ASIA

AFGHANISTAN* (3 March)

Agricultural activities throughout the country continue to be hindered by shortages of agricultural inputs, damage to the irrigation system and insecurity. Prospects for the 1997 winter crops are therefore uncertain. The 1996 aggregate output of wheat and barley is unofficially estimated at a below-normal 1.85 million tons.

A Consolidated United Nations Inter-Agency Appeal for Emergency Humanitarian and Rehabilitation Assistance to Afghanistan, valued at US$ 133 million, has been launched to cover the period 1 January to 31 December 1997. The Appeal includes three major areas: nation-wide programmes, that respond to immediate needs across the country, including basic relief activities, mine clearance, assistance to the disabled, repatriation, immunization and narcotics control; regional programmes that respond to priority needs in deprived areas, including the provision of safe water and sanitation, primary health care, shelter, basic urban and rural recovery and income-generation opportunities; mechanisms to assess and monitor aid programmes to ensure that they meet their aims while conforming to international norms under which humanitarian partners operate.

The import requirement for cereals in 1996/97, mostly wheat, is forecast at about 1.5 million tons. Expected cereal food aid deliveries for 1996/97 amount to about 150 000 tons, of which 140 000 tons have been delivered.

BANGLADESH (3 March)

The boro rice crop due for harvest in April - May is progressing under generally favourable conditions benefiting from light and widespread rains in February. In addition, fetilizer supplies are reported to be good at prices lower than last year. The 1996/97 target for the crop, which normally accounts for more than one third of aggregate rice production is 7.5 million tons (milled rice), against last years crop of 7.25 million tons.

Recent reports, indicate that the country is likely to produce a record rice crop in 1996/97, comprising the current boro crop and some 10 million tons and 1.87 million tons from last year’s aman and aus crops respectively. The FAO country office projects unmilled rice production at slightly over 29 million tons, whilst the output of milled rice is expected to exceed 19.3 million tons. At this level, production would be over 9 percent higher than the previous year and 8.7 percent higher than average for the preceding five years. The bumper harvest is attributed to excellent weather, a timely monsoon, improved input availability, low incidence of pest damage and increased acreage. As a result of a slight, 3 percent, increase in area and favourable weather conditions, wheat production in 1996/97 is projected at a little over 1.3 million tons, some 3 percent higher than in 1995/96 and 17 percent higher than average in the period 1991 to 1995.

As a result of favourable paddy production, a significant reduction in rice imports is expected during 1996/97. Current projections indicate that the country will import some 1.5 million tons of wheat and 250 000 tons of rice.

CAMBODIA (3 March)

Following heavy floods during the earlier stages of the 1996 ‘wet’ rice season, an FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment mission visited the country in January this year to evaluate the final outcome of the harvest and review the overall food supply situation.

The Mission estimated production of main, wet season paddy at 2.733 million tons for 1996/97 and forecast output of the second, dry season irrigated crop, to be harvested in March, at 0.657 million tons, giving a total of 3.390 million tons. At this level aggregate output would be 2 percent above 1995/96 production and 35 per cent higher than the average for the previous five years.

Favourable rainfall over most of the country benefited planting and development of the 1996 wet season rice crop. However, floods during September/October in several provinces including the major rice growing provinces of Battambang, Kandal, Prey Veng, Siem Reap, Kompong Cham, Pursat and Takeo, caused widespread damage to standing crops. In certain areas, rats and other pests added to the damage. As a result, the favourable outlook initially was somewhat constrained by crop destruction in certain places and reduced yield: 1.67 tons/ha, compared to 1.75 tons/ha in 1995/96. In spite of the damage and reduction in yield, total output was higher than 1995, as a result of an increase in harvested area.

The total availability of rice for 1997 is estimated at 2.120 million tons, based on a milling rate of 62 per cent and an estimated stock carry-over of 18 000 tons. The national requirement of rice for human consumption, allowing for seed and feed and post harvest losses, is estimated at 1.993 million tons. For 1997, therefore, the country has a surplus of 127 000 tons.

In spite of the national surplus, large segments of population in many communes face various degrees of food shortage in 1997. The Government is, therefore, urged to be cautious in actively encouraging rice exports in 1997.

