EUROPE

COMMONWEALTH OF INDEPENDENT STATES

ARMENIA* (3 March)

The early outlook for the 1997 cereal harvest remains satisfactory. The area sown to winter grains (mainly wheat and barley) for harvest in the summer of 1997 has increased by 16 percent to 105 000 hectares in response to better price incentives for farmers following liberalization of the cereal trade. Crop damage by winterkill is expected to be less than last year. Provided weather conditions remain favourable until harvest, 1997 output could exceed the 340 000 tons gathered in 1996.

For 1996/97 the cereal import requirement is now estimated to fall to about 310 000 tons. Over half of this amount is expected to be imported by traders on commercial basis. The balance is expected from a combination of food aid pledges and concessional credits. The counterpart funds from the sale of wheat, at market prices, received under concessional terms, will be used for a revolving fund to finance future commercial imports of wheat by the government. However, registered needy persons, notably in Yerevan and the earthquake zone, have received coupons entitling them to 250 grams of bread per person per day. In addition, WFP is targeting 250 000 refugees and other vulnerable persons with supplementary rations of basic food commodities as part of the on-going relief aid, Food-For-Work and soup kitchen programme. With a total 1997 requirement of 23 000 tons and carry-over pledges of 9 000 tons, the uncovered balance stands at 14 000 tons, valued at approximately US$ 8.5 million. As the relief food pipeline is only secured until mid-May, donors are urgently requested to come forward with additional support.

AZERBAIJAN (4 March)

The 1996 grain harvest is officially put at 1.02 million tons, some 100 000 tons above 1995. Output of wheat increased from 625 000 tons to 767 000 tons in 1996. Actual production is thought to be somewhat higher than estimates, as farmers divert production on state farms for private use.

The early outlook indicates a further increase in wheat production in 1997. The area sown to wheat for harvest in 1997 has expanded in response to planned liberalization of bread prices and the privatization of the wheat and bread distribution chain. With more resources being put into wheat production, output could improve, in spite of shortages of agricultural credit, spare parts and inputs.

Official data indicate that offtake of flour from official distribution channels has fallen by half. This is attributed to price increases, de facto privatization in distribution as well as a reduction in waste and feed use of bread. Bread prices are to be completely liberalized in April 1997 whilst the grain and bread distribution chain is to be privatized in two stages this year. Following increased production and reflecting foreign exchange constraints, the 1996/97 cereal import requirement is estimated to fall to about 500 000 tons, mostly wheat. The bulk of this will have to be mobilized commercially. However, up to half of the intervention reserve of 100 000 tons to avoid disruption of supplies during the privatization of the State Bread Corporation may be provided as food aid.

At present, WFP assists 130 000 persons, mainly people displaced from Nagorno Karabakh, with supplementary food rations. The relief food pipeline is secured until late summer 1997 but, given a total requirement of 14 400 tons, WFP would need an additional 6 800 tons, valued approximately at US$ 4.1 million, to continue food distributions throughout 1997.

BELARUS (5 March)

The 1996 grain harvest is officially put at 5.8 millions tons, cleaned weight, some 300 000 tons above 1995. The production target for 1997 is 6.2 million tons. Soft credits for fuel and other inputs are again being made available. The early prospects for winter grains (mainly wheat and rye) for harvest this summer, are favourable. The aggregate area sown to winter grains is similar to the 1.15 million hectares last year. However, winterkill could be less. Area of winter wheat has increased further. Winter grains are still dormant but snow cover has generally been adequate to protect grains from spells of extreme cold. The overall condition is reported to be good. The 1996/97 import requirement for cereals is expected to decline to about 300 000 tons from 700 000 tons in 1995/96 both from within the CIS (notably the Russian Federation and The Ukraine) and some for outside the CIS.

GEORGIA* (5 March)

The early outlook for the 1997 grain harvest remains satisfactory. Heavy rain and snowfalls this winter helped replenish moisture reserves after dry conditions last year. The areas sown to winter grains (mainly wheat and barley) for harvest in 1997 have increased by about 50 000 hectares despite persistent shortages of seed. Improved availability of agricultural credit for inputs could also have a beneficial effect on yields.

