Latest indications confirm that world cereal production will reach an all-time record of more than 2.5 billion tonnes in 2014. Buoyed by bumper crops in Europe and a record maize output in the United States this year's cereal output should reach 2.532 billion tonnes, including rice in milled terms, or 0.3% higher than 2013, according to FAO's latest Crop Prospects and Food Situation Report.
The record global cereal harvest in 2014 will outpace projected world cereal utilization in 2014/15, allowing stocks to rise to their highest level since 2000 and pushing the worldwide stock-to-use ratio, a proxy measure for supply conditions, to rise to 25.2 percent, its highest level in 13 years, according to FAO.
However, the report also warns that food insecurity is worsening in a number of countries due to civil conflicts, adverse weather and the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak. Some 38 countries are at risk of food insecurity, including 29 in Africa, 3 more countries than reported in October.
EVD triggered one of the biggest shocks to West Africa's agriculture and food sectors, as it started to spread when crops were being planted and expanded throughout the farming cycle, especially in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. FAO warned that local rice prices and those for cassava, the region's second staple food, showed notable increases in Freetown and other cities in September.
The situation in Syria is particularly urgent, as a weak harvest is exacerbating strains due to worsening civil conflict. An estimated 6.8 million people - some refugees in neighboring countries - are facing severe food insecurity. FAO reports a notable production decline for the 2014 crop, due to abandoned land, scarce labor, damaged power stations and canals as well as drought conditions.
Meanwhile dry conditions have resulted in reduced Central American harvest. Mexico is enjoying a bumper maize crop and its cereal output is expected to increase by 7 percent above last year's record harvest, FAO said.
That may ease the production short-fall expected in Central America, where a drought earlier in the year pushed the maize output down by around 9 percent, resulting in 400,000 families in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala needing food assistance.
Aggregate cereal output from Europe this year is estimated to be 5.6 percent higher than 2013, while the U.S.'s record maize output comes despite less acreage being sowed.