Amid generally well supplied cereal markets, early indications point to a near-record wheat production in 2020

Amid generally well supplied cereal markets, early indications point to a near-record wheat production in 2020

Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN Released March 5, 2020

Global cereal markets in 2019/20 are expected to remain well supplied, comfortably covering the forecast growth in consumption.

FAO’s 2019 world cereal production estimate is currently pegged at 2 719 million tonnes, almost 62 million tonnes (2.3 percent) above production in 2018 and 4.7 million tonnes higher than reported in February.  The estimate of global production of coarse grains has been raised by 5 million tonnes to 1 444 million tonnes since the previous report in February, up by 2.4 percent from 2018. The latest revision incorporates recently released official figures with higher-than-previously projected yields in West Africa and Ukraine. The estimate of wheat production in 2019 has been kept nearly unchanged from the previous month at 763 million tonnes, 4.2 percent higher than in 2018 and the second highest on record.  Global rice production in 2019 is largely unchanged, month-on-month, at 512 million tonnes (milled basis), down 0.5 percent from the 2018 all-time record high.

Early prospects for 2020 crops1

FAO’s preliminary forecast for 2020 wheat production is pegged at 763 million tonnes, almost unchanged from the 2019 near-record level, as expected lower production in the European Union, Ukraine and the United States is likely to be offset by better prospects in Australia, Canada, India and the Russian Federation. For coarse grains, with above-average maize sowings and good yield prospects, 2020 maize production in Argentina is likely to come close to the 2019 record high. In Brazil, the official 2020 maize production is forecast at around 100 million tonnes, comparable to the high outturn of 2019, based on expectations that an expansion in area sown will offset lower yields due to dry weather. A strong production increase is expected in South Africa, raising this year’s output to above 14 million tonnes, up 3 million tonnes from the 2019 drought-reduced crop.

World cereal utilization in 2019/20 is forecast to reach a record of 2 721 million tonnes, up around 7 million tonnes (0.3 percent) from the February forecast. Following an upward revision of 2.4 million tonnes, mostly in India and Canada, wheat consumption in 2019/20 is anticipated to exceed the 2018/19 level by 12 million tonnes (1.6 percent). Greater feed use is the main driver behind the projected year-on-year growth in total utilization of coarse grains, which is now pegged at 1 445 million tonnes, almost 16 million tonnes (1.1 percent) higher than in 2018/19. Despite a 1.3 million tonne downward revision this month in anticipated non-food use, the forecast for world rice utilization in 2019/20 still points to a 1.0 percent year-on-year expansion, reaching an all-time high of 514 million tonnes.

FAO’s forecast for world cereal stocks by the close of the 2020 seasons has been raised this month by 2.4 million tonnes to nearly 866 million tonnes, keeping the global cereals stocks-to-use ratio at a comfortable level of 30.9 percent. At 277 million tonnes, 2019/20 global wheat inventories are raised by 2.6 million tonnes (1.0 percent) this month, reflecting an upward revision for the Islamic Republic of Iran corresponding to production estimate adjustments for recent years. Compared to their opening levels, global wheat stocks are forecast to rise by almost 2 million tonnes (0.7 percent), as anticipated large buildups in the EU, China, and India are expected to more than offset drawdowns in several countries, including the United States, the Russian Federation and Australia. By contrast, coarse grain stocks are forecast to fall by 8 million tonnes from their opening levels, reflecting large anticipated decreases in maize inventories. World rice stocks at the close of 2019/20 have been raised by 1.0 million tonnes since February to 182 million tonnes, marginally (0.4 percent) below their record opening levels. Expected lower closing stocks in Thailand this month are outweighed by higher anticipated reserves in India, where record-breaking public sector carry-ins and local procurement may lead the country to account for much of the foreseen rise in major rice exporters’ inventories in 2019/20.

FAO’s latest forecast for world trade in cereals in 2019/20 stands at roughly 420 million tonnes; representing a rebound of 9.5 million tonnes (2.3 percent) from 2018/19 and the second highest level on record. Among the major cereals, the biggest year-on-year growth in trade is seen in wheat with an expected increase of 5.5 million tonnes from 2018/19 levels to almost 174 million tonnes in 2019/20 (July/June). Regarding importers, while forecasts of wheat purchases by Indonesia and Kazakhstan have been lowered, those for Turkey have been lifted to a record 8.0 million tonnes due to tightening domestic supplies. The FAO forecast of world trade in coarse grains in 2019/20 (July/June) has been raised slightly, to almost 201 million tonnes, up 2.4 million tonnes (1.2 percent) from 2018/19. Barley trade makes up the bulk of this expansion, rising by 1.7 million tonnes (6.9 percent). World maize trade in 2019/20 is now forecast to reach nearly 167 million tonnes, almost unchanged from the previous season. World rice trade in 2020 (January-December) is still foreseen to recover by 3.6 percent from the 2019 decreased level and could reach 46 million tonnes, with predicted higher exports by India and China underpinning much of the anticipated recovery.

1 More detailed information can be found in the March issue of Crop Prospects and Food Situation:

Summary Tables

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1/  Production data refer to the calendar year of the first year shown. Rice production is expressed in milled terms.
2/  Production plus opening stocks.
3/  Trade data refer to exports based on a July/June marketing season for wheat and coarse grains and on a January/December marketing season for rice (second year shown).
4/  May not equal the difference between supply and utilization due to differences in individual country marketing years.
5/ Major wheat exporters are Argentina, Australia, Canada, the EU, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation, Ukraine and the United States; major coarse grain exporters are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, the EU, Russian Federation, Ukraine and the United States; major rice exporters are India, Pakistan, Thailand, the United States, and Viet Nam. Disappearance is defined as domestic utilization plus exports for any given season.