A large number of households in an estimated 265 communes face severe food shortages. The exact number of vulnerable people, however, is yet to be ascertained. An assessment is currently being made by WFP. The number may be fairly large and the total quantity of rice required may be substantial. However, in the interim, assuming no widespread displacement of people, some 43 000 tons of rice and 1 600 tons of other commodities would be needed in 1997 to support the most vulnerable people in various communes. This is sufficient to support 1.1 million people, excluding institutional feeding and training activities, for about three months. However, the situation will need to be reviewed after the on-going assessment has been completed. In addition it is recommended that another 25 000 tons of rice be purchased locally by the Government with donor support for emergency stock for future eventualities. The purchase of such stock would also support farm gate rice prices and encourage farmers to increase production. The total food aid requirement including emergency rations for vulnerable groups and emergency stock to be kept by Government, therefore, amounts to 68 000 tons. As of 1 January 1997 WFP held stocks of 21 070 tons of rice, leaving a shortfall of some 21 930 tons needed to make up the 43 000 tons required for emergency and food for work purposes for vulnerable groups.

CHINA (3 March)

Overall, during the last dekad of February, the country had little or no rainfall except for few locations in Guizhou and Yunnan provinces on the western fringes of the region. This was in contrast to conditions earlier, when unseasonable, widespread moderate and locally heavy precipitation fell in south eastern parts of the country, resulting in localised surpluses. Overall, soil moisture conditions are reported to be satisfactory for the winter wheat crop to be harvested from May-June. However, unseasonably warm weather (3-5 degrees C above normal) in mid/late February, continued to reduce winter hardiness for dormant winter wheat across the northern plains and some reports of drought have been received from the east. Additional warm weather will cause winter wheat to begin to break dormancy. Typically, winter wheat across the northern plains breaks dormancy by mid- March. Temperatures averaged 6 to 9 degrees C above normal across southern parts of the country, benefiting transplanting of the early double-crop rice, which is just beginning.

The aggregate output of foodgrains in 1996, including soyabeans, pulses, tubers and roots, is estimated at above 480 million tons, the second record level of production in succession and some 3 percent higher than the previous year. Of the aggregate level of output, it is estimated that rice, maize and wheat account for between 85 and 90 percent. The Government target for production this year is also 480 million tons.

Official reports indicate that grain imports in 1996 fell 42 percent to 12 million tons while exports rose by 42.3 percent to 1.43 million tons. Overall grain exports were somewhat affected by the cut in the export tariff rebate for agricultural products to three percent from seven percent. In 1996 the country imported 440 000 tons of maize and exported 159 000 tons, whilst it imported 761 000 tons of rice and exported 264 000 tons

CYPRUS (3 March)

The prospects for winter grain crops are unfavourable, due to record below average rainfall this century which averaged 8 mm in January compared to a normal of 102 mm. Production of cereals in 1997, mainly barley, is forecast at 100 000 tons, some 26 percent less than last year. Cereal production normally covers less than one-third of total domestic requirements.

Imports of cereals in 1996/97 (May/April) are estimated at 560 000 tons, some 60 000 tons more than the previous year.

INDIA (3 March)

Mostly favourable conditions for the Rabi rice crop in southeast India. However, in major winter wheat areas in the north, soil moistures reserves have been generally drying in recent months as a result of low intermittent rainfall. Irrigation is adequate but the reproductive crop normally needs additional rain during this time of year for favourable development. Additional rainfall is therefore needed through mid-March, if average yield of recent years are to be reached. An additional problem in wheat is weeds, particularly Phalaris Minor, which may also constrain yields. No significant problems for the sorghum harvest are anticipated.

1997 wheat production is estimated to rise to 64.6 million tons some 3 percent above the 62.62 million tons harvested in the previous year and almost 10 percent higher than average for the preceding five years. 1997 wheat planting got off to a good start due to favourable soil moisture conditions aided by late monsoon rains. High wheat prices and a 9.5 percent increase in the government's support price for wheat to rs. 4 150 ($118) pushed area slightly higher. As a result wheat area gained marginally at the expense of crops like sugar cane. Damage to the rice crop due to floods and cyclones in late 1996 in southern India and drought in Orissa was offset by higher production in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Punjab. Rice production in Uttar Pradesh is estimated by the state government at a record 11.8 million tons. FAO’s forecast for milled rice production in 1996/97 is projected at around 81 million tons, slightly up on 1995/96. With planting still four months away, planting for the 1997/98 rice crop will depend largely on summer monsoon rains which begin in June. Eighty to ninety percent of the country’s rice crop is planted at some point during the monsoon season. Overall foodgrain production is estimated to rise to 191.18 million tons in 1996/97 from 185.04 million tons in the previous year.

