World cereal production this year is forecast to increase 4.3 per cent to a record 2.082 billion tonnes but still 33 countries will face critical shortages mostly due to conflict and adverse weather, the United Nations food agency said on Wednesday.
The bulk of the increase is expected in maize, with a bumper crop already being gathered in South America, and a sharp increase in plantings expected in the United States, the World Food Organization (FAO) says in its latest report on crop prospects and food situation.
A significant rise in wheat output is also foreseen, with a recovery in some major exporting countries, according to tentative figures released by the agency.
FAO forecasts coarse grains production to rise 5.6 per cent to 1.033 billion tonnes, and wheat to increase 4.8 per cent to about 626 million tonnes.
Global rice production could rise marginally to 423 million tonnes in milled terms, about 3 million tonnes more than in 2006. Cereal production for 82 low-income food-deficit countries could remain around the above-average level of 2006, and cereal imports in the 2006/07 marketing year expected to decline in most regions.
In southern Africa, preliminary forecasts put total maize production at 14.8 million tonnes, about the same as last year's below-average crop.
Prospects vary considerably from country to country with significant crop losses due to floods in some areas and reduced yields due to long dry weather spells in others.