Last year DRs favourable harvest of 635 000 tons coupled with increased utilization of maize-meal for human consumption, could result in a sharp fall in the 1996/97 cereal import requirement to around 300 000 tons. Against this requirement, food aid allocations, including those carried forward from last year, amount to 65 000 tons. The balance is expected to be imported commercially by the private sector, which has expanded rapidly following privatization of the wheat/bread production and distribution system. However, food aid will still be required to meet the needs of the most vulnerable groups, whose number declined with the upturn in the economy. WFP's target group for relief assistance has been reduced from 300 000 to 190 000 beneficiaries. An assessment mission will be fielded in April 1997 to examine the possibility of also using resources in food-for-work and income-generating projects. WFP's food pipeline is secured until summer, but an additional 6 800 tons (approximately US$ 4.9 million) ,will be needed to permit a continuation of food distributions throughout 1997.

KAZAKHSTAN (5 March)

The bulk of cereals will not be planted until the spring. Winter grain area represents less than one percent of the area sown and has declined sharply in recent years. Grain production is extensive and weather remains the major determinant of output. However, rapid progress in privatizing grain production and distribution has increased the scope for farmers to market grain and could result in some increased use of yield enhancing inputs and better yields by the best farms this year.

The 1996 grain harvest is officially reported to be 11.6 million tons but is unofficially estimated to be up to 3 million tons higher, as farmers seek to maximise earnings. Grain quality is generally good. In 1996/97 the country could export up to 4 million tons of cereals, mainly to the Russian Federation, other neighbouring CIS, as well as to the Ukraine and Moldova.

KYRGYZ REPUBLIC (18 March)

The effects of privatization and liberalisation in the economy are having a positive effect in agriculture, where output of most basic foodcrops increased sharply in 1996. The output of grain in 1996 is officially estimated to have increased by more than 40 percent to 1.424 million tons, mainly in response to a sharp increase in the area and yield of wheat. Current indications are that the area sown to winter grains (mainly wheat but also a steadily declining proportion of barley) has expanded further after increasing very sharply last year.

The country is self sufficient in cereals this year, for the first time since independence. It has a small exportable surplus of wheat which it could use to barter for gas with Turkmenistan. However, vulnerable groups will continue to need targeted assistance.

MOLDOVA (5 March)

Early prospects for the 1997 harvest remain uncertain. Farm indebtedness limits resources which can be allocated to inputs. In addition winter grain planting was delayed. Despite the drought reduced harvest of 1996, the area sown to winter wheat is estimated to have declined. Early prospects are mostly satisfactory but output will depend crucially on weather conditions this spring.

Although the country was a small net exporter of cereals in 1995/96, it may need to import up to 170 tons of cereals in 1996/97, including 100 000 tons of wheat as well as some barley for animal feed.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION (6 March)

The early outlook for the 1997 grain harvest is mixed. Growing conditions for winter crops have been generally favourable and about 90 percent of the crop is in good to satisfactory condition. Despite the mild winter, average to above average snow cover (in the North Caucasus, Siberia and the southern Urals) has provided good soil moisture reserves for spring growth and helped to protect crops from winterkill. Crop damage by winterkill is about average, and has occurred mainly in some southern parts of the Urals and Volga-Vyatsk regions and in parts of the north Povolski region during an extremely cold spell in December/January. However, the area sown to winter grains , for harvest in the summer has fallen by 1.2 million hectares to 13 million hectares pointing to a harvested area of around 12 million hectares, compared to 13.9 million hectares in 1996. Moreover fertilizer application has remained low. The area target for spring crops is 66 million hectares including nearly 40 million hectares of spring grains, marginally lower than last year, However, shortages of operational machinery, quality seed and farm liquidity could adversely affect plantings and crop yields. Current indications are that aggregate grain area could continue to decline. However, weather conditions until the completion of the harvest will remain the major determinant of final outcome. The grain production target has been set at a cautious 70 million tons, similar to the official estimate of output in 1996.

Demand for cereals has fallen sharply in recent years, due to a sharp reduction in animal numbers, increased use of grass fodder and substitution of feedgrain imports by imports of meat. In 1996/97, cereal imports could decline to just below 4 million tons, including 2.7 million tons of wheat. The bulk of these imports are likely to be sourced from Kazakhstan and Ukraine, leaving an estimated 0.6 million tons of wheat to be imported from outside the CIS. Imports of coarse grains are forecast to decline by 400 000 tons, to 900 000 tons, including barley, rye and maize. The latter mostly from outside the CIS. Imports of rice, including CIS intra-trade, which reached 178 000 tons in the first six months, could remain close to last year DRs level of 260 000 tons in 1995/96. Exports of cereals in 1996/97 are tentatively forecast at around 1 million tons, mainly wheat and flour.

