ROME - The UN's food agency said Wednesday that this year's forecasts for global food production are positive overall but warned that some areas will likely struggle due to armed conflict and displacement.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation's report forecasts "a record increase of 3.2 percent in world cereal production in 2012, mainly on the strength of a bumper maize crop in the United States."
"Wheat and coarse grains prices eased in May, mostly during the second half, driven by good supply prospects," the FAO said.
Despite the positive trend, "several regions of the world are expected to struggle with the consequences of poor rainfall, severe weather, armed conflict and displacement," the Rome-based agency said.
Countries in the Sahel continue to face serious challenges to food security due to locally high food prices and civil strife, it said, adding that Syria and Yemen are also experiencing increasing difficulties.
"The situation in Yemen and Syria reminds us of the clear link between food security and peace. Internal conflict is causing food insecurity. But it works the other way around as well," FAO head Jose Graziano da Silva said.
"Throughout the world we see crisis after crisis caused, in its entirety or in part, by the lack of food or disputes over natural resources, especially land and water," he added.
The report lists 35 countries -- 28 in Africa -- which are in need of external food assistance, including Afghanistan, North Korea, Haiti, Iraq and Mali.
West Africa faces malnutrition in several countries. Agricultural production in the Sahel, especially Niger, Mali and Chad, is threatened by the escalating conflict in Mali as well as locust outbreaks from North Africa.
Civil unrest in Syria has left an estimated one million people in need of humanitarian assistance while in Yemen about five million people are thought to need emergency food aid due to extreme poverty and prolonged conflict.
However, "record harvests and improved production were expected across much of Asia, North America, Central America and South America," the FAO said.
"World cereal stocks for crop seasons ending in 2013 are forecast to increase to 548 million tonnes, up seven percent from their opening levels and the highest since 2002," the report added.