Foodcrops and shortages n.2, 1996

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In northern Africa, the outlook for wheat and barley is generally favourable and a substantial increase in production is anticipated. In Algeria, where planting was delayed in parts by dry conditions at the beginning of the season, rainfall since January has been beneficial. In Morocco, heavy rainfall early in the year caused some damage to crops and infrastructure, but increased substantially the level of water reservoirs and a marked recovery in grain output is anticipated in 1996. Significant rainfall in the first half of March in Tunisia benefitéd crop development and production is expected to be more than double last year's poor crop. In Egypt, where the wheat crop is almost entirely irrigated, growing conditions are satisfactory. However, due to below-normal rainfall in northern rainfed zones, the total area of wheat and barley is reported to be fractionally less than last year.

In western Africa, rainfall began in mid-February in southern parts of coastal countries where land preparation and planting of the first maize crop are underway. In Sahelian countries, seasonal dry conditions prevail, and planting normally begins in May/June following the onset of rains. Vulnerable populations are affected by localized food supply difficulties in several deficit areas of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger and will need food assistance in coming months.

In central Africa, rainfall began in late February over Cameroon and was abundant in other countries of the sub-region. The second maize crop is currently being planted in northern Zaire and developing satisfactorily in central areas.

In eastern Africa, production of the secondary 1996 cereal crop was normal to above normal due to favourable rainfall. In Somalia, output of the “Der” crop was above average, as in the previous year. In Tanzania, despite crop losses in the north, the “Vuli” cereal harvest was normal. In Kenya, production of the “short rains” crop was lower than anticipated due to a poor harvest in Eastern Province but was average overall. In Uganda, abundant rainfall during the growing season resulted in a good secondary cereal harvest. In the Sudan, where the wheat crop is being harvested, output is forecast to be above average and higher than last year. In Ethiopia, rainfall in late February and early March improved prospects for secondary “Belg” crops to be harvested from June. Planting of the 1996 main season cereal crop has started in Kenya, Uganda and in bi-modal rain areas of Tanzania and Somalia under favourable weather conditions. In Rwanda and Burundi, the output of the 1996 second foodcrop is likely to remain depressed due to population displacement.

In southern Africa, overall prospects for the 1995/96 coarse grains crop are favourable. Despite a slow start in several countries, rainfall has been generally good with the exception of Namibia where it remained much below normal until January. The initial forecast is that output in the sub-region will be above average and well up on last year’s drought reduced crop due to an increase in area planted and above average yields. In Angola, favourable rainfall and relatively peaceful conditions across the country led to a sharp increase in area planted and an above-average harvest is expected. In Mozambique, maize in southern provinces was adversely affected by a dry spell in January followed by severe flooding in February, which also affected South Africa and Zimbabwe. In South Africa, notwithstanding flood damage to crops, the initial forecast for maize points to an above-average harvest, double the drought-affected crop in 1995. Similarly, good harvests are anticipated in Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. In Zambia, prospects for a bumper crop may be compromised by the large grain borer, a relatively new pest in the country. In Madagascar, the main rice producer in the sub-region, rainfall has been adequate but prospects remain uncertain following cyclones in January that may have damaged crops.

In Asia, prospects for 1996 winter grains are generally favourable. In China the area planted of winter wheat has increased by 2 percent and crops are reported to be in a satisfactory condition notwithstanding drought and above-normal temperatures in the north. In India, a bumper wheat crop is in prospect reflecting adequate irrigation supplies and satisfactory rainfall in recent weeks. An above-average crop is also anticipated in Pakistan, where production is currently projected to be some 3 percent higher than last year's record crop. In Sri lanka, severe drought since October is expected to significantly reduce output of the main ‘Maha’ rice crop and adversely affect prospects for the second ‘Yala’ crop. In Bangladesh the boro rice crop is progressing well, though fertilizer distribution remains a concern and may constrain yields somewhat. In Indonesia, crop prospects remain uncertain, as a result of earlier floods and heavy rain at harvest. In contrast a substantial increase in the second rice crop is in prospect in Thailand due to an expansion in area and improved yields. Cereal production in Iraq and Afghanistan is again likely to be constrained by a shortage of inputs and continued insecurity in the latter. Production of wheat in Saudi Arabia is expected to be substantially lower due to Government efforts to reduce output. Growing conditions in Syria and Turkey are satisfactory following adequate rainfall.

