Special Correspondent

Adverse weather conditions cited to be the main reason for the reduction

India has decided to import 35 lakh tonnes of wheat Wheat output to decrease in the U.S, Russian Federation, the UkraineGreatest number of food emergencies continues to be in Africa

NEW DELHI: World cereal production is forecast to decrease slightly in 2006 after last year's good levels, according to a new Food and Agriculture Organisation report released on Friday.

Slight decrease

"In Asia, the outlook for the 2006 wheat crop being harvested has deteriorated in India, but it is positive among other main producers in the region," it says. With expectations of a decline in the estimated wheat production, India has decided to import 35 lakh tonnes of wheat.

Wheat output is expected to decrease slightly in 2006 in the United States, the Russian Federation and Ukraine due to adverse weather. Production of coarse grains is tentatively forecast to decline, mostly as a result of reduced plantings anticipated in the U.S. Rice output may increase as very early prospects are favourable, according to the report.

It warns that if global cereal use in 2006/2007 remains close to recent trends it would exceed the current forecast for production, which could lead to drawdown of global cereal stocks for the second consecutive year.

It said that worldwide, 39 countries were in need of external food assistance, the majority required for drought-affected and chronically food insecure populations in southern and eastern Africa.

Emergency assistance

Emergency assistance was needed in Mongolia and Timor-Leste following sharply reduced cereal production in 2005/2006. Substantial amounts of food assistance would also be required for chronically vulnerable populations in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Bangladesh, despite overall improved food supply situations, as well as for those affected by civil strife in Afghanistan, Iraq and Nepal, the report said.

Assistance would also continue to be required for the victims of the tsunami in southern Asia and last October's earthquake in Pakistan. However, the greatest number of food emergencies continued to be in Africa, where 24 countries were currently in need of assistance, largely due to adverse weather conditions, conflict and economic crisis.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, the 2006 wheat output was anticipated to be substantially up. Sharply reduced maize output was forecast in Argentina, but production would recover in Brazil. However, Brazil's rice crop was expected to be well below the record level of 2005.

In Paraguay, the soyabean crop will again be sharply reduced by dry weather.

The FAO outlook for global cereal production in 2005 was 1,984 million tonnes, about 3.4 per cent less than in 2004.