Consumption is outpacing crop production in the US and other grain-growing nations for the first time in years, and unfriendly weather isn't helping matters. World soybean and wheat inventories are at their lowest points since 1996, with carryover corn stocks the tightest they've been in 27 years, said Chris Hurt, Purdue University agricultural economist. He warned that the gap between consumption and production could expand even further if 2002 crop yields are below average.