0 percent year-on-year to a record level of 514 million tonnes driven mainly by food use, but also supported by an expected mild recovery in non-food uses of rice, for animal feed in particular. Higher feed use of barley foreseen in Australia and the EU, on top of greater than earlier expected food consumption of maize in Africa, lifted the latest forecast for 2020/21 global coarse grains utilization by 3.6 million tonnes to 1 497 million tonnes, representing a 2.8 percent increase from 2019/20. Despite a slight downgrade to the wheat 2020/21 utilization forecast this month, world wheat utilization is still set to increase year-on-year by 0.5 percent to 754.5 million tonnes.

FAO's forecast for global cereal stocks ending in 2021 has also been scaled up by 9.0 million tonnes since the previous report to 811 million tonnes. Despite this upward revision, world cereal stocks in 2020/21 are expected to fall by 0.9 percent (7.6 million tonnes) below their opening levels, resulting in a drop in the global cereal stock-to-use ratio from 29.6 percent in 2019/20 to 28.6 percent in 2020/21, a seven-year low. Trimmed utilization, on top of greater production, has boosted the forecast for global wheat stocks by 7.7 million tonnes from the previous month to a record 292 million tonnes, 5.4 percent higher than their opening levels. The forecast for world rice stocks at the close of 2020/21 was also raised, primarily on larger inventories in India reflecting the strong pace of public domestic procurement, putting global rice stocks on par with their abundant opening levels. Although lifted marginally since last month, global coarse grains stocks are still anticipated to decline by 6.4 percent from their opening levels in view of foreseen significant drawdowns of maize inventories in the United States of America (USA) and China.

FAO’s forecast for world trade in cereals in 2020/21 has been lowered month-on-month to 464 million tonnes, but is still up 5.5 percent (24 million tonnes) from 2019/20. Total trade in coarse grains is forecast to expand by 8.9 percent (18.7 million tonnes) in 2020/21 (July/June) to 230 million tonnes, despite a cut of 2.7 million tonnes since the previous report on account of weaker maize import demand from the EU. World wheat trade in 2020/21 (July/June) is currently pegged at a record 186.6 million tonnes, 1.2 percent (2.3 million tonnes) above the previous season, following a 2.0-million tonne upward revision this month on increased imports by China, Turkey, and Pakistan. FAO’s forecast of world trade in rice in 2021 (January-December) remains largely unvaried from the previous report at 48 million tonnes, up 7.0 percent from 2020 and a three-year high.

Early outlook for 2021 crops

Looking ahead, current indications suggest a small rise in world cereal production in 2021. While most of the wheat crop in the northern hemisphere is still dormant and southern hemisphere countries are yet to plant, FAO’s preliminarily forecast for global wheat production in 2021 points to a third consecutive annual increase, to 780 million tonnes, a new record. The bulk of the growth is expected to come from the EU, where wheat plantings are forecast to recover from last year’s low level, expanding by more than 5 percent in 2021. Coupled with an expected upturn in yields, the EU wheat production in 2021 is anticipated to rebound by almost 9 percent to 137.0 million tonnes. Similarly, production in the United Kingdom is forecast to recover from the previous year’s low and surpass 14 million tonnes, on larger plantings and higher yields. In the Russian Federation, the effects of dry weather conditions in the early part of the growing season have diminished production prospects for the 2021 wheat crop compared to the bumper outturn of the previous year. Although beneficial snowfall in January partly abated these concerns, production is nevertheless forecast to decline by 7 million tonnes in 2021. In Ukraine, owing to overall conducive weather with sufficient snow that prevented crops from freezing, wheat production is expected to rise moderately to a near-average level in 2021. In Asia, production increases to above-average levels are forecast in several major producers, including India and Pakistan, underpinned supported by government support and beneficial weather. Wheat crop conditions in China are also favourable and production in 2021 is expected to remain near average. Production outlooks in Near East Asian countries are, however, mixed, as abnormal dryness in several countries has cut yield prospects. In the USA, unconducive weather conditions since October 2020 have curbed yield prospects and despite a forecast expansion in total plantings, production in 2021 is set to remain close to last year’s output of 50 million tonnes. In Canada, with the bulk of the wheat crop produced in the summer and yet to be planted, production is officially projected to decline marginally to 34 million tonnes on lower yields.

Regarding production of coarse grains, the 2021 crops are to be harvested in the next months in the southern hemisphere countries but are yet to be planted in countries north of the equator. In South America, maize outputs in Argentina and Brazil are forecast at well above-average levels in 2020 on expected large sowings, although less-than-ideal weather has curtailed yield and overall production prospects. In Southern Africa, the production outlook is generally favourable, despite extreme weather events that caused localized crop losses. In South Africa, the main producer in the subregion, a price-driven increase in maize sowings and almost-ideal weather conditions are expected to support a near-record maize output in 2021.