FAO slashes grain f'casts, world food prices stay high
By James Mackenzie
ROME (Reuters) - Global supply of key cereal staples including wheat is to tighten sharply in the 2012/13 crop season as wheat and maize output feels the pinch of the worst U.S. drought in more than half a century, data from the United Nations food agency showed.
Separate figures indicated a slight easing of pressure on overall food prices on Thursday, but the Food and Agriculture Organisation's (FAO) global index stayed close to levels seen in the 2008 crisis when food riots broke out in some countries.
The FAO's November Food Outlook report pointed to continuing pressure on grains output in the current season following this year's droughts in key producer regions from the Black Sea to the U.S. cornbelt.
Wheat production, which has also suffered heavily in the droughts in eastern Europe and central Asia, was seen falling 5.5 percent to 661 million tonnes, the agency said.
World cereals production is expected to fall 2.7 percent to 2.284 billion tonnes in the 2012/13 season, it said, trimming slightly its previous output forecast of 2.286 billion tonnes.
"This season's world cereal supply and demand balance is proving much tighter than in 2011/12 with global production falling short of the projected demand and cereal stocks declining sharply," the FAO said.
The Black Sea drought is set to cut wheat output in Russia and Ukraine by some 30 percent, while Kazakhstan will see its crop down by more than half.
Wheat production is set to rise in the United States but U.S. maize output was decimated by a drought which caught farmers by surprise and slashed the corn crop. Continued...