Pakistan, China set for near-record wheat harvest in 2016

Pakistan and China are expected to have near-record wheat harvests in 2016, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said in its first global forecast for the commodity in the current year.

The FAO forecast for the world’s 2016 wheat harvest projected 723 million tonnes of total production, about 10 million tonnes below last year’s record output.

India’s output is anticipated to recover, although FAO’s latest cereal supply and demand brief forecasts a 1.4 per cent drop worldwide in 2016 due mainly to dry weather leading to reduced winter plantings in Russia and Ukraine.

Meanwhile, overall food prices remained steady in the month of February, as falling sugar and dairy prices offset a spike in vegetable oil prices, FAO said.

FAO’s Food Price Index, a trade-weighted index tracking international market prices of major cereals, vegetable oils, dairy, meat and sugar, averaged 150.2 points for the month, virtually unchanged from a revised 150.0 points in January, according to a news release from the agency. It was down 14.5 per cent from a year ago.

Vegetable oil prices rose 8.0 per cent from the previous month, with palm oil prices jumping 13 per cent on reports of falling inventories and a poor production outlook in the near future. Soy oil prices also firmed as a result.

Sugar prices declined 6.2 per cent from January due to strong global inventories and improved crop conditions in Brazil, the world’s largest producer and exporter while dairy prices fell 2.1 per cent on the month amid sluggish imports, especially by China.

Prices of the world’s staple grains were broadly stable. Cereal prices inched down only around half a percentage point from the previous month. It plunged 13.7 per cent from a year earlier. Wheat prices fell 1.5 per cent, maize prices slipped only slightly, while rice prices ascended modestly.

Meat prices rose slightly on supply constraints for beef from Australia and the United States as well as support for private storage of pig meat in the European Union. Poultry prices fell, reflecting lower feed costs. APP