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New China data: Global cereal data revised

The world cereal production and stocks are revised, due to new figures from China. This is according to the latest FAO Cereal Supply and Demand Brief.

The report contains sharply raised estimates for global cereal production, utilisation and stocks in the wake of new data from China for the period 2007-2017. Incorporating those revisions, FAO’s current world cereal production estimate for 2018 stands at 2655 million tonnes. The new figure is 46 million tonnes higher than the March estimate, but still represents a 1.8% year-on-year decline. The forecast for global cereal utilisation in 2018/19 has been raised to 2 683 million tonnes, with world wheat utilisation set to reach an all-time high of 748 million tonnes. World rice utilization is pegged at 511 million tonnes and that of maize at 1425 million tonnes. FAO’s new estimate for global cereal stocks for crop years ending in 2019 has been scaled up by almost 11% to 849 million tonnes, mostly reflecting larger holdings in China. As those inventories accumulated over time, the annual change in cereal socks is expected to decline by 2.9% from their opening levels, lowering the 2018/19 stock-to-use ratio to 30.7% from 32.6% in the 2017/18 period. World trade in cereals in 2018/19 is expected to decline by 2.2% from the previous season to total 412 million tonnes. FAO’s forecast for world wheat production in 2019 remains unchanged from last month at 757 million tonnes, up 4.0% from the 2018 level due largely to higher expected production in the European Union, the Russian Federation and Ukraine.

Tackling new data from China’s 2017 agricultural census

In October the National Bureau of Statistics of China released official revisions to historical production estimates of wheat, maize, rice and several other commodities, obtained from the country’s 2017 agricultural census, which generated improved data on planted area and yields. The new data indicate that total cereal production over the 11-year period spanning from the previous census in 2007 was around 312 million tonnes higher than earlier reported. More than 80% of the revision correspond to maize.

The absence of corresponding official revisions to China’s cereal utilisation and stocks data posed a challenge, catalysing in a major review of the country’s cereal balances and feed use estimates that was carried out by FAO and the G20 Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS), working closely with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) and experts from other agencies and the private sector.

The exercise led FAO to raise its forecast for China’s total cereal feed utilisation in 2018/19 to 194 million tonnes from 182 million tonnes. The country’s carryover stocks were also raised by 78 million tonnes to 422 million tonnes. Maize accounted for the lion’s share of these changes. The complex process of establishing a consistent data series means that China’s cereal supply and demand balances will continue to be closely monitored and may still evolve.

Source: FAO