Rice exports in 1996/97 are expected to fall to 2.5 million tons compared to some 4 million tons in the previous year. To meet growing demand, check rising prices and augment domestic stocks, the Government authorised the State Trading Corporation to import 2 million tons of wheat in 1996/97. So far the country has contracted some 1.68 million tons, most of which is expected to arrive before the end of March, when harvesting of the current wheat crop would be underway.

INDONESIA (3 March)

Light to moderate showers in the last dekad of February across Java, helped maintain moisture reserves. Irrigation supplies are also reported to be satisfactory and overall prospects are favourable for the main season rice crop.

In late January, the Government increased the producer price of paddy by 16.6 percent (from Rp 450 (19.5 US cents) to Rp 525 per kilogram) and fertilizers by an average of 21 percent in order to increase farmers' income and cut back fertilizer subsidies. Official estimates indicate that the country produced some 51 million tons of unhusked rice or the equivalent of around 33.15 million tons of milled rice last year. The 1996/97 maize crop is likely to increase due to several factors including: good weather (sufficient precipitation in the first planting season in October/November 1996), expansion of hybrid seeds, timely supply of fertilizers and increased yields. Yield potential was, however, somewhat affected by some minor pest outbreaks, caused by the fungus ""sclerospora maizidis". The area and production targets for maize in 1996/97 are 3.6 million hectares and 8.9 million tons respectively.

The Government recently announced that it planned to invest around 255.9 billion rupiah in the 1997 fiscal year starting April 1 to build infrastructure facilities for a million hectare rice project in Central Kalimantan. The project is aimed at reducing Indonesia's dependence on rice imports and ensuring self-sufficiency in the staple.

As a result of Government efforts to increase maize production, imports in 1996/97 are expected to remain similar to the 860 000 tons imported in 1995/96.

IRAN, ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF (3 March)

Three earthquakes across various parts of Asia in late February have so far resulted in 550 deaths. The country most affected was Iran, where a quake measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale left almost 1 000 people dead and 2 000 injured in north western parts of the country. In addition, it is estimated that some 35 000 people have been left homeless and 30 000 livestock were lost as a result of the disaster. Relief operations are underway and temporary shelters have been established for the homeless, though have been made difficult by extremely cold and freezing conditions. Ardabil Province, including the city, Meshkinshahr town and 83 neighbouring villages sustained the worst damage. The province is agricultural though so far the extent of damage to crop production has not been determined. As a result of the disaster, the country in early March appealed for 100 000 tons of barley to feed 200 000 head of livestock in north western parts. In addition the country has requested 70 tons of wheat seed and 70 tons of barley seed. In order to increase the effectiveness and speed of international assistance the government has requested local purchases where possible. Food requirements for 60 000 affected people for the next four months included 1 320 tons of rice, 440 tons of unspecified grains and 440 tons of sugar.

The main cereal grains wheat and barley will be ready for harvest from late April, May. Average production of these grains in the period 1991-1995 is estimated at 10.4 million tons and 3.07 million tons respectively.

To meet requirements the country needs to import cereal grains, especially wheat. In the 1996/97 marketing year wheat imports are expected to reach 4.7 million tons, whilst those of rice are estimated at 875 000 tons.

IRAQ* (3 March)

The outlook for 1997 winter crops remains uncertain due to reports of low rainfall in all parts of the country, especially in the northern areas where irrigation depends mainly on rainfall. Moreover, scarcity of basic agricultural inputs such as quality seeds, spare parts, vaccines and agrochemicals and the widespread incidence of pests, weeds and animal diseases, will further constrain yields. The general performance of the agricultural sector, particularly in the 1996/97 season is cause for concern. The output of wheat and barley for the 1996/97 winter crop season is forecast at significantly below normal. With the implementation of the oil-for-food deal, US$ 44.15 million are expected to be available over a period of six months for the agriculture sector. The control of crop pests and animal diseases, the provision of quality seeds, spare parts, vaccines, drugs and pesticides should together increase crop and livestock production and improve somewhat the food supply situation.

