Recent global grain projections indicate positive production prospects for major grains. Nevertheless, the vulnerability of global food production systems persists, facing potential risks stemming from extreme weather events, escalating geopolitical tensions, and policy shifts. These factors have the potential to disrupt the delicate equilibrium between demand and supply, casting a shadow over the outlook for international grain trade and the overall global food security.
The International Grains Council (IGC) recently published its eagerly awaited January Grain Market Report (GMR), offering a comprehensive outlook on major commodities worldwide. The IGC’s report reveals an optimistic perspective for total grains (wheat and coarse grains) production in the 2023/24 season. The IGC predicts that the world total grains outturn, comprising wheat and coarse grains, will be the largest on record at 2,307 million tons, showing a 2% year-on-year increase primarily attributed to a solid rebound in corn production. Global grain consumption is expected to climb by 2% year-on-year to 2,314 million tons, with feed, food, and industrial uptake reaching fresh peaks. However, global inventories may contract to 590 million tons, marking the seventh successive drawdown. Cumulative world trade, including smaller wheat, corn, and barley shipments, is forecasted to retreat by 3% year-on-year to 415 million tons.
WORLD WHEAT STOCKS TO HIT SIX-SEASON LOW
Despite an anticipated decline in global wheat production in 2023, global supplies are expected to remain at a comfortable level in 2023/24 owing to large carryover stocks. Global wheat trade is predicted to contract, reflecting a weaker global import demand, the war-related disruptions in Ukraine and tightening supplies in some major exporting countries.
The IGC report indicates a 2% decline in global wheat production, dropping from 804 million tons in 2022/23 to 788 million tons in 2023/24, but it should still be the second largest on record. Most of the foreseen reduction relates to lower outputs in Australia and Russia, following all-time highs in 2022, and sizeable production declines forecast in Canada and Kazakhstan. These decreases are anticipated to more than offset production upturns in Argentina, India and the United States of America.
World wheat trade in 2023/24 (July/June) is predicted to fall from the record level reached in 2022/23. Global wheat trade is expected to decrease by 5%, from 208 million tons in the previous season to 198 million tons. The Council foresees an increase in wheat demand, with global consumption reaching 804 million tons, up from 795 million tons in the previous season, stemming from an expected growth in food consumption – led by Asia and Africa. Global wheat stocks are projected to decrease to 266 million tons, down by 16 million tons from the preceding season.
ONGOING WEATHER CHALLENGES AND GEOPOLITICAL TENSIONS
The Council’s first projections for 2024/25 wheat supply and demand point to a slightly larger harvest year-on-year, with potentially better yields seen more than compensating for a modest pullback in acreage. With offsetting changes for food and feed, consumption is projected to match the prior year’s record level and exceed production, potentially leading to a further drawdown in stocks, to a six-season low. A modest retreat in trade is predicted, including smaller deliveries to China and the EU.
Owing to a scaling back of expectations for leading Asian producers, 2023/24 world rice production is forecast 10 million tons lower m/m at 511 million tons, with the net drop in availabilities channeled to reduced figures for consumption and stocks; the 5 million tons m/m cut in global inventories is linked to smaller numbers for China and the major exporters. Trade is seen near-unchanged m/m, at 50 million tons, with a downgraded projection for India contrasting with increases for other suppliers.
The ongoing El Niño is intensifying into a robust event, expected to persist in strength through early 2024. The El Niño conditions, responsible for inducing dryness in significant regions of Asia throughout 2023, are projected to extend into March to May 2024.
In addition to El Niño, grain markets will be closely watching the evolving situation in the Russia-Ukraine war and the recent conflict in the Middle East.