WFP continues to provide supplementary food assistance to some 90 000 displaced persons in areas surrounding Chechnya. Security permitting, WFP will re-assess food aid needs in the affected area (including Chechnya) to review its impending phase-out date of 31 March. If necessary, carry-over pledges would be sufficient to continue the operation for a few months.

TAJIKISTAN* (6 March)

Shortages have encouraged farmers to divert land from cotton to winter cereals the area of which is even larger than last year. Current expectations are for a further increase in wheat production in 1997, given favourable weather conditions. Nevertheless, in the absence of significant progress in land privatization and additional investment in or availability of inputs, the country is likely to remain dependent on imports and food aid to meet its minimum consumption requirement. Despite the favourable harvest of 400 000 tons in 1996, cereal import requirement in 1996/97 is estimated at about 370 000 tons. Food aid allocations and official imports have amounted to less than one third of this amount. Although imports of flour by the private sector have increased, indications are that actual imports will remain well short of estimated needs .To help cover the deficit the government has requested 180 000 tons of food aid in wheat to meet the needs until the new harvest - as well as assistance in the form of machinery, agro-chemicals and seed to increase domestic food production.

Shortages of basic foodstuffs, notably wheat and potatoes, coupled with widespread unemployment and poverty following five years of intermittent hostilities and economic decline, have contributed to the marked deterioration in the nutritional situation. This has been documented by a nutrition survey undertaken by German Agro-Action during the 1996 harvest period. The findings of this survey indicate that some ten percent of children under-5 years show signs of acute under-nutrition and over 40 percent of children show signs of stunted growth. In addition, 10 percent of women of reproductive age and 7 percent of men are not getting enough to eat. The acute undernutrition indicates the severity of food shortages in the country, especially as the survey was undertaken at the end of summer, during harvest and therefore the most favourable time for food availability. Even so, one respondent household in three reported one day with insufficient or no food during the week prior to the survey interview in September 1996 and some families were found to be substituting wheat flour with chick pea flour or poultry feed, obtained from the state farm. Moreover, the fact that this high level of acute undernutrition was found to occur irrespective of the location, agricultural potential or relative economic strength of the region, highlights the pervasiveness of the food shortage. Thus the signs of acute malnutrition were equally evident in children in northern parts of the country (Leninabad) which was not affected by civil strife and worst of the economic decline as in the areas directly affected by civil strife and intermittent conflicts. By contrast, stunting - an indicator for longer term food deficiency - was found to be more prevalent in mountainous than plain regions, due also to the harsher environment and greater health risks.

At the household level, almost 20 percent of households were found to have had no income, while nearly two thirds reported only irregular income in the two months prior to the survey. Virtually all (94 percent) had tried to cope by planting foodcrops wherever possible and keeping at least one animal .However, families tend to be large (7-8 members) and the land available for private exploitation is limited (less than 0.01 hectare per family for over 60 percent of the respondents). As a result, beans, lentils, vegetables, fruit, nuts, fruit tea, as well as eggs, milk and milk products tend to be mainly produced at home, but meat and major staples - wheat flour and potatoes- have to be purchased mostly at market where shortages have become progressively more pronounced and led to food riots in late 1996.

Some 620 000 particularly vulnerable people continue to need targeted humanitarian assistance. These include populations displaced as a result of civil strife, elderly pensioners, war-widows with children, large single-parent families, orphans and the disabled/invalids. Some relief and assistance programmes have had to be interrupted or scaled back because of the precarious security situation. However, international agencies plan to resume activities shortly. For 1997, WFP estimates the relief food requirement for its operations at over 33 500 tons, valued at US$ 20 million. The contributions for 1997, including carry-over stocks, currently stand at around 23 000 tons. While this allows WFP's needs to be covered beyond mid-1997, it leaves a remaining balance of 10 500 tons, valued at 60 million.

TURKMENISTAN (7 March)

The outlook is for another poor grain harvest in 1997. The reduction in the target area for cereals, from 600 000 hectares to 400 000 hectares, is likely to benefit average yields as scarce resources are applied to smaller areas. However, even in 1996 less than 500 000 hectares were actually sown. In addition, the availability of inputs, in particular, fertilizers and pesticides, has not improved. Moreover, recent reforms in the agricultural sector and higher purchase prices for wheat were announced only in December 1996, too late to significantly influence winter wheat plantings. Moreover, in view of severe financial problems on farm, stimulation of private agricultural production will depend crucially on additional working capital or inputs being made available to farmers.