The oil-for-food deal also provides an allocation of US$ 804.63 million (out of a total of US$ 1.3 billion for humanitarian assistance) to purchase food for a period of six months. This will substantially improve the food and nutrition situation of the population. However, it is estimated that the allocation of US$ 804.63 million for food will cover slightly over 50 percent of the estimated food import requirements

ISRAEL (3 March)

The outlook for the cereal crop is uncertain, due to unfavourable weather conditions during the growing season. Production of wheat in 1996 is estimated at 150 000 tons, some 30 000 tons lower than last year and below average for the third consecutive year.

Imports of cereals in 1996/97 (October/September) are forecast at some 2.1 million tons, unchanged from the previous year. Purchase of imported wheat by domestic flour millers is linked to the domestic wheat procurement at a higher price than that prevailing in the world market.

The country has not implemented the latest phase of a programme to liberalise processed-food import which was scheduled for 1 January 1997. Liberalisation covers all processed food except bakery goods, coffee and chocolates and is aimed at bringing the base customs rate to eight percent in the year 2002.

JAPAN (3 March)

The final estimate of paddy production in 1996 is put at 12.89 million tons, equivalent to 9.34 million tons of milled rice. The reduction in output is due to a 7 percent decline in area from 2.12 million hectares in 1995 to 1.97 million hectares. At this level 1996 output is some 4 percent lower than 1995, though slightly above (2 percent), the average for the preceding five years. Under the Governments rice diversion program, the targeted diversion area for the 1997 fiscal year (April 96-March 1997) is set at 787 000 hectares, the same as in the previous year.

JORDAN (3 March)

Dry weather in the first three weeks of January was followed by favourable rainfall in the last week of the month which improved growing conditions. Aggregate production of wheat and barley in 1996 is estimated at 67 000 tons, some 26 percent down from last year’s poor harvest. Potato production in 1996, estimated at 110 000 tons, was 12 000 tons higher than last year.

Wheat imports in 1995/96 were estimated at 538 000 tons, some 13 percent lower than last year. Maize and barley imports in 1995/96 (July/June) are estimated at 0.94 million tons. The import of rice in 1996 is estimated at 90 000 tons. Imports of wheat in 1996/97 (July/June) are forecast at 0.43 million tons, some 20 percent lower than the previous year.

KOREA, REPUBLIC OF (3 March)

The target for milled rice production in 1997 has been set at 4.87 million tons against a favourable harvest of 5.32 million tons produced in 1996. Output in 1996, was some 13 percent above 1995 and 5.5 percent higher than average for the preceding five years. The increase in production is attributed to good weather and a sharp slowdown in the decline in area under paddy. Overall, it is estimated that the area under rice cultivation has declined by 15 percent since 1990. In an effort to offset future decline in area cultivated and increase the level of self sufficiency in rice, the government plans to increase investment. The aim is to raise yields in target areas, develop water resources and improve agricultural infrastructure and mechanization.

KOREA, DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF* (3 March)

The food situation in the country continues to deteriorate and the outlook for 1997 appears grim. Following severe floods over two consecutive years, domestic supplies of rice and maize are expected to be near depletion sometime during the months of April or May if significant imports are not forthcoming or substantial reductions are made in food intake, which is already estimated to be well below minimum requirements.

Though grain production in 1996 was slightly higher than 1995, the amount available for consumption this year is substantially less. Total grain production in 1996 was estimated by a joint FAO/WFP mission last year at some 4.3 million tons of cereals (including milled rice). A substantial proportion (some 50 percent) of the maize harvest was, however, consumed as fresh cobs, prematurely due to the severity of food shortages, whilst losses from the 1996 floods reduced output by a further 300 000 tons. This, therefore, left a balance of around 2.84 million tons of milled rice and maize available for 1996/97 (November/October). Against this the country needs about 5.4 million tons for total grain utilization, including that for food and other uses. This, therefore, leaves an overall import requirement of over 2.36 million tons. Even assuming the country could import 500 000 tons of this through barter trade and as concessional imports, as it did during 1995/96, it would still be left with a substantial deficit of 1.83 million tons.

