Broadcast: April 27, 2004
This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.
The Food and Agriculture Organization says it expects another decrease in world grain supplies. The F.A.O. says it expects the supplies to be eighteen percent lower at the end of the season than their opening levels last year.
However, world grain production this year is expected to increase by two percent. That would be three percent above the average of the last five years.
But decreased production of some crops will affect prices. The F.A.O. says it expects trade in grains this year to remain slow mainly because of rising prices.
The F.A.O. is part of the United Nations. The agency released a World Food Outlook this month. The report has information on wheat, rice and coarse grains. These include barley, corn and millet.
Wheat supplies have fallen in recent years. China, and recently India, have reduced their crops. This is partly because the world is using less wheat. Wheat prices began to increase in July of two-thousand-three. The recent cuts mean prices will continue to rise.
Much of the coarse grain crops in the world have not yet been planted. But the F.A.O. says it expects production to decrease by one percent from last year. Corn prices have increased over the last few months.
The world rice crop is expected to increase, but not enough to satisfy demand. Already, prices for most kinds of rice have increased since March.
Uses of grain crops change with time. Today, farmers use one-third of all grains to feed animals. People eat less grain as their economies develop and their earnings increase. Instead, they eat more vegetable oils and animal products. This is the case in China.
At the same time, industrial uses can increase demand for cereal grains. This is the case with corn. This year, almost half of the corn not used for food in the United States will go to make alcohol for fuel.
Grain supplies are a good measure of how the world is producing and using food. Grains are a central part of the human diet. They provide protein, fat and starch.
Coarse grains are a major food for about one-thousand-million people in Africa and Central and South America. Wheat is the main food for about one-third of all people. But rice is the most popular cereal grain in the world. It is eaten by about seventy percent of the population.
This VOA Special English Agriculture Report was written by Mario Ritter.