VENEZUELA (15 February)
During the second week of February, torrential precipitations have hit several departments of Venezuela, causing river overflows and mudslides with damage to housing and infrastructure. The Government has declared a state of emergency in seven coastal states of Falcón, Yaracuy, Carabobo Aragua, Vargas, Miranda and Capital Federal, but heavy rains have also affected the southern states of Mérida, Táchira and Zulia on the border with Colombia. An evaluation of the crop damage is not yet available, but losses are expected to food and cash crops, such as vegetables, that are typically cultivated by small farmers in the affected areas, with negative consequences on food security for the local population. However, damages to major staple food crops such as maize, sorghum and rice are likely to be limited since the main growing states of Guarico, Portuguesa and Cojedes were marginally affected by the recent excessive rains. In addition, harvesting of the main summer crop, accounting for about 80 percent of annual production, was already completed by the end of 2004.
Harvesting of the small winter maize crop, planted from October to November, is due to start from April. An average annual maize output of about 1.5 million tonnes is estimated for 2004 and this result is mainly due to the positive impact on yields of favourable weather conditions in the main growing area of Portuguesa and Guarico. 2004 paddy production is provisionally estimated at about 750 000 tonnes, above the average production of about 720 000 tonnes.
The country entirely relies on imports to satisfy domestic needs of wheat and import requirements for marketing year 2004/05 (July/June) are forecast at average level of 1.4 million tonnes. At the same time, maize import requirements (mostly yellow maize) are forecast at 700 000 tonnes.