In view of the severity of the food situation, a second emergency appeal for food assistance to Korea, DPR, worth some 41.6 million dollars was jointly approved by FAO and WFP on 12 February 1997. So far donor pledges cover approximately 43 percent of this appeal. In addition almost the entire amount of the UN Inter-agency appeal of June 1996, of approximately 70 000 tons has now been covered. Notwithstanding emergency food assistance, the country is still left with a substantial food deficit this year that needs to be covered by programme food assistance through bilateral channels. Following the 1995 floods, such assistance amounted to some 400 000 tons. FAO has also made an appeal for emergency seed, fertilizers and pesticides amounting to 2.86 million dollars to enable the country to introduce a double crop of wheat/barley on 10 000 flood affected hectares to supplement traditional cereals. This amounted to 1 500 tons of seed, 3 140 tons of fertilizer and US $575 000 for the purchase of pesticide. The Government had originally made an appeal for seed and inputs for 100 000 hectares in both flood and non-flood affected areas. As a result of the appeals, so far the following pledges have been received; 5 490 tons of barley seed, which will enable planting on 36 600 hectares, 2 020 tons of fertilizers and $107 000 for the purchase of pesticide. In addition a further pledge of 3 000 tons of barley seed was received at the end of February, though this amount may not be available for sowing this year as the deadline for planting has passed.

LAOS* (3 March)

March is a critical month for moisture stress for the second season rice crop to be harvested in April/May.

In 1996, low and irregular rainfall in June/July delayed transplanting of paddy affecting crop growth, whilst typhoons caused widespread flooding in major rice producing areas in the lowlands of Central and Southern Region. Six provinces were significantly affected, accounting for nearly 94 percent of losses in rice. Amongst these, the provinces of Khammouane, Savannakhet and Champasack were the most affected and now face large shortages. These are important agricultural provinces, with Khammouane being self-sufficient and Savannakhet and Champasack surplus-producing in normal years, without floods

An FAO/WFP Assessment Mission last year, estimated that as a result of losses on some 76 000 hectares of paddy, the output of milled rice in 1996/97 will amount to only 836 000 tons. Moreover, as the country has no carryover stocks only this amount of grain will be available for utilization in the 1996/97 marketing year. Against this the country requires some 864 000 tons for food alone and approximately 1.02 million tons for total utilization, leaving an overall import requirement of over 179 000 tons. Assuming that 25 000 tons would come in the form of commercial imports, similar to last year, the overall deficit amounts to 154 000 tons, with which the country needs assistance. The FAO/WFP mission, made a recommendation that 43 000 tons of this be provided as emergency assistance for 420 000 people who have been affected by floods and have no food reserves on which to rely and the remaining 111 000 tons as programme and project food aid.

Joint FAO/WFP approval is expected soon for an emergency operation to provide 30 240 tons of rice to cover the needs of 420 000 of the most vulnerable people affected by the floods for a period of six months.

LEBANON (3 March)

The production of wheat in 1996, estimated at 45 000, remained below average and was slightly lower than last year. The country heavily depends on imports (around 90 percent) to meet demand for rice, sugar and milk powder.

Imports of cereals - mainly wheat - in 1996/97 (July/June) are forecast at some 760 000 tons, an increase of about 5 000 tons compared with the previous year.

MALAYSIA (5 March)

Much-below-normal rainfall in January reduced moisture for crops across the country. Rains, however, returned to the region in February improving conditions. The aggregate output of paddy in 1996 is put at around 2.12 million tons slightly higher than the previous year and some 5 percent above normal for the preceding five years.

MONGOLIA* (5 March)

Cereal production (mainly wheat) declined for the fifth consecutive year in 1996, as a consequence of reduced rainfall and continuing problems in the sector, brought on by economic transition and market reforms. The country is classified as being Low Income Food Deficit (LIFDC). Although it is not food insecure in the normal sense, nor is it facing an emergency which may result in widespread famine, it does, like transitional economies in the CIS, have a growing population of low income groups, who are experiencing a dramatic fall in nutritional standards due to changes in their economic circumstances. As a result, like several CIS countries which are currently receiving food aid, increasing poverty in Mongolia has become a pressing problem, requiring international assistance. The unemployed, the elderly, female headed households, children, pensioners and small herders are identified as those who most bear the social cost of transition. These segments of the population have limited financial resources to purchase food from a market which is being increasingly liberalized. Even those in employment face considerable problems in meeting household demand for food as inflation remains high and increases in food prices have so far substantially outpaced wages in the public sector.

