Land is being prepared for planting of the 1998 first season maize and paddy crops. The outlook is uncertain as dry weather, combined with unusually high temperatures, associated with El Niño phenomenon, still prevail. Water rationing is being implemented in some areas.
As current conditions are forecast to continue in the weeks ahead (March and April are normally the warmest months in the country), a state of emergency was declared in September. Public works, such as construction of water tanks, reservoirs, etc. are being carried out by the Government to help cope with the impact of El Niño. Many small maize producers, mostly at subsistence level, experienced crop losses, but paddy was the most affected crop in 1997. Significant losses are reported in the large producing province of Guanacaste, but damage to crop was also incurred in the central areas along the Pacific coast and the southern province of Puntarenas. The bean output was also reduced. Pastures continue to be affected and the cattle industry is expected to suffer in the long run from these unusual conditions.
Maize imports, mostly yellow, in marketing year 1997/98 (August/July) are forecast to be close to the previous year’s receipts of 280 000 tonnes while rice imports in 1998 (January/December) are forecast at about 100 000 tonnes.
CUBA (18 February)
Storm rains and heavy winds affected most of the country throughout the early half of February, resulting in some casualties and heavy damage to housing and infrastructure. The agricultural sector was also affected, particularly in the western provinces, where damage to important sugar cane and tobacco plantations is reported. Damage is reported to minor foodcrops in some of the central provinces, as well as disruptions to the sugar cane harvest currently underway. More rains are forecast in the weeks ahead. No damage is so far reported to the 1998 rainfed (winter) paddy crop, the main cereal, presently being planted. Early forecasts put paddy production close to the 1997 average level of 270 000 tonnes, but far from meeting domestic requirements of this significant staple in the population’s diet.
Harvesting of the large foreign-exchange earner sugar cane crop started in November, rather than in January as usual, to prevent the damage of the forecasted heavy rains associated with El Niño phenomenon for the end of the year. Latest official forecasts indicate that 1997/98 production would be less than 4 million tonnes, compared to last year’s 4.25 million tonnes.
Wheat imports in the 1997/98 marketing year (July/June) are forecast to be about 900 000 tonnes close to the previous year’s receipts. Rice imports in 1998 (January/December) are expected to be between 375 000 to 400 000 tonnes to help cover a steady domestic demand of some 500 000 tonnes.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC (10 February)
Heavy rains and flooding in late December and through January have negatively affected crops, particularly in the northern and north-western areas of the country. Considerable losses are reported to paddy plantings and various food, fruit and cash crops. About 21 000 people, mostly small farmers, have been affected with damage to housing and infrastructure. More rains are forecast in the weeks ahead. The Government has made a request for international assistance and is adopting measures to avoid possible stockpiling of food items and price speculation.
Land is being prepared for planting of the 1998 maize crop to be started from March. This year, planted area is anticipated to be above last year’s below average level, when the crop was affected by drought. Planting of the 1998 paddy crop is currently underway.
Wheat imports in 1998 (January/December) are expected to be about 265 000 tonnes, compared to last year’s 250 000 tonnes. Maize imports should be about 730 000 tonnes similar to 1997 receipts. About 50 000 tonnes of rice are currently forecast to be imported in 1998.
EL SALVADOR (10 February)
Normal weather conditions have generally prevailed in the last few weeks, but were too late to reverse damage to the recently harvested 1997/98 second season maize crop, affected by drought. A below-average 500 000 tonnes have been gathered for the whole year compared with 630 000 tonnes the previous year. The bean crop, by contrast, was not seriously affected by the dry weather and an average output has been collected. Normal growing conditions are reported for the sorghum crop and some improvement in production is expected to help compensate for the losses incurred to the maize crop. Anticipated sorghum output is an average 197 000 tonnes. Despite maize production deficits, cereal prices have remained stable mainly due to the timely intervention of the Government in facilitating imports to maintain adequate stocks. Emergency food problems, as well as the need for assistance for the rehabilitation of agricultural activities, are being experienced by the affected population, of about 22 500 persons. Technical assistance and other forms of support are being provided by the Government and other public institutions, and an appeal for assistance has been made to the international community.
Wheat imports in marketing year 1997/98 (August/July) are forecast to increase only slightly from last year’s receipts of 195 000 tonnes. Maize imports, by contrast, are currently forecast to increase from 190 000 tonnes in 1996/97 to about 300 000 tonnes to help cover production deficit caused by El Niño associated drought. Rice imports in 1998 (January/December) should be close to 1997 imports of 25 000 tonnes.
GUATEMALA (10 February)
Harvesting of the 1997/98 second season cereal crops has been nearly completed. A low maize output of 900 000 tonnes, the main cereal, is tentatively estimated for the whole year due to the severe drought induced losses to first season crops and the intensive rains and flooding at planting of the second season crops. Production of sorghum is also expected to be a below-average 40 000 tonnes. The food situation is tight for the affected rural population, of about 50 000 persons. Ministries and various other institutions have adopted a wide range of emergency and protective measures, such as improvement in infrastructure, sanitary precautions, information system to rural communities, which should help mitigate the effects of El Niño. An appeal for emergency food aid and technical assistance for the rehabilitation of agricultural activities has been made to the international community.
