A sequence of floods has dampened the outlook for Bangladesh, likely translating into a third successive season of little or negative food production growth, mainly rice, says UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.
Barring major setbacks, production recoveries could instead permit Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to slightly lower their 2018 imports to 1.1 million and 450 000 tonnes, respectively, according to the latest Food Outlook published by the FAO.
Among other rice importers, Bangladesh, Iraq, Nigeria and the Philippines are all similarly predicted to replenish their inventories, according to the report.
These gains are, however, likely to be offset by stock reductions in the Republic of Korea, Madagascar, Sri Lanka and the United Republic of Tanzania, all linked to output shortfalls.
Although the use of rice as animal feed is being sustained by the release of supplies from government granaries in Japan, the Republic of Korea and Thailand, more affordable feedstuffs are expected to displace rice in most other countries, especially in Bangladesh, China (mainland) and Vietnam.
Since the previous Food Outlook report, a series of unfavourable climate-related events have affected main paddy crops in the Northern Hemisphere, which have now reached the harvesting stage.
This has been the case in Asia, where, unlike 2016, the critical Northern Hemisphere summer months were characterised by mixed growing conditions that inhibited planting expansions.
As a result, FAO’s latest forecast of world rice production in 2017 points to a broadly stable output level of 500.8 million tonnes.
Production in Asia is now forecast to fall 550 000 tonnes below the 2016 bumper harvest to 452.5 million tonnes.
The UN agriculture agency has said the cost of importing food is rising in 2017, driven by increased international demand for most food stuffs, as well as higher freight charges.
The cost of importing food is forecast to rise six per cent in 2017 to $1.413 trillion, making it the second highest bill on record while food commodity prices have been generally stable, according to the latest Food Outlook that expressed concern about the economic and social impact of this trend on poor countries.
Although weather disruptions are set to stall production growth this season, global rice supplies are still forecast to exceed utilisation, enabling a small expansion of world rice inventories.
After staging an eight per cent recovery in 2017 global trade is expected to rise only modestly in 2018.
The food import bills are set to increase by double-digit rates for least-developed countries and low-income food-deficit countries.
Aromatic rice varieties have risen eight times faster than the FAO All Rice Index, which is up four per cent on the year.
However, the higher import costs come at a time when inventories are robust, harvest forecasts are strong and food commodity markets remain well supplied.
The export of tropical fruits is promising for poverty relief and rural development as almost all production takes place in developing countries.
The export volumes of mango, pineapple, avocado and papayas are on course to achieve a total combined value of $10 billion this year, according to the Food Outlook.
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