Global food supply conditions are robust, but access to food has been dramatically reduced in areas suffering civil conflicts.
This is according to the new edition of FAO's Crop Prospects and Food Situation report.
Some 37 countries require external assistance for food, 28 of them in Africa as a result of lingering effects of last year's El Niño-triggered droughts on harvests in 2016. Yet, while agricultural production is expected to rebound in southern Africa, protracted fighting and unrest is increasing the ranks of the displaced and hungry in other parts of the world. Conflicts and civil unrest in Afghanistan, Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Myanmar and Syria are also exacerbating food insecurity conditions for millions of people as well affecting nearby countries hosting refugees. In addition, the drought in East Africa in late 2016 has heightened food insecurity in several countries in the sub-region.
Cereal production made quite strong gains in the world overall in 2016, with a record recovery in Central America, and larger cereal crops in Asia, Europe and North America. Looking ahead, FAO's first global wheat production forecast for 2017 points to a 1.8% decline from last year's record level, due mostly to a projected 20% output drop in the US, where the area sown to winter wheat is the lowest level in over 100 years. Prospects are favourable for the 2017 maize crop in Brazil and Argentina and the outlook is generally positive for coarse grains throughout the Southern Hemisphere. Prospects for rice are mixed, but it is still too early to make firm predictions for many of the world's major crops.
Maize harvests in Southern Africa, slashed by El Niño, are forecast to recover this year, with South Africa's output expected to increase by more than 50% from 2016, with positive trends likely in most nearby countries. However, an outbreak of armyworms, along with localised flooding in Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe, could limit larger production gains in 2017.
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