NICARAGUA* (4 February)
Harvesting of the 2004/05 second season “postrera” maize and bean crops is virtually completed, while harvesting of the third “apante” crop, especially important for beans in the departments on the Atlantic coast, is due to start in March. In aggregate, 2004/05 marketing year maize output is expected to be about 430 000 tonnes, about 25 percent below the 2003/04 record production of 580 000 tonnes. This result is essentially the consequence of the prolonged dry period (veranillo) in August that caused about 30 percent loss of planted area during the important first season maize crop in the departments of León, Chinandega, Madriz and Matagalpa. Production of beans, an important staple crop in local diet, is tentatively forecast to be similar to previous year record of 225 000 tonnes. The coffee sector, the first agricultural foreign exchange earner, is still facing a period of crisis. Poor yields are expected due to insufficient financial resources for maintenance to plantations and 2004 production is estimated at low 46 000 tonnes, about 45 percent below the output of 82 000 tonnes obtained in 2003.
Import requirements for marketing year 2004/05 are forecast at average 125 000 tonnes of wheat and 110 000 tonnes of rice, while maize imports are forecast at high 120 000 tonnes due to reduced domestic production. Food assistance from the international community continues to be delivered in northern and central departments of Segovia, Jinotega and Matagalpa, particularly through school feeding and food-for-work programmes.