According to the latest estimates of the UN-affiliated Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the Globe harvested the largest ever cereal crop in its history in 2016-17 — a staggering 2.6 billion Metric Tonnes (MT). The year is ending with the largest ever global stock of food grains in history, some 682 MT. India too, according to a second advance estimate of the government, is heading for a record cereal crop, putting cereal production at nearly 250 million tonnes, for 2016-17. It is going to cross the record of about 246 million tonnes set in 2013-14.
Paradox it may sound, while the world celebrates this plentiful harvest, over 20 million people are facing starvation in Africa and Yemen in the worst drought in 60 years. Globally, some 795 million people go to bed hungry every day including about 15% of India’s population, some 20 million people. The record global output was propelled by the increased wheat output in North America by more than 10 MT on yearly basis as well as increases in crop production in Russia and India. All these offset the European Union decline by 16.5 million tonnes caused by bad weather. Rice output too increased in China, India, and Southeast Asia. Coarse cereal production jumped by 22.7 million tonnes, led by US, EU, India and Ukraine, offsetting El Nino-caused declines in Brazil and policy-driven dip in China.
FAO is currently forecasting a slight dip in world cereal production in 2017, mainly due to a fall in wheat output in Australia, Canada and the US after farmers planted less crop owing to lower prices. Coarse grains and rice production is forecast to continue rising in 2017 but for climatic conditions. This plentiful production has naturally caused prices to fall, especially of rice in the past one year. Thailand rice by 2% and US rice by 12.7%. But there is something lacking in the happy story because, shockingly, over 20 million people in Africa and Yemen are facing starvation. According to aid agencies and the UN, the food crisis in East Africa and Northern Nigeria is mostly because of continued war and consequent disruption of economy and connectivity.