Direct human consumption of wheat is expected to decline following the doubling of bread prices in December 1996. For 1996/97 the domestic cereal requirement is estimated at 1.0 million tons and includes 600 000 tons for human consumption, and 400 000 tons for feed and other uses. Feed use of grains has contracted sharply and animal numbers are reported to be falling rapidly. The cereal import requirement is now estimated at 510 000 tons and includes 500 000 tons of wheat. Following the partial failure of the wheat and cotton harvest- the latter also reduced by infestations of white fly- the country has requested assistance in the form of concessional credits or food aid in wheat.

THE UKRAINE (7 March)

The early outlook for the 1997 grain harvest is satisfactory but shortages of fuel, operational machinery, inputs as well as inadequate incentives and the insolvency of about half of the state farms are all likely to keep yields well below potential. Nevertheless, the area sown to winter crops on reorganized state farms increased by about 0.3 million hectares to 8.3 million hectares. Area sown to winter grains increased by 0.4 million hectares primarily due to further increases in area of winter wheat to 6.5 million hectares. Overall growing conditions for winter grains have been satisfactory. Early indications are that only about 500 000 hectares will need to be reseeded as a result of crop damage by winterkill. This is below average and less than last year. Soil moisture conditions for spring grain planting is reported to be good and the area ploughed in the autumn increased sharply to 11 million hectares.

Despite the disappointing harvest in 1996, officially estimated at 26 million tons, the official export target is 3 million tons of cereals in 1997. In view of the export tariffs imposed on Ukrainian flour by the Russian Federation, this target may not be achieved.

UZBEKISTAN (7 March)

The early outlook for the 1997 grain harvest is satisfactory. Early indications are that after several years of very rapid expansion, the area sown to grain crops will remain fairly stable at 1.2 million hectares irrigated and 500 000 hectares non-irrigated in 1996/97. This would be in keeping with the declared policy of maintaining the cotton area at existing levels and increasing wheat production by improving average yields. Good snowfall this winter helped replenish soil moisture reserves for spring growth. Grain production has increased steadily in recent years. The final outcome will depend on the improved availability of inputs, and better incentives for farmers to maximize production. Grain and cotton remain subject to compulsory state orders.

The 1996 cereal and pulse harvest is officially estimated at 3.5 million tons, bunker weight, some 300 000 tons more than 1995. The cereal import requirement in 1996/97 is estimated to fall to about 1.4 million tons, from 1.7 million tons in the previous year and is likely to be imported from abroad and from Kazakstan.

EC (14 March)

Prospects for the 1997 cereal crops remain satisfactory. Winter damage to crops already in the ground is reported to be minimal and good spring weather is favouring winter crop development and spring planting operations. Tentative estimates indicate that the aggregate area sown to winter grains in the EC has increased by some 2.5-3 percent, somewhat less than earlier expected after set-aside restrictions were halved to 5 percent for the 1997 crop year. This is most likely due to lower plantings in southern parts of the Community where wet weather interrupted winter sowing. Early estimates in the major (more northern) producers of France, Germany and the United Kingdom indicate increases in winter wheat plantings of about 5 percent, 4 percent and 6 percent respectively. With regard to spring plantings, larger maize plantings are expected in the southern areas, especially where wet weather interrupted winter grain planting, but It is still too early to estimate the final outcome of spring planting. However, even if aggregate cereal area in the Community increases in 1997, output could slip back somewhat due to a return to normal yields after last year's record levels.

ALBANIA (26 March)

Outbreaks of civil unrest in Albania since early March are aggravating the already difficult food supply situation. As a result of poor cereal production in 1996, the country continues to rely largely on wheat imports in the current 1996/97 marketing year to meet its needs for its staple bread production, especially in urban areas. However, recent insecurity problems are threatening the continuity of wheat and other food supplies. State warehouses have been pillaged, imports interrupted due to border closures, and transportation within the country hampered by insecurity. Formal and informal flows of other foodstuffs such as vegetables, fruit and dairy and livestock products, from rural to urban areas have also been disrupted by insecurity. As a result, food prices in urban centres are reported to have risen sharply. The Government has imported wheat already in the current year although the exact quantity is not known. Although small private sector imports have been ongoing for some time, it was reported that these picked up pace in December 1996, when more significant quantities were landing at the port of Durres (approx. 16 000 tons over 1 month). However, with the total wheat import gap in 1996/97 estimated to be in the region of 700 000 tons, significant imports of wheat are still required to ensure continuity of bread supplies to the bulk of the population until the 1997 domestic crop becomes available. The already constrained Government's ability to buy wheat on a commercial basis has now been aggravated by insecurity.

