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IGC, FAC focus on volatile markets, wheat and corn market - food aid
LONDON. December 17, 2003
Demand uncertainties that have stirred grain market volatility and food aid needs dominated discussions as the International Grains Council and the Food Aid Committee held their regular sessions in London on Dec. 8-9.

The Council met under the chairmanship of Peter Kurz, minister-counsellor, U.S. Embassy, London; and the Food Aid Committee met under the Chairmanship of Frank van der Staaij, senior policy advisor, Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Hague.

Poor grains crops in Europe and the CIS have more than offset high production levels elsewhere, particularly in North America and Australia. World stocks will fall again by the end of 2003-04, with much of the decline in China, where the possibility of wheat imports, and the likelihood of much smaller maize exports in the remainder of 2003-04, are important market factors.

Countries in Europe and the CIS are taking special measures to restrain grain exports and to facilitate imports to maintain domestic supplies of food and feed grains. On the other hand, demand from some traditional wheat importing countries such as North Africa, Iran and Brazil, has been unusually small because of their bumper crops.

The declining value of the dollar and reduced competition from other sources of supply are improving U.S. export prospects, especially for maize, coinciding with strong domestic demand for animal feed and ethanol.

Ocean freight costs have risen steeply because of the heavy tonnages of minerals and soybeans being shipped to Pacific Asia.

The Council’s first tentative projection of wheat production in 2004 was 589 million tonnes, 37 million more than the previous year. That higher figure assumes a recovery in major producers including the E.U. and India and continued large harvests in North America, but crops in Russia, Ukraine and China are likely to remain lower than usual because of limited sowings.

World wheat stocks probably will fall again, but carryovers in the five major exporters might increase.

World wheat trade in 2004-05 was projected to be slightly more than in 2003-04, but below the average of the previous five years. Larger imports by Pacific Asia, including China, and by North Africa are expected to more than offset reduced requirements by Europe and Ukraine.

The Council also noted work done by the Secretariat on long-term trends in maize yields. Increasing fertilizer use and the widespread introduction of hybrid varieties in the 1970s and 1980s boosted yields, but the trend of growth in world maize yields has been much slower since, at a time when maize consumption worldwide is continuing to increase.

Improved agricultural practices and further research into new varieties could lead to a recovery in the rate of yield growth, but only if maize production gives farmers adequate returns in developing as well as in industrialized countries.

In meetings of the Food Aid Committee, participants reviewed members’ food aid operations in 2002-03 under the Food Aid Convention and exchanged information about the amounts likely to be shipped in 2003-04 in response to the food needs of developing countries.

Total shipments in 2002-03, expressed in wheat equivalent, were put at 9.2 million tonnes, 1 million less than in 2001-02, but still considerably more than members’ combined minimum For annual commitments of some 5 million tonnes. The largest amount — 3.8 million tonnes — went to Africa, where Ethiopia received more than 1 million tonnes.

Far East Asia received 2.4 million tonnes, and Near East Asia received 900,000 tonnes.

More than 75% of total shipments, which were mostly in the form of cereals or cereal products, were to least developed and other low-income developing countries. About 93% percent of aid provided under the Convention was in the form of grants, and more than 3.5 million tonnes, or 42%, was channeled multilaterally through the World Food Programme.

On the basis of provisional information provided by FAC members, the amount of food aid to be shipped in 2003-04 is likely again to be close to 9 million tonnes.

Members discussed the food situation in developing countries and exchanged information on their efforts to respond to food emergencies, especially in Southern Africa and the Horn of Africa. The Committee discussed how to improve the assessment of food aid needs, and donors’ response to them, in the broader context of food security.

The next meetings of the Food Aid Committee and of the International Grains Council will be held in London in the week beginning June 14, 2004. The annual IGC Grains Conference will be held at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Westminster, on June 16.
MGR Archive 18.12.2003
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