Romania's cereal crop devastated by drought


In Romania, the worst drought in decades has significantly reduced the country's cereal output, well beyond the decline already evident over the past ten years, according to an FAO report issued on 29 November.

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A summer drought affecting over 90 percent of agricultural land in Romania resulted in one of the smallest cereal crops ever in the country.

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The drought affected over 90 percent of agricultural land between May and the end of August 2000. It was compounded in most areas by a summer heat wave; in many parts, dry conditions continued through September and October. Largely as a result of this adverse weather, total cereal production in 2000 is estimated to have fallen to about 9.5-10 million tonnes, one of the smallest crops on record.

Of the cereal crops, the worst affected was maize. It is planted in the spring, when the drought had already begun, and this year's crop lacked sufficient moisture throughout its whole growing period. In many areas crops were completely wiped out. As of early November, the official forecast was that, at best, the yield may reach about 4 million tonnes, compared to average volume of about 10 million tonnes.

Wheat, being winter-sown, fared somewhat better with the benefit of a moist autumn and winter. Latest official reports estimate the final wheat output at about 4.4 million tonnes, about 20 percent below the average of the past five years.

In addition to devastating cereal output, the drought has also hurt production of oilseeds, vegetables and fruit. Pasture and fodder crop production has also declined, which will likely necessitate a reduction in animal numbers during the year.

Due to the small crop, cereal supplies are projected to be tight in the coming months, and significant imports could be required by mid-2001. This is in stark contrast to previous years, when the country was a net cereal exporter.

This situation hits urban residents hardest. While the majority of rural subsistence-farming families should be able to meet their own food needs from this year's crop and by drawing on home stocks, there will be little surplus flowing into urban markets.

The drought also affected the quality of the wheat crop. This means that imports of higher-quality wheat may be needed for blending even if an adequate quantity of wheat is harvested. Finally, Romania's macroeconomic situation -- in particular its high rate of inflation, forecast to be about 40 percent by the end of 2000 -- also encourages producers to withhold produce from the market, exacerbating the drought's effects.

In an effort to encourage producers to release stocks of wheat to the market, the Government announced in September that a bonus of 300 000 lei (approximately US$12.50) per tonne would be paid to producers for wheat sold to domestic millers and processors.

8 December 2000

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