In Central America and the Caribbean, sowing of 1996/97 first season crops is about to begin. Early prospects indicate a substantial increase in coarse grain area over last year, which should lead to a recovery in maize and sorghum production, notably in Mexico compared to 1995, when crops were severely affected by adverse weather and financial constraints in the sector. The area planted is anticipated to be average in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In the Caribbean, the area planted to maize is also expected to be about average in Cuba, Dominican Republic and Haiti.

In South America, harvesting of the 1996 maize crop is underway. In Argentina, a below-normal crop of 10 million tons is forecast, due to dry weather and a reduction in planting and yields. In Brazil, production is expected to be lower than last year’s record crop, also as a result of dry weather. In Chile and Uruguay, output is expected to be about normal. In the Andean countries, where harvesting has begun in parts, normal to above-normal output is provisionally forecast, except in Venezuela, where agriculture remains constrained by credit and administrative problems.

In Europe, prospects for 1996 wheat and coarse grains are generally satisfactory, despite prolonged wintry weather in northern areas which kept crops dormant longer than usual and hampered spring fieldwork. Adequate snowcover in south-eastern parts continues to protect crops from extreme temperatures, whilst regular precipitation in the rest of the region helped maintain soil moisture reserves for spring growth. Winter grain plantings expanded in the EC but elsewhere, financial constraints generally meant that the area of winter crops remained similar to last year or declined. In Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia prospects for the 1996 winter cereal crop are satisfactory, whilst in Croatia favourable conditions last month favoured winter grains. In the Baltic states, winter grain area is estimated to have increased, but final production will depend crucially on the area and yield of spring grains. In Lithuania, the aggregate area sown to grains is projected to fall by 12 percent to 930 000 hectares.

In the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the outlook for 1996 cereals and pulses is better than last year. The aggregate area sown to winter grains increased by nearly 3 million hectares over the previous year, but at an estimated 28 million hectares, remained below average and 5 million hectares below the 1993 area. Deep snow in major producing parts protected winter grains from extreme cold and provided good moisture reserves for spring crops. The overall condition of the winter crops is better than last year and output is expected to recover sharply in the Russian Federation and to increase in Azerbaijan, Belarus and the Ukraine. In Armenia winterkill has damaged up to one third of the crop and the harvest outlook is unfavourable. In Georgia, Kyrghyzstan and Tajikistan shortages of credit and inputs constrained planting. In Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, the rapid expansion in cereal production has slowed markedly as lower yields offset substantial increases in area. The final outcome of the 1996 harvest depends crucially on the area sown this spring, weather conditions and farmers' access to fertilizers and machinery. In the Russian Federation, it is expected that 55 million hectares will be planted to cereals this year and output is targeted to recover to 77-80 million tons (1995: 63.5 million tons). In the Ukraine and Kazakhstan, the area sown could remain similar to last year, though output is targeted to increase to 38 million tons and 18 million tons respectively.

In North America, the outlook for the 1996 wheat crop in the United States is uncertain. Although overall winter and spring wheat area is expected to be higher, much of the crop in the Great Plains is reported in poor condition due to adverse weather. Planting of 1996 coarse grains is underway or will start soon. The maize area is projected to increase some 12 percent, in response to attractive prices and reduction of area restrictions, but much will depend on weather in coming weeks. In Canada, the bulk of wheat and coarse grains will be planted soon and an increase in area is expected.

In Oceania, the 1996 summer coarse grain crop is being harvested in Australia and production is expected to recover by some 50 percent from the drought-reduced crop in the previous year. Planting of the main 1996 wheat and coarse grain crops will start in May and an increase in wheat area is expected, in response to attractive prices.

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