Dwindling domestic cereal supplies have resulted in further deterioration in the country’s ability to feed its people and large imports will be necessary in the 1996/97 marketing year to meet requirements, a situation further compounded by low cereal reserves, a decline in export trading and the country’s capacity to import sufficient quantities of grain commercially to meet the deficit. Moreover, a fall in world copper and cashmere prices, important revenue earners, will undoubtedly reduce further Government income and expenditure in the year ahead.

The overall cereal import requirement for 1996/97 is estimated at 235 000 tons of wheat and 3 000 tons of rice, making a total of 238 000 tons. Of this it is estimated that the Government could finance the commercial import of some 87 000 tons, similar to last year, leaving an overall deficit of 151 000 tons, with which the country needs assistance, through emergency and programme food aid. For the most vulnerable groups in society, those categorized as being absolutely poor, it is recommended that some 22 000 tons be provided in emergency food aid, leaving a balance of 129 000 tons to be met by concessional credits and programme food assistance. In order to promote imports of wheat flour and grain, the government has introduced custom tax exemption and other incentives All but a few flour mills have stopped production because of shortage of grain produced domestically.

Early this year, the state emergency commission allocated an additional 8.7m tugriks for transportation of forage to Hovsgol Province for livestock which were facing a difficult winter.

MYANMAR (5 March)

Rainfall and temperature conditions have been generally satisfactory for the summer rice crop, presently in the ground. The current official forecast for rice production in 1996/97 is put at around 17 million tons, some five percent lower than estimated production in 1995/96. The reduction is partly attributed to lower than expected yields in the monsoon crop and less than forecast area for the summer crop. Reports indicate that the monsoon crop had reduced yields due to inferior seeds, shortage and/or high price of inputs, poor weather, and some pest and disease problems. As of the end of January 1997, output of the monsoon rice crop was estimated at 14.3 million tons from 4.9 million hectares. The area under summer paddy is also expected to decline as reports suggest that the Government is reducing its active encouragement of summer paddy production. In contrast to the past two years, the Ministry of Agriculture now allows farmers to determine how much of the summer crop to plant depending on individual farm and market conditions There are also reports that the Government is planning to encourage more production of cotton, sugar, and pulses.

Rice exports in 1997 are projected at 350 000 tons due to reduced output a slow procurement rate.

NEPAL (5 March)

Harvesting of the wheat crop will commence later this month and early in April. The preliminary level of production is projected at 1 million tons, above average though similar to 1996. The aggregate output of cereals in 1996 is estimated at 6.9 million tons noticeably up on 1995 and the average for the preceding five years.

PAKISTAN (6 March)

Conditions for winter wheat to be harvested from April/May are generally satisfactory. FAO’s provisional estimate for 1997 production is 17 million tons, similar to last year. Despite an increase in area of some 2 percent over the previous year, wheat output in 1996 was marginally lower than 1995. The primary reason for a lower crop was a reduction in average yields, partly as a result of a shortage of nitrogenous and phosphatic fertilizer at the critical time of planting and crop development.

As a result of favourable weather conditions during the crop season, early start of monsoon rains in Punjab, timely water availability and normal rains in Sindh province, the output of milled rice in 1996/97 is projected to be around 4.3 million tons, some 8 percent above 1995. Area under paddy was up 3 percent to 2.23 million hectares. The Government, increased the support prices of rice paddy by 15 percent for basmati and IRRI varieties, whilst the support prices of milled rice was increased 10 percent for basmati and 15 percent for IRRI varieties.

The Government has revised its estimates for wheat imports from 1.8 million tons to 2.4 million tons for 1996/97. This is due to a reduction in the final production estimate of 16.9 million tons for the 1996/97 wheat crop, some 3 percent lower than earlier forecast.

PHILIPPINES (6 March)

In the last dekad of February, the northeast monsoon brought moderate showers (30-70 mm) to eastern parts of the country, which slowed harvesting of the second-season rice crop but increased moisture supplies for the next main season crop. Heavier showers may have caused localized flooding across south eastern Luzon.

