Global cereal production, utilisation, stocks and trade all set to rise to new records in 2020/21, says FAO


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The first forecasts for the 2020/21 season point to a comfortable cereal supply and demand situation in spite of uncertainties posed by the coronavirus pandemic that has hit the world hard, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in its latest monthly report.

Early prospects point to global cereal production in 2020 surpassing the previous year’s record by 2.6 percent, the FAO said, adding that based on conditions of crops already in the ground, planting expectations for those still to be sown, and assuming normal weather for the remainder of the season, world cereal output is forecast at 2 780 million tonnes (including rice in milled equivalent), nearly 70 million tonnes higher than in 2019, setting a new record high.

Maize would account for the bulk of the predicted increase, with an expected expansion of 64.5 million tonnes to a record level of 1 207 million tonnes, boosted by record harvests in the United States of America (USA), Canada and Ukraine, and near-record harvests in Brazil and Argentina, it said.

Similarly, the report said, rice production is seen reaching an all-time high of 508.7 million tonnes in 2020, exceeding the 2019 reduced level by 1.6 percent. More normal weather and attractive prices are anticipated to underpin rice output recoveries primarily in China, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Pakistan, Thailand and the USA, as well as continued production growth in India.

“By contrast, global production of wheat in 2020 is forecast to decline from the previous year’s good level, largely on likely downturns in the European Union (EU), Ukraine and the USA more than offsetting expected production increases in the Russian Federation and Australia,” it added.

After stagnating in 2019/20, world cereal utilization in 2020/21 is tentatively forecast to expand by 1.6 percent (43 million tonnes) year-on-year to reach an all-time high of 2 732 million tonnes.

“The projected growth would mainly mirror a more robust expansion foreseen in feed use relative to 2019/20, although both food and industrial uses are also forecast to increase,” the report said.

Maize is predicted to account for the largest year-on-year anticipated growth in total cereal utilisation, rising by almost 3 percent (33 million tonnes) to 1 169 million tonnes, on expectations of a partial recovery in industrial demand, especially for production of ethanol in the USA, and a faster growth in feed use, particularly in China.

“Underpinned by plentiful supplies, world rice utilisation is forecast to expand by 1.6 percent in 2020/21 to a fresh peak of 510.0 million tonnes, with food use to account for much of this growth, increasing by 1.6 percent from 2019/20 to 420.0 million tonnes,” the report said.

On a per capita basis, this would result in a global food intake of 53.9 kg, up 0.6 percent year-on-year, it pointed out, adding that by contrast, world utilisation of wheat in 2020/21 is expected to fall slightly (0.4 percent) from the 2019/20 estimated level to around 754 million tonnes, mostly reflecting weaker demand prospects for the feed sector due to ample availabilities of coarse grains and a likely cut in industrial use, especially for biofuel production  in the EU. 

Based on FAO’s first forecasts for production in 2020 and consumption in 2020/21, world cereal inventories by the end of national marketing seasons in 2021 are forecast to reach a new record of 927 million tonnes, an increase of 4.5 percent (nearly 40 million tonnes) from their already high opening levels.

“The expected increase in cereal stocks would result in a slight rise in the global cereal stock-to-use ratio, from 32.5 percent in 2019/20 to 32.9 percent in 2020/21, indicating a generally comfortable supply situation when compared to the 21.2 percent low registered in 2007/08,” the report said.

Of the total cereal stocks, as much as 47 percent are expected to be held in China, where national stocks could increase for the second consecutive season and reach a new high of at least 438 million tonnes, it said.

Shampa Bahadur has been a business journalist for more than two decades. She has written for Business India, PTI Media TransAsia and India Infrastructure Publication Ltd among others. She has also written coffee table books. She can be reached at

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