World in brief

El Nino seen weakening

NEW YORK, N.Y. (Reuters) — The current El Nino phenomenon is expected to weaken during the Northern Hemisphere spring and move to normal conditions by late spring or early summer, a U.S. government weather forecaster said Jan. 14.

The Climate Prediction Center (CPC), an agency of the National Weather Service, was in line in its monthly forecast with a growing consensus that the much-watched phenomenon, which can roil commodities markets, will dissipate in the coming months.

Most models indicate the El Nino will weaken and shift to neutral, though it is difficult to predict the timing, the CPC said. Its forecast was broadly in line with similar ones in recent days that have said El Nino has reached its height and looks to be weakening.

El Nino is a warming of ocean surface temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific Ocean that occurs every few years.

Coffee forecast shows slight rise

NEW YORK, N.Y. (Reuters) — Global coffee production for 2015-16 is forecast to rise slightly as output in Vietnam, Colombia and Indonesia compensate for a smaller harvest in top grower Brazil, the International Coffee Organization said.

In its first estimate for the 2015-16 crop, the ICO pegged production at 8.6 billion kilograms, up 1.4 percent from 2014-15, which was revised down to 8.48 billion kg.

The ICO uses government forecasts from producing countries.

In Brazil, the agriculture ministry’s Conab crop supply agency said it expected the country’s 2015-16 coffee crop to be 2.59 billion kg, which is much lower than trade house estimates that averaged 2.82 billion kg.

The ICO report said production of arabica beans (the top grade) is relatively unchanged from last year, but robusta bean production, a more general purpose bean, is expected to increase by 3.7 percent, particularly because of harvests in Vietnam and Indonesia.

South Africa posts driest year ever

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (Reuters) — South Africa suffered its driest year on record in 2015, the national weather service said last week, as a drought that has threatened the vital corn crop and hit economic growth showed no sign of abating.

Average rainfall was 403 millimetres, about a third less than the average 608 mm and the driest since records began in 1904, the service added.

The agricultural sector is being hammered by weeks of heat waves that have scorched grazing land, and forced livestock owners to kill or sell animals.

The country’s citrus industry, worth $775 million, has been hit by low reservoirs levels and water restrictions, industry sources say.

Africa’s most advanced economy, usually a corn exporter, may need to import as much as five million tonnes this year, roughly half its requirements, the country’s largest producer group said.

Scientists say the drought is being exacerbated by an exceptionally strong El Nino weather pattern.

The dry, hot conditions are expected to persist until the start of the Southern Hemisphere’s autumn in April or May.

El Ninos typically bring drier conditions to Southern Africa and wetter ones to East Africa.

India studies GM mustard

NEW DELHI, India (Reuters) — India’s chief scientific adviser has urged prime minister Narendra Modi to decide the fate of the country’s first genetically modified food crop, mustard.

A recent meeting suggests authorities may support commercialization.

The path to a commercial launch is fraught with political opposition, but allowing GM crops is critical to Modi’s goal of attaining self-sufficiency in edible oil. India spends more than $10 billion a year on vegetable oil imports, and GM mustard, with yields 38 percent higher than normal varieties, will give Modi a chance to slash this expense.

Results from safety tests conducted on hybrid GM mustard over the past decade were submitted to the government in September.

India’s environment and forest ministry said the 3,100 page mustard safety report was being evaluated, and commercialization would be preceded by a careful analysis of risks and benefits.

India’s GM mustard makes use of three genes already incorporated in canola hybrids in Canada, the United States and Australia, Pental said, and extensive biosafety tests have revealed no cause for concern.

Corn demand driving up meat prices

SAO PAULO, Brazil (Reuters) — Corn shortages in parts of southern Brazil because of a surge in overseas demand could lead to higher meat prices at a time of high inflation, animal protein association ABPA said.

Corn stocks remain high in the centre-west, but shortages in parts of the south have pushed up prices in Campinas, Sao Paulo, by more than 50 percent from last year, leading to higher feed costs.

Brazil could import corn from Paraguay or Argentina to meet demand in some regions because of the high price ofmoving corn from the centre-west to the south.

The country is starting to harvest its first of two annual corn crops, which the government expects to be 27.8 million tonnes. The first crop is expected to fall short of demand.

At the same time, demand for Brazilian corn abroad is surging thanks to a weak local currency that makes Brazil’s exports cheaper, triggering rare shipments to countries such as South Africa and the United States.

Brazil, the world’s No. 2 corn exporter, exported a record 30 million tonnes last year, 10 million tonnes more than in 2014.


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