Prospects for the agricultural production in 1997 remain very uncertain. As mentioned above, cereal crop production was well below potential in 1996 and is likely to remain low in 1997. Introduction of a series of land reforms in 1991, to transfer previously collectivized land to private ownership, resulted in a sharp fall in agricultural production. Although some recovery has been witnessed in the agricultural sector since that time, production remains constrained by the still mostly fragmented land ownership structure and small farmers’ poor access to credit (despite internationally supported Government schemes to provide credit for farmers). Wheat production in particular has been affected by the shift from large scale collectivized farming to small scale subsistence production of mainly cash crops and fodder. Although no clear indications on winter cereal plantings for the 1997 harvest are available, because of better price prospects due to tight supplies and liberalization of markets, farmers’ incentive to plant wheat last autumn is reported to have been increased. Weather conditions were generally favourable but much will have depended on farmers’ access to finance for inputs. Uncertainty over the outcome of the 1997 cereal crop is now heightened by the recent civil unrest which could affect both yield propsects for growing winter crops and planting of spring cereals due to start soon.

BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA* (7 March)

Prospects for the 1997 winter wheat crop are favourable, reflecting beneficial weather conditions so far and an increase of some 50 percent in the area planted in northern growing areas of the Serb Republic. Yields are also expected to be higher than in 1996 when higher temperatures before harvest significantly reduced yields. By contrast, in central parts of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Federation, the area planted, which had increased to well above normal levels during the war period, declined for the second consecutive year. In Tuzla and Zenica, the main agricultural areas of the Federation, wheat plantings were 20 percent and 40 percent lower than in the previous year since these areas do not offer comparative advantages for wheat production.

Land preparation is underway for planting of spring maize from next month. The food security situation continues to improve with recovery in the economy.

BULGARIA (13 March)

An FAO-UN Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission visited the country in early March to review the 1996/97 (July/June) food supply/demand situation, and assess the prospects for the 1997 crop production.

Wheat is the major cereal produced and consumed in the country. Against the total wheat consumption requirement estimated by the Mission at 2.5 million tons for 1996/97, only 1.9 million tons are anticipated to be available from domestic resources, leaving an import gap of some 600 000 tons for the 1996/97 marketing year. Deliveries confirmed, commercial import plans and food aid deliveries/pledges amounted to some 400 000 tons as of mid-March. Thus, the uncovered wheat import gap to meet consumption requirements until supplies from the new harvest become available is some 200 000 tons. Unless a major bi-lateral donor steps forward, the Government will have to find means to import this amount commercially. As the critical period is expected to be May- June, just before the start of the 1997 harvest, new import arrangements must be concluded very quickly to ensure the continuity of wheat supplies during that period.

With regard to the 1997 crops prospects, the Mission found that very good conditions for autumn field preparation and sowing had prevailed from mid-October to mid-November 1996, which is somewhat longer than normal. As a result, despite the problem of inadequate and generally aging machinery, and limited financial resources, farmers increased the area planted to winter cereals (mostly wheat and barley) by some 20 percent from the previous year to almost 1.5 million hectares. Of the total, wheat is estimated to account for 1.2 million hectares, while 280 000 hectares have been sown to barley. However, with winter crops still under development and spring crops not yet sown it is too early to accurately estimate total cereal output in 1997. Based on the quantitative and qualitative information that is already available, the Mission tentatively projects that 1997 output could be sufficient to meet the domestic grain needs in 1997/98. However, a deterioration in prospects and the possibility of a tight cereal supply demand situation again in 1997/98 cannot yet be ruled out. Therefore the situation calls for close monitoring in the months ahead.

CROATIA (7 March)

The outlook for 1997 winter wheat is good, reflecting an increase of some 50 percent in the area planted and generally favourable conditions since the beginning of the rainy season. Providing favourable weather continues for the remainder of the season a sharp increase in production and exportable surplus are expected this year.

CZECH REPUBLIC (13 March)

The area of 1997 winter crops is tentatively estimated to be similar to last year and weather conditions are reported to have been generally favourable over the winter. Latest reports on the 1996/97 cereal supply/demand situation indicate that supplies of the 1996 crop will not be sufficient to cover domestic demand until the next crop is harvested, and increased imports of grain are expected. A shortage is expected mainly of feed grain in addition to some rye for milling and baking.

ESTONIA (10 March)

The early outlook for winter grains is satisfactory. The area sown to winter grains declined slightly to 48 000 hectares; that sown to wheat declined while the rye area remained stable. The bulk of the cereals are planted in the spring. Growing conditions to date have been mostly satisfactory but the slow pace of land privatization and extremely limited access to credit are likely to keep yields below potential.