The output of paddy in 1996/97 is projected some 11.54 million tons, 3.6 percent higher than the previous year and 15 percent above average for the preceding five years. The increase is partly attributed to attractive farm prices, which resulted in an increase in area and improved yields. Despite higher production, domestic supply lags growing demand, stimulated by an increasing population. In addition, yields per hectare have relatively stagnant for the past three years. To meet demand and counter possible price hikes during the third quarter, the country may import up to 650 000 tons of rice in 1997. Recent Government figures indicate that maize production from January to June this year is expected to rise to 1.844 million tons from 1.778 million tons in the same period last year.

SAUDI ARABIA (3 March)

Harvesting of the wheat crop will commence in May. The area planted to wheat and barley in 1996/97 is likely to decline for the fifth consecutive year. Production of wheat in 1996 was estimated at 1.2 million tons, slightly below the 1.3 million tons quota set by the government. The output of barley, estimated at 450 000 tons, fell significantly below the 1996 production target of 1 million tons, mainly due to lower profitability than wheat at current support prices.

Imports of wheat in 1996/97 (July/June) are forecast at 100 000 tons and that of barley at 4.8 million tons, 45 percent higher than the previous year.

SRI LANKA (18 March)

An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission visited Sri Lanka from 23 February to 7 March 1997, to estimate the 1996/97 Maha rice crop, forecast the 1997 Yala rice crop and evaluate the national cereal supply situation for 1997. In addition to general visits to key agricultural areas, the Mission also visited Vavuniya in the north, which has been suffering from civil strife for many years and which was recently affected by serious drought.

The rainfall during the 1996/97 Maha season was low and erratic. Although favourable rainfall was received in September 1996 encouraging pre planting preparations for the Maha crop, a significant decline in October severely affected land preparation and planting. As a result, the area cultivated during the Maha season only remained similar to 1995, which was severely affected by drought. However, subsequently, there was some improvement in rainfall compared to the previous year. The Mission estimated the total harvested area of the 1996/97 Maha crop at 477 000 hectares, 9 percent above 1995/96. Average yields were also better; 3.3 tons/ha compared to 3.1 tons/ha in 1995.

Overall rainfall has not been sufficient, however, to assure adequate water supplies in reservoirs and tanks. This will affect planting of the 1997 Yala crop even if summer monsoon rains are normal. The mission forecasts that some 257 000 hectares will be cultivated during the Yala season, some 8 percent more than 1996, but 33 percent less than the bumper crop in 1995. The projected yield for Yala paddy is also 3.3 tons/ha, similar to the Maha crop.

The Mission estimates aggregate production of the 1996/97 Maha crop at 1.602 million tons and forecasts the output of the 1997 Yala crop at 855 000 tons. Overall, paddy production available in 1997 is therefore estimated at 2.457 million tons, 22 percent more than last year, though 13 percent less than the above average crop in 1994/95.

The total availability of milled rice for 1997 is estimated at 1.682 million tons, based on a milling rate of 66 percent and a carry-over stock of 60 000 tons. Against this the country requires 2.170 million tons for total utilisation, including consumption, seed, feed and contingency stocks. This leaves an import requirement of 488 000 tons of rice for 1997, most of which is anticipated to be commercial. In addition it is assumed that the Government will import some 900 000 tons of wheat to meet demand.

Rice farmers normally retain sufficient quantities of rice at harvest, to cover domestic requirements, with any surplus being marketed. However in anticipation of a reduced Yala crop this year, less rice is expected to be sold. The flow of imports will therefore be important in determining price and delays may result in an increase as they did in 1996.

Part of the population in the north has not been able to practice normal farming during 1996/97 due to civil strife and drought conditions. In addition, these segments of the population, mainly located in Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullativu, Mannar and Vavuniya, do not receive Government assistance. The Mission estimates that some 44 500 families or 222 500 people fall into this category which have been severely affected by a loss of production in two consecutive years. As a result, they require food assistance for 12 months. Another 4 200 families or 21 000 people who lost the 1996 Maha crop will also need food aid for at least 6 months. To meet these needs, it is estimated that some 22 400 tons of rice and 11 200 tons of wheat will be required in food assistance.

SYRIA (3 March)

Production of cereals in 1996 is estimated at 5.9 million tons, some 3 percent lower than the previous year.

The country exported wheat in the last quarter of 1995, the first time in over twenty years. These exports were however, stopped for over six months in early 1996, to prevent an increase in prices which would result from a drastic decline in stock. Some exports of wheat have been contracted for 1996/97. Barley exports, in the current marketing year, are estimated at about 600 000 tons.

