URUGUAY (8 February)
Harvesting of the 2004 summer paddy and maize crops is scheduled from March and yields are expected to be lower that average due to the limited precipitations during December and January. Paddy output is expected at high 1.3 million tonnes, guaranteeing an exportable surplus of about 800 000 tonnes. Despite dry weather conditions during the sowing period (November/December) that prevented to reach the planned goal of 200 000 hectares planted, this excellent paddy output reflects the increase of about 22 percent in the area planted as a response to higher international prices. Early forecasts point to a high maize crop production of about 260 000 tonnes, mainly due to a 50 percent increase in the area planted in response to high domestic prices and representing the highest acreage in last ten years. Harvesting of the 2004 winter wheat and barley crops has been completed and official forecasts point to bumper harvests for both crops. In fact, wheat crop output is estimated at high 530 000 tonnes, due to more than 50 percent increase in planting area, while barley crop output is estimated at record 406 000 tonnes, due to 26 percent increase in plantings as well as record yields.