The 1996 grain harvest is officially estimated at almost 600 000 tons, some 13 percent more than in 1995. In 1996/97 the country is likely to import about 250 000 tons of cereals, including 100 000 tons of wheat and the balance coarse grains.

FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA (7 March)

Prospects for the 1997 winter wheat crop are favourable reflecting generally satisfactory weather conditions since the beginning of the season. The output is expected to recover from the reduced levels last year.

HUNGARY (13 March)

Prospects for the 1997 winter crops remain generally satisfactory. Although autumn field operations got off to a poor start in September due to heavy rains, the final area planted to winter cereals is estimated to be similar to that in the previous year. Early indications for the summer crops point to a sharp reduction in maize planting due to a glut of maize in the country after last year's good crop.

LATVIA (10 March)

The early outlook for winter (food) grains is satisfactory so far. The area sown has likely remained near last year’s high level. However, the aggregate area sown to cereals could decline as spring feedgrain plantings could well be depressed by the expected upsurge in imports of grain and livestock products from the neighbouring countries following the coming into effect of the Baltics free trade area. Following the good 1996 cereal harvest, officially estimated at 968 000 tons, the cereal import requirement is expected to fall sharply to 130 000 tons from estimated impost of nearly 220 000 tons in 1995/96.

LITHUANIA (10 March)

The outlook for 1997 winter grains is satisfactory. The area sown has remained high in response to better incentives and increased scope to market produce following the creation of the Baltics free trade area. Growing conditions to date have been satisfactory overall.

The 1996 grain harvest is officially estimated at 2.7 million tons, nearly 40 percent more than in 1995, in response to better price incentives, a 7 percent increase in the areas sown and markedly better yields. Net cereal imports in 1996/97 are expected to be very small.

POLAND (13 March)

Prospects for the 1997 cereal crops are somewhat uncertain following a spell of cold weather in February when crops had little protection from snow cover. Reports indicate that some 20 to 40 percent of winter barley and up to 20 percent of winter wheat and rye may have sustained damage although the full extent of the damage is not yet known.

Latest official estimates indicate the 1996 cereal harvest fell by about 3 percent from the previous year’s crop, largely due to harsh winter conditions which affected the wheat and rye crops. As a result, the country is expected to continue importation of grain in the early part of 1997. Some 1.9 million tons of grain were reportedly imported in the last quarter of 1996, most of which found its way onto the market to compensate for short domestic supplies. Official reports indicate that a further 200 000 tons of grain may be imported in the first quarter of 1997 to increase state operational reserves.

ROMANIA (13 March)

Prospects for the developing winter cereal crop are satisfactory. Winter weather conditions have generally been much more favourable than last year when the rate of winterkill was well above normal and yields of surviving crops were adversely affected. Latest official indications, put winter wheat plantings for the 1997 crop at about 2.1 million which is some 20 percent up from the estimate of the reduced area harvested in 1996.

As a result of last year's reduced crop, there are indications that Romania may have to import wheat to meet demand for bread and bakery products in the first half of 1997. It is reported that in the meantime, a significant quantity of state reserves of wheat may be released to ensure flour supplies to state-run and private bakeries.

SLOVAK REPUBLIC (13 March)

Prospects for the 1997 winter cereals are satisfactory. The country expects to continue importing cereals in the first half of 1997 to meet domestic consumption needs and bolster state reserves after a reduced harvest in 1996. Earlier in the year the Government already licensed imports of about 400 000 tons of grain to cover the expected shortfall. It is reported that as of early March, 220 000 tons of cereals had already been imported in the current marketing year, and contract have already been signed for a further 180 000 tons.

SLOVENIA (7 March)

As a result of satisfactory weather conditions output of winter wheat in 1997 is expected to be average.

Land is being prepared for planting of spring maize scheduled for next month.

YUGOSLAVIA, FED. REP. OF (SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO)* (7 March)

The outlook for the 1997 winter wheat crop is promising. The area planted is preliminary estimated to be some 49 percent above the reduced level of the previous year at about 855 000 hectares. Weather conditions have been generally favourable since the beginning of the season. Output is forecast to recover form the poor level in 1996.

Plantings of the spring maize crop, to start from next month, are also expected to increase reflecting relatively lower production costs than other crops. The government has set a target of 1.4 million hectares of maize. However, farmers’ financial difficulties may mean that the target is not met.