23 September 1997
El Niño clouds 98 harvest prospects

THE El Niño weather system has clouded prospects of a good world cereal harvest next year. This is needed to replenish depleted global stocks.

The United Nationss Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) forecasts a repeat of last years good harvest. But the estimates in its quarterly Food Outlook are lower than before because coarse grain crops in the US and China do not look as good as expected.

It is forecast that by next year cereal stocks will be 280 million tonnes. That is about 14m tonnes lower than anticipated. The global ratio of stocks to consumption will be about 15%, which is well below the 17-18% that is considered necessary to safeguard world food security.

Some 29 developing countries are facing food emergencies, including Iraq, and parts of Africa and the former Soviet Union.

It is the 1998 crops which are yet to be planted that are believed to be most at risk. El Niño is expected to peak between March and December. Most impact is likely to be felt in the southern hemisphere.

  • Financial Times 23/09/97 page 33