ROME, ITALY — World total cereal production is forecast to increase by about 7% in 2013 compared to last year, helping to replenish global inventories and raise expectations for more stable markets in 2013-14, according to the latest issue of the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) quarterly Crop Prospects and Food Situation report released on July 11.

The increase would bring world cereal production to 2.479 billion tonnes, a new record level. 

FAO now puts world wheat output in 2013 at 704 million tonnes, an increase of 6.8%, which more than recoups the previous year's reduction and represents the highest level in history.

World production of coarse grains in 2013 is now forecast by FAO at about 1.275 billion tonnes, up sharply (9.7%) from 2012.

World rice production in 2013 is forecast to expand by 1.9% to 500 million tonnes (milled equivalent) although prospects are still very provisional. 

Cereal imports of low-income food-deficit countries for 2013-14 are estimated to rise by some 5%, compared to 2012-13, to meet growing demand. Egypt, Indonesia and Nigeria, in particular, are forecast to import larger volumes.

International prices of wheat declined slightly in June with the onset of the 2013 harvests in the Northern Hemisphere. By contrast, maize prices increased, supported by continued tight supplies. Export prices of rice were generally stable.

The report focuses on developments affecting the food security situation of developing countries. In its review of food insecurity hotspots, the report highlights the following countries.

In Syria, 2013 wheat production dropped significantly below average due to the escalating civil conflict leading to disruptions in farming activities. Livestock sector has been severely affected. About 4 million people are estimated to be facing severe food insecurity.

In Egypt, civil unrest and dwindling foreign exchange reserves raise serious food security concerns. 

In Central Africa, serious food insecurity conditions prevail due to escalating conflict affecting about 8.4 million people in Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

In West Africa, the overall food situation is favorable in most parts of the Sahel following an above-average 2012 cereal harvest. However, a large number of people are still affected by conflict and the lingering effects of the 2011-12 food crisis. 

In East Africa, although household food security has improved in most countries, serious concerns remain in conflict areas  in Somalia, the Sudan, and South Sudan, with 1 million, 4.3 million and 1.2 million food insecure people, respectively.

In Madagascar, damage caused by locusts and a cyclone is expected to reduce crop production in 2013, causing increased hunger, especially in the southern and western regions of the country.

In the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, despite improved cereal harvest of the 2012 main season and the near normal outcome of the ongoing harvest of the 2013 early season, chronic food insecurity exists. An estimated 2.8 million vulnerable people require food assistance until the next harvest in October.

In total, there are 34 countries requiring external food assistance, of which 27 countries are in Africa.