Land is being prepared for planting of the 1997/98 main cereal crops starting from late March. Provisional forecasts indicate that the area planted to maize should increase from the low levels of the last two years, mostly in response to attractive international prices and the expanding demand from the animal feed industry. However area planted is still expected to remain below average. Production has declined over the years principally as a result of low profitability and strong competition from imports. Paddy area is expected to be similar to last year’s slightly above-average level, due to attractive international prices and government efforts to stimulate production.
Due to strong demand for feed, maize imports, mostly yellow, in marketing year 1997/98 (July/June) are provisionally forecast at 290 000 tons, compared to some 280 000 tons in 1996/97. Rice imports in 1997 (January/December) are expected to be between 50 000 and 60 000 tons.
CUBA (18 March)
Planting of the 1997 spring paddy crop, the main cereal, has started under normal conditions. Irrigation supplies are adequate and production is expected to recover from last year when about 19 000 hectares were affected by hurricane weather. The area planted will nevertheless be below average for the past five years due to continuing shortages of farm inputs. Harvesting of potato is underway and output is anticipated to be satisfactory. Land preparation is also underway for first maize planting from May.
Harvesting of the 1996/97 sugar cane crop, a major foreign exchange earner, continues despite delays by the late arrival of fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and essential spare parts. A modest increase in production over last year’s 4.45 million tons is expected. Output increases are so far reported in the eastern provinces of Granma, Santiago de Cuba and Holguin.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC (5 March)
Normal and well-distributed rains in the past months favoured land preparation for rainfed crops and replenished irrigation reservoirs for planting of the 1997 first season cereal crops. Prospects are good and maize area should be slightly above average, although below last year’s record. The area planted to sorghum should be about average. The outlook is also satisfactory for the paddy crop, the main cereal, despite high input and financing costs. Area planted is expected to increase significantly in response to high prices, import restrictions, and overall improvement in the economy.
Wheat imports in marketing year 1997 (January-December) are provisionally forecast at about 270 000 tons, similar to 1996, while maize imports are expected to be between 480 000 tons and 500 000 tons. Imports of rice should be around 50 000 tons.
EL SALVADOR (4 March)
Weather conditions in recent months have benefited land preparation for planting of the 1997/98 main season coarse grain and paddy crops which is due to start from April. Prospects are satisfactory and maize area, the main cereal, is expected to increase over last year’s above-average level. The area under sorghum and beans is expected to be about average. Paddy area is likely to increase slightly, as a result of attractive prices, though remain below average.
Wheat imports in marketing year 1997/98 (July/June) are provisionally forecast at about 200 000 tons, similar to the previous year. In contrast, maize imports, are expected to increase from 130 000 tons to 150 000 tons, reflecting an anticipated increase in demand from the poultry feed industry.
GUATEMALA (4 March)
Planting of the 1997/98 main season cereal and bean crops is about to start under normal weather conditions. The area planted to maize, the main cereal, is expected however to decline from last year’s well above-average level. This is principally the consequence of feed millers’ reduction in price support and other forms of collaboration with local producers. In contrast, sorghum area, is likely to increase somewhat but remain below average. The paddy crop is expected to remain about average.
Yellow maize imports in 1997/98 marketing year (July/June)are provisionally estimated at 150 000 tons, similar to the previous year receipts. Rice imports in 1997 (January- December) are provisionally forecast at about 35 000 tons, close to the 1996 level.
HAITI* (24 March)
Planting of the 1997 first season irrigated and rainfed paddy crops has started under favourable weather conditions. Prospects for the country as whole have improved mostly as a result of recent government efforts to rehabilitate irrigation systems in main growing areas of the central Artibonite Department and the south-eastern Cayes plains, coupled with a programme for the distribution of low price fertilizers to farmers. The outlook is equally good for the maize crop currently being planted. Area is expected to increase due to an anticipated diversion of land for sugar cane to maize.
The crop and food situation is critical, however, in the North-West Department. A severe dry spell is reported for the last 6 months, aggravated by the precarious conditions of the impoverished irrigation systems. A joint FAO/WFP crop and food supply assessment mission visited the area in early March and reports that cereal, pulses and potato outputs are expected to decrease by 70 percent over last year. Mainly as a consequence of this anticipated decline in production, prices of local food and imported items have significantly increased. Eight counties, with a total of about 350 000 people, are reported to be affected. Food assistance from the international community is required and early forecasts for 1997 indicate that some 100 000 tons in cereals are needed to meet requirements.
HONDURAS (5 March)
Land is being prepared for planting of the 1997/98 first season cereal crops. Early forecasts indicate that maize (the main crop) area, should increase slightly above last year’s average, when plantings were reduced from record levels in 1995/96 because of unattractive prices and adverse weather. Intended plantings of sorghum should remain close to last year’s below-average level. The area planted to paddy should also stay close to last year’s below normal level.
Wheat imports in 1997/98 marketing year (July/June) are provisionally estimated at about 190 000 tons, slightly above 1996/97. Maize imports, mostly yellow, are put at 120 000 tons, compared to 110 000 tons last year.
MEXICO (4 March)
Harvesting of the 1997 spring wheat crop is about to begin in large producing irrigated areas of the North West. Favourable weather at planting and adequate water supplies in the main growing states of Sonora and Sinaloa have helped improve production forecasts over earlier estimates. Production should recover after having declined for two consecutive years, mainly as a consequence of long dry spells. Wheat output is expected to be about 3.8 million tons, compared to 3.6 million tons last year and slightly below the average of the last 5 years. This is principally the result of farmers’ decisions to enlarge plantings because of anticipated increases in minimum support prices by the government, coupled with the removal of government’s price control on the sales of traditional white bread. Further, plantings expanded despite high production costs, which are reported to have increased by 40 percent with respect to last year. Wheat imports in 1997/98 (July/June) are provisionally forecast at about 1.7 million tons, similar to last year.
Land is being prepared for planting of the 1997 maize crop starting from April.
NICARAGUA (5 March)
Weather conditions in recent weeks have favoured the development of the end-of-season “apante” maize and bean crops. Aggregate 1996/97 coarse grain outputs increased substantially from last year’s record, despite damage caused to the first and second season crops by adverse weather at planting and throughout the growing season. Production of paddy also remained close to last year’s record.
Meanwhile, land is being prepared for planting of the 1997/98 main season cereal and bean crops to be started from May.