Wheat imports in marketing year 1997/98 (November/October) are expected to decline from 320 000 tonnes in the previous year to some 275 000 tonnes, mostly as a consequence of large carryover stocks. Maize imports (July/June) should increase from 400 000 tonnes to about 610 000 tonnes to cover production losses and help meet the strong domestic demand. Rice imports in 1998 (January/December) should be about 35 000 to 40 000 tonnes.
HAITI* (10 February)
Adequate rains in November have been followed by an erratic rain pattern since December, however, this should not delay or interfere with farmers’ intentions for sowing of the 1998 first season cereal, bean and other food crops which should start from February. More rains are forecast in the weeks ahead. The area planted to maize and paddy (irrigated and nonirrigated) is expected to recover from 1997 when the crops were severely affected by drought throughout the first half of the year. The food situation is still tight and about 155 000 tonnes of food aid would be distributed in 1998 by the international community.
HONDURAS (10 February)
Irregular and ill-distributed rains in the last two months had no adverse effect on the 1997/98 second season (main) maize, sorghum and bean crops currently being harvested. An average maize output is expected, but lower than what was previously forecast. Production of sorghum should be below average as a consequence of the losses incurred by drought to first season (main) crop, particularly in the depressed areas of the south. Paddy output is also anticipated to decline but to a lesser extent as the bulk of the crop is grown in the northern, central and northeastern areas where the effects of the drought were not so intense. Assistance in terms of emergency food distribution and rehabilitation of agricultural activities has been requested from the international community. The drought affected rural population, amounting to 25 000 persons, is mainly composed of subsistence farmers who lost most of their first season crops. The Government has adopted a series of protective measures, which include the construction of small irrigation systems, temporary reservoirs and drilling of wells to help mitigate the impact of El Niño.
Wheat imports in marketing year 1997/98 (July/June) are forecast at about 195 000 tonnes, compared to 175 000 tonnes in the previous year. Maize imports should be close to last year’s receipts of 145 000 tonnes. Rice imports in 1998 (January/December) should also be similar to 1997.
MEXICO (10 February)
Despite extensive damage to rainfed crops, particularly in the south-western parts of the country, caused by drought and followed by hurricane weather, a bumper 1997 maize crop of 18.3 million tonnes has been collected. Production of sorghum has been a record 6.3 million tonnes. Water reservoirs in the irrigated areas of the north-west are reported at adequate levels for the 1998 wheat crop to be harvested from April, and a near-average output is tentatively forecast; however, weather forecasts point to storms and heavy rains, attributed to El Niño in the northern parts of the country for the next two months which could affect plantings in the large producing states of Sonora and Sinaloa.
NICARAGUA (10 February)
Irregular and ill-distributed rains in December have negatively affected the 1997/98 second season (“postrera”) crops, currently being harvested, while delaying planting of the third season (“apante”) crop. A low maize output of some 260 000 tonnes, the main cereal, for the whole year is expected, mostly the result of the severe damage incurred by El Niño related drought to the first season crops. This compares with last year’s above-average 333 000 tonnes output. Production of sorghum is also anticipated to decline significantly. Assistance to a seriously affected population of about 145 500 people has been requested to the international community. Assistance would principally consist of emergency food distribution and technical support for the rehabilitation of agricultural activities.
Wheat imports in marketing year 1997/98 (July/June) are forecast to increase from the previous year’s receipts of 110 000 tonnes to some 120 000 tonnes. Maize imports should increase from some 30 000 tonnes to about 175 000 tonnes to help cover the deficit in production. Rice imports in 1998 (January/December) should be close to 1996 level.
PANAMA (2 February)
Unusually high temperatures and prolonged dry conditions continue to affect the country, particularly the Pacific coastal provinces. Precipitation, mostly on the Atlantic coast, has been irregular and ill distributed. Prospects are extremely uncertain for planting of the 1998 paddy and maize crops to be started from April, as latest forecasts point out to drier than normal weather in the weeks ahead. About 100 000 tonnes of rice, the main cereal, are intended to be imported in 1998 to help meet the deficit in last year’s production. Maize output gathered in 1997 was also a belowaverage 90 000 tonnes. The livestock sector was severely affected in 1997 and is likely to continue being affected in 1998 because of the accumulated soil moisture deficits. Only irrigated crops, such as bananas, were spared the enormous damage caused by drought. Assistance in terms of emergency food distribution to the affected population, amounting to about 80 000 persons, and the rehabilitation of agricultural activities have been requested from the international community. Several emergency measures have also been adopted by the Government to help mitigate the impact of El Niño.