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India - Sharp drop in wheat production likely
World wheat production is likely to decrease by 10 million tonne this year, with a strong demand set to drive up trade in 2006-07 to 110 million tonnes. The world balance sheet for 2006-07 is expected to show a sharp drop in ending stocks and a decline in stocks-to-use ratio to 25 per cent, the lowest in over three decades, says the Food and Agriculture Organisation's latest Food Outlook report.

Against this background and even barring any unexpected weather problems in the coming months, wheat prices are likely to remain generally high and volatile in the new season, the report said.

India has been able to contract only 1.2 million tonnes of the 3.5 million tonnes it was hoping to import from the international market. As a consequence, the government will re-tender for wheat imports to replenish its depleting buffer stocks for the Public Distribution System. The latest forecast on wheat, coarse grains and sugar from the FAO does not augur well for India.

The report published twice a year, forecasts that the world cereal demand is likely to surpass supply in the 2006-07 marketing year, pushing down stocks to an uncomfortably low level and continuing the steady upward trend in prices. "Based on current indications, several agricultural commodities are likely to experience still more unstable months ahead and, in most instances, the fundamentals point to even further gains in prices," says the report.

The FAO has predicted an increase of over two per cent in the world food import bill in 2006 compared to 2005. The increase is expected to be the highest for cereals and sugar and smallest for meat. Given their higher share as importers of food and feed, the developing countries' bill is forecast to grow by 3.5 per cent, while that of low-income food-deficit countries is forecast to jump by nearly seven per cent.

As in wheat, world coarse grain production in 2006 is also set to decline by 13 million tonnes, but trade is tentatively forecast to remain unchanged in 2006-07, at around 105 million tonnes.

On current production indications, the new season's supply and demand balance will be tight, with a sharp anticipated fall in world stocks and a near-record low stocks-to-use ratio of around 15 per cent.

World sugar prices reached their highest level in 25 years in February 2006. The major contributory factors are said to be "unprecedented rises in crude oil prices", as well as the continued supply deficit in the world sugar market for the third consecutive year.

In 2005-06, world sugar production is expected to grow by three per cent to 149.7 million tonnes, with consumption rising by two per cent to 149.9 million tonnes. Developing countries are expected to account for most of the increases, particularly those with strong economic performances, such as China and India, the report said.

It pointed out that after a brief recovery in 2005, global meat markets had again been unsettled by animal disease concerns in 2006.
MGR Archive 12.6.2006
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