SOUTH AMERICA

ARGENTINA (5 March)

Light to moderate rains in February favoured the development of the 1997 maize crop. Soil moisture is reported to be adequate in main growing areas. The crop was affected by excess humidity in December/January, particularly in west Buenos Aires Province, south Santa Fe and southwest Cordoba, with a resulting breeding ground for fungus which could stunt growth. Harvesting has recently started and early production forecasts indicate that despite the infection, a bumper crops of approximately 14.6 million tons is anticipated. By early March about 15 percent of the area planted had been harvested. By contrast, the barley crop was negatively affected by excessive rains. Production is expected to be lower than anticipated earlier, but nevertheless remain about average. Prospects are good for the paddy crop. Harvesting has just started in some provinces and early production forecasts point out to a bumper crop.

Harvesting at the 1996/97 wheat crop was completed in February and output has been officially estimated at a record 15.2 million tons, of which one million tons, mainly in the south of Buenos Aires Province, is considered of poor quality as a result of the heavy rains in December.

BOLIVIA (24 March)

Torrential rains and flooding at the end of February have seriously affected the 1997 main cereal crops currently being harvested. Severe damage to housing and infrastructure, as well as to the agricultural sector and livestock is reported in various provinces, particularly in Beni and the main producing eastern department of Santa Cruz. The Government has made an appeal for international assistance. The outlook is uncertain for cereal and other food and cash crops, as provisional loss assessments point out to considerable damage to maize and paddy crops in particular. Near record outputs respectively had been anticipated. Prospects are equally uncertain for potatoes of which a near record output was also expected.

BRAZIL (18 March)

Abundant rains in February have improved soil moisture for sowing of the 1997 wheat crop which has started in some areas in main producing states. Area planted is forecast to be above average and higher than last year though will depend on the availability of seed and minimum support price.

Meanwhile, harvesting of the 1996/97 maize crop has started under normal conditions. Earlier the crop was affected by a dry spell from mid-December to mid-January, particularly in the large producing state of Rio Grande do Sul, but beneficial rains subsequently helped reduce the impact of the dry spell. Latest forecasts put production at between 33 and 34 million tons; well above average of the last 5 years.

Harvesting of the paddy crop is also underway. Early forecasts indicate that production will be a below average 6.4 million tons compared to last year’s 6.7 million tons. This is due to reduced plantings and lower yields due to credit restrictions to the rice producing sector.

CHILE (4 March)

Harvesting of the 1996/97 wheat crop has been completed and a below-average output of less than 1.3 million tons has been gathered. This is the result of a dry spell over several months which affected northern parts and the central valleys of the country. The maize crop, currently being harvested, has also been affected by the lack of water and a below- average output is anticipated in the affected areas. However, overall production should be about average, as normal to above-normal outputs are being collected in other parts of the country. Normal to above-normal fruit and cash export crops are also being gathered elsewhere in the country.

Wheat imports in 1997/98 marketing year (February/January) are provisionally forecast to increase from last year’s 750 000 tons to about 850 000 tons. Maize imports are expected to be close to last year’s receipts of 600 000 tons.

COLOMBIA (4 March)

Sowing of the 1997 main cereal crops has started under normal conditions. Intended plantings of wheat should be close to last year’s average. Prospects have improved for the maize crop as the area planted should increase from last year, although it would remain below average for the third consecutive year. This is principally the result of low cost imports and the alternative uses of farm land, such as livestock production and urban development. Paddy plantings are expected to increase and be about average. However, about 60 000 tons of rice will be required to cover the deficit in production.

ECUADOR (5 March)

Planting of the 1997 wheat and paddy crops is about to be completed while sowing of the coarse grain crops is still underway. In the coastal areas, below normal rains in recent weeks have slightly delayed sowing of the yellow maize and paddy crops. In the highlands, where most of the wheat is grown, the rains have been irregular and poorly distributed delaying planting of the wheat and yellow maize crops. In eastern parts of the country, abundant rains have benefited planting of the paddy crop. Overall, the area planted to wheat is provisionally estimated to be slightly below- average. Intended plantings of maize should be similar to last year’s record, while near record paddy plantings are also anticipated.

PERU (18 March)

Normal rains resumed in northern mountain areas since late February, following a dry spell which had delayed planting of the 1997 main cereal and potato crops to be harvested from May. Normal rains have also resumed in coastal areas where restrictions in the use of irrigation water had been implemented, affecting paddy and other food and cash crops. by contrast, extremely heavy rains, flooding and mud slides in southern parts, particularly in the district of Tamburgo, Department of Apurimac, have caused heavy loss of life and sever damage to housing. An assessment of damage to the agricultural sector has not yet been made. In eastern parts of the country, heavy rains have caused some river flooding affecting developing crops, particularly paddy, beans, roots and plantains.

Official estimates of the 1996 crops indicate that record wheat and maize crops were gathered. The output of paddy and potatoes was also well above average.

URUGUAY (6 March)

Weather conditions favoured harvesting of the 1997 coarse grain and paddy crops which are expected to be completed by late April and May respectively. The output of maize is provisionally forecast to decline from last year’s well above- average 300 000 tons to about 240 000 tons. Production however would still be above average. A bumper paddy crop of about one million tons is anticipated, reflecting the growing demand for exports, particularly to neighbouring countries.

VENEZUELA (6 March)

Normal rains since January have benefited land preparation for planting of the 1997 coarse grain and paddy crops, as well as that of other food crops such as potatoes, garden vegetables and plantains. The outlook is uncertain for the coarse grain and paddy crops, principally as a result of new government measures that would eliminate the practice of establishing farmgate prices, particularly for maize, sorghum and paddy. The area planted to maize is nevertheless expected to remain close to last year’s above-average level, mainly in response to a steady domestic demand. Intended plantings of paddy are also expected to remain close to last year’s record in view of anticipated expanding exports.