8 December 2016

Africa: Food Prices Are Broadly Stable Amid Record Cereal Inventories

press release

Rome — FAO Food Price Index dips slightly in November, maize and rice on course for record output in 2016

-The FAO Food Price Index dipped slightly in November, marking a mild departure from its steady rise over the course of 2016.

The Index declined 0.4 percent from October, averaging 171.3 points in November, as a sharp drop in sugar prices outweighed an increase in palm oil quotations.

FAO's Food Price Index, a trade-weighted index tracking international market prices for five major food commodity groups, is still 10.4 percent higher than in November 2015.

The FAO Sugar Price Index fell 8.9 percent from October, reflecting reports of a higher-than-expected harvest in Brazil, the world's largest sugar producer, and a weakening of the Brazilian real with respect to the U.S. dollar.

The FAO Vegetable Oil Price Index rose 4.5 percent in the month, led by lower-than-anticipated production of palm oil in Southeast Asia as well as below-potential soybean crushing of in South America.

Other commodities were more stable. The FAO Meat Price Index was unchanged from October. The FAO Dairy Price Index rose 1.9 percent, continuing a recent upward trend after a protracted slump. The FAO Cereal Price Index declined 0.6 percent, as global supplies are ample and strong harvest prospects in Argentina and Australia weighed on wheat quotations.

New forecasts eye all-time high for global cereal inventories

FAO updated its forecasts, projecting record global cereal stocks by the end of the 2017 seasons. According to the latest Cereal Supply and Demand Brief, also released today,production prospects, especially for wheat and coarse grains, have improved progressively since the start of the current marketing season.

FAO now expects worldwide cereal stocks to rise to 670 million tonnes, up 1.4 percent from the previous season.

Wheat inventories are seen to be rising to a new record of 238.5 million tonnes, with the increase concentrated in China, the United States and the Russian Federation. Global rice inventories have been scaled up to 171 million tonnes, while coarse grains stocks are projected to rise to 261 million tonnes, as a large build-up of maize inventories in the United States more than offsets a hefty drawdown in China.

The projection for world cereal production in 2016 was raised to 2 577 million tonnes, 1.7 percent above the 2015 output. Record output levels are forecast for rice and maize.

Looking forward to the 2017 season, low price prospects are expected to lead to a contraction in the area planted with wheat in the U.S., although plantings are expected to increase in the Russian Federation, Ukraine, India and Pakistan.

Maize plantings in Argentina and Brazil, currently under way, are poised to increase, buoyed by improved returns and favourable weather.

In South Africa, maize plantings are forecast to jump by nearly a third over last year's level. Conducive weather conditions point to a strong rebound in the country's maize harvest from the 2016 drought-reduced level.

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