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Food prices update October 2015: El Niño special

Research report

Written by Steve Wiggins, Sharada Keats

Research report

​​The key messages from this update are:

·     Projections for 2015/16 maize, rice, and wheat see harvests of some 2.18 billion tonnes — down 34M tonnes from the 2014/15 record, and 2M tonnes below projected consumption.

·     Lower production probably results from the continuing decline in prices reducing incentives to farmers.

·     Spot prices of maize, rice, and wheat have fallen further to $171 a tonne for US maize, $350 a tonne for Thai rice, and $222 a tonne for US wheat, with future prices indicating that further slight falls are expected.

·     A strong El Niño is predicted for late 2015 and early 2016. This will change rainfall across much of the tropics. Globally it could lead to the loss of 30M tonnes of maize, pushing up maize prices — at least until next year’s northern hemisphere harvests. Regionally this could mean drought in southern Africa, floods in Kenya, and possibly drier conditions in 2016 in Ethiopia, south and south-east Asia.

Steve Wiggins and Sharada Keats