As the bulk of the wheat produced is durum wheat, imports of some 100 000 tons of wheat flour will be needed in 1996/97. Imports of rice in 1996/97 (July/June) are forecast at 166 000 tons, some 3 percent higher than last year.

THAILAND (3 March)

Favourable conditions are reported for the late harvest of main season rice and for early development of second season rice.

The official estimate for rice production in 1996/97 is currently put at 21.27 million tons. Estimates of the first season rice crop were revised up slightly to 17.75 million tons from 17.6 tons forecast earlier. The second season rice crop is put at 3.52 million tons. At this level aggregate 1996/97 rice production would be similar to 1995/96, though some 5 percent above average for the preceding five years. Production has remained favourable despite heavy rains and floods last October which affected pollination during the flowering stage, causing some reduction in yields. However, reports suggest that the output of maize was not affected by the floods last year. The projection of maize output is currently put at 4.39 million tons from 4.38 million tons earlier. At this level output would be some 5 percent above the previous year and some 16 percent above average for the preceding five years. The increase is attributed to greater adoption of new hybrid varieties which are popular due to high yields and resistance to floods and disease and attractive prices which has stimulated greater use of fertilizers and an increase in area planted.

Rice exports in 1996 are put at 5.29 million tons against the target of 5 million tons. Despite an anticipated increase in world rice production and stronger competition from other exporting countries, exports of Thai rice in 1997 are forecast to remain steady. The rice export target for 1997 has been revised up to 5.35 million tons from 5.0 million tons earlier.

In late January this year, the European Commission approved a package of humanitarian aid worth ECU 2 million for ethnic minorities from Myanmar living in Thailand or recently returned to Myanmar after being refugees. The aid will enable non-governmental organisations to assist over 90 000 people over the next six months with food and medical aid.

TURKEY (3 March)

Wheat production in 1996 is estimated at 18.5 million tons, about 3 percent more than 1995’s below-average level of 18 million tons. Production of barley, estimated at 8 million tons, was 0.5 million tons higher than 1995. Maize output however, is estimated at 1.75 million tons, some 8 percent lower than 1995.

The government is planning to reduce the tax on wheat imports by 15 percent to stem a rise in bread prices which have gone up by about 30 percent in late October and early November. The Turkish Grain Board (TMO), the state agency that buys grain from farmers, will, therefore, be authorised to sell wheat to local millers from its stock of about 700 000 tons of milling wheat to curb rising bread prices.

Exports of wheat and wheat flour in 1996/97 (July/June) are forecast to increase by 100 000 tons to 1 million tons. Imports of quality bread milling and durum wheat are expected to decline to 0.7 million tons from the previous year’s level of 1.2 million tons.

VIET NAM (3 March)

Drier weather favours the maturing rice crop, especially after wet conditions earlier. The area target for spring rice is 2.5 million hectares. At the end of January some 66 percent of the target had been met, compared to almost one hundred percent in the same period in 1996.

Rice production in 1996 was significantly affected by typhoons and floods, during which an estimated thousand people died in a series of natural disasters. Aggregate paddy production in 1996 is estimated at 27 million tons, some 7 percent up on 1995 and 12 percent higher than average for the preceding five years.

The country exported some 3 million tons of rice in 1996, a notable increase over the previous year. The Government target for 1997 is also 3 million tons. Of this amount, it is anticipated that 2.5 million tons will be exported in the period January to end September and 0.5 million tons in the remaining three months.

The country is to receive assistance worth 20 million US dollars for a project to reduce post-harvest losses and increase rice quality. The Government will also grant 3.5 million dollars to the project to be undertaken in five years in the three major rice-growing provinces of Thai Binh in the north and Can Tho and Soc Trang in the south.

YEMEN (3 March)

Rainfall in November was generally normal, except in Hodeidah where rains were heavy. Harvesting of winter crops will begin soon. Cereal production in 1996/97 is forecast at about the same level as the previous year.

Low to moderate numbers of adult Desert Locusts and perhaps a few groups and small swarms are expected to appear on the Red Sea Coastal plains from the interior. This should continue to mature and lay in areas of recent rains.

Imports of cereals in 1996 - mainly wheat - are estimated at about 2 million tons, an increase of some 2 percent compared with 1995.