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Cereal production, utilization, and trade reaching record levels in 2021/22

03.02.2022 17:15 "Agro Perspectiva" (Kyiv) FAOs latest forecast for world cereal production in 2021 has been lifted by 2.1 million tonnes in February and now stands at 2 793 million tonnes, 0.8 percent higher year-on-year. The bulk of this months change relates to larger-than-previously estimated wheat outputs in Argentina and Australia, along with slightly higher production estimates in the Russian Federation and Ukraine. Taking these recent revisions into account, the estimate for global wheat production in 2021 is now virtually on par with the 2020 outturn. By contrast, the forecast for world coarse grain production in 2021 has been trimmed by 0.2 percent, underpinned by cuts to sorghum production estimates in Burkina Faso, the Niger, and the United States of America. Partly offsetting these reductions, maize production estimates have been raised in the European Union, Ukraine, and the United States of America, which registered its second largest crop on record in 2021. Notwithstanding this months cut, the global coarse grains 2021 forecast still stands 1.3 percent higher year-on-year at 1 501 million tonnes. FAOs global rice production forecast for 2021 is now pegged at 517.1 million tonnes, up 0.7 percent from the 2020 record, but 1.3 million tonnes lower than anticipated in December. The revision primarily reflects a less buoyant official production assessment for China, which, combined with reductions for Nigeria and Nepal, outweighs upgrades to output estimates for Japan and Viet Nam.

For 2022, with the bulk of the winter wheat crop now dormant in northern hemisphere countries, the global wheat area is foreseen to only grow moderately this year, with high input prices seen to deter a larger expansion. In the European Union, aided by conducive weather, wheat crop conditions are generally satisfactory; however, limited snow cover has increased the susceptibility to frost damage in eastern countries. Preliminary indications point to negligible year-on-year changes in acreage. Encouraged by high prices, winter wheat sowings in the United States of America have risen for a second consecutive year and are estimated to constitute the largest acreage in six years. Although the area expansion bolsters overall production prospects, large swathes of the Great Plains are still affected by drought conditions, and forecasts point to a higher-than-normal likelihood of below-average rainfall for the spring period, dampening yield prospects. In the Russian Federation, winter wheat sowings are estimated to exceed the five-year average. Moreover, beneficial rains and near-average temperatures since November 2021 have favoured good yield prospects for winter wheat crops. Conducive conditions have also prevailed in Ukraine, where relatively mild and wet weather in the last quarter of 2021 was followed by snow in December and January, helping harden the wheat crop and improve soil moisture reserves for the spring period. In India, spurred by remunerative producer prices that are guaranteed by the government, the 2022 wheat acreage is estimated to surpass last years high level. Similarly, the wheat planted area in Pakistan is estimated to exceed the previous years above-average level, driven by record-high wheat prices. In China, field assessments indicate near-average growing conditions and wheat acreage, including the minor spring crop. In the Near East, following a dry start of the season, rainfall improved in several of the main wheat producing countries, including the Islamic Republic of Iran and Turkey. With prospects still uncertain in some regions, beneficial rains are needed until the harvest period.

In southern hemisphere countries, the bulk of the 2022 coarse grain crop was planted in late 2021, with the 2022 wheat crop to be sown later in the year. Record maize acreages are forecast in Argentina and Brazil, supported by high grain prices. While dry conditions are forecast in Argentinas key producing central-eastern area, curbing yield prospects, the weather outlook in Brazil is more favourable, and maize yields are predicted to be near average in 2022. In South Africa, a small cutback in maize acreage is expected, reflecting excessive rainfall that delayed sowings, plentiful domestic supplies, and high input prices. Yields, however, are likely to remain above average on account of good weather conditions so far, which are forecast to continue.

At 2 805 million tonnes, world cereal utilization in 2021/22 is forecast to increase by 1.6 percent from its 2020/21 level, despite a downward revision of 4.5 million tonnes, almost exclusively on feed use, since December. Weaker-than-previously-anticipated feed use of wheat in the United States of America, due to high prices relative to other feed grains, and Argentina, as a result of higher-than-expected exports, account for most of this months 1.2-million-tonne downward revision to the global wheat utilization for 2021/22, now pegged at 776 million tonnes, still 1.9 percent above the 2020/21 level. Similarly, despite a 4.1-million-tonne cut largely attributed to lower maize and sorghum feed use estimates since December, global coarse grains utilization is still forecast to rise by 1.3 percent in 2021/22. Upgrades to non-food use prospects for various countries in Asia have raised FAOs forecast of global rice utilization in 2021/22 by 0.8 million tonnes since December to 520 million tonnes, up 1.8 percent from a year earlier and a fresh peak.

World cereal stocks at the close of seasons in 2022 have been lifted since December by 2.2 million tonnes to 824 million tonnes, only slightly lower than their opening levels. The global cereal stocks-to-use ratio in 2021/22 is projected at 28.7 percent, representing a decline from the 2020/21 level of 29.4 percent, but still a comfortable level historically. Following this months upward revision of 2.8 million tonnes, global wheat inventories are now forecast near opening levels at 288 million tonnes. Despite the concentration of this months upward adjustments among major wheat exporters, namely the Russian Federation, mostly owing to a higher production estimate, and the United States of America as a result of reduced export expectations, stocks among major exporters are still seen contracting and remaining tight in 2021/22. Nearly unchanged since December, total coarse grain stocks are forecast to fall marginally, by 0.4 percent, in 2021/22, largely reflecting a decline in global barley inventories. By contrast, a rise in maize inventories in the United States of America and a further build-up of stocks in China underpin an expected 2.7 percent rise in global maize inventories from their opening levels. World rice stocks at the close of 2021/22 marketing seasons remain forecast at 188 million tonnes, unchanged from December expectations and on par with their record opening levels.

FAOs latest forecast for world trade in cereals in 2021/22 stands at a record 481 million tonnes, up 1.0 million tonnes from December and an increase of 0.4 percent from the 2020/21 level. At 193 million tonnes, global wheat trade in 2021/22 (July/June) is forecast to rise by 2.0 percent from 2020/21, driven by stronger import demand from the Near East following reduced harvests in several countries. On the export side, record harvests are seen supporting record export forecasts for Argentina, Australia, and Ukraine in 2021/22, which, along with higher shipments from the European Union, more than compensate for a decline in sales from Canada, the Russian Federation, and the United States of America due to tighter availabilities. An export quota in the Russian Federation (starting from mid-February) is also seen capping its sales for the remainder of the season. World trade in coarse grains in 2021/22 (July/June) is nearly unchanged this month and still points to a 1.5 percent contraction from the 2020/21 level, reaching 235 million tonnes. Making up the bulk of the decline, global maize trade is expected to fall in 2021/22, mostly reflecting weaker demand from China on account of a record production and larger imports of other feed grains. Regarding exports, a decline in shipments from Brazil due to reduced production, and the United States of America resulting from tight domestic supply and increased competition from other exporters, are only partially offset by an increase in exports from Argentina and Ukraine. In 2022 (January-December), international trade in rice is anticipated to reach 53 million tonnes, up from a revised estimate of 51 million tonnes for 2021. At that level, global trade in rice would stand 1.7 million tonnes above December expectations, reflecting less subdued import expectations for countries located in Asia, in particular China and Sri Lanka.

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