FAO/GIEWS - Food Outlook March/April 1997

Previous Page TOC Next Page




Prospects for 1997 winter wheat crop in Asia remain generally favourable. In China, soil moisture conditions are generally reported to be satisfactory for the winter wheat crop to be harvested from May-June, notwithstanding unseasonably warm weather in mid/late February, which reduced crop hardiness somewhat across the northern plains and reports of drought from the eastern province of Shandong. The crop is developing in the south and breaking dormancy in the north. In India, in spite of low intermittent rainfall earlier in the season, irrigation supplies are adequate and a good wheat crop of about 64.5 million tons is anticipated, up sharply from 62.6 million tons in 1995/96, when the crop was affected by rust disease and high temperatures in the harvest period in the major producing state of Punjab. It is reported that wheat procurement by the Food Corporation of India (FCI), began on 17 March against the normal start date of April 1. In Pakistan, recent rainfall favoured crops at reproductive to filling stage and conditions for winter wheat to be harvested from April/May are generally satisfactory and an above average output of 17 million tons, similar to last year is anticipated. Production is also anticipated to be above average and similar to last year’s 1.32 million tons in Bangladesh.

Land preparation for planting 1997 coarse grains is underway in parts, although the bulk of crops will only be planted at the onset of the southwest monsoon in June. Although a projected increase in area in China and other producing countries coupled with greater use of hybrid varieties is anticipated to result in a moderate increase in total production in 1997, the final output will depend heavily on the outcome of this year’s southwest monsoon.

In Afghanistan, prospects for the 1997 winter crops remain uncertain due to continued shortages of inputs, damage to irrigation systems and insecurity. Also in Iraq, the outlook for the 1997 winter crops remains uncertain due to dry conditions and shortages of essential inputs. In Saudi Arabia, the area planted to wheat and barley for the 1997 harvest is estimated to have declined for the fifth consecutive year.

The 1996 main rice crop in Asia is largely harvested, and in many countries the second or third rice crop seasons are underway. Based on estimates for the main crop and expected yields likely from those in the ground, total output of paddy in the region is estimated at 514 million tons, about 12.3 million tons more than the previous year's production but 2.4 million tons smaller than the estimate held in the previous year. Myanmar and India have lowered their estimates of both the 1995 and 1996 production. By contrast, China's (Mainland) output of paddy in 1996 is now officially forecast at 189.73 million tons, compared to the estimate of 188 million tons held previously. Pakistan has raised its estimate of paddy production in 1996 to 6.4 million tons, 7.5 percent up from the previous year, and significantly more than the estimate held previously. Most of the increase in output was in IRRI rice from the Sindh. Out of the total output, 34 percent (or 1.46 million tons of milled rice) were Basmati varieties from the Punjab.

Elsewhere, the third and second season crops are developing under generally normal conditions. In Bangladesh, the Boro crop has been sown and early indications are that 7.5 million tons (milled equivalent) would be gathered, slightly larger than in the previous year. In India, ample water supplies are expected to benefit its Rabi rice crop.

In the southern hemisphere and the equatorial belt, the 1997 paddy production season is well advanced. In Indonesia, harvesting of the 1997 season main crop is underway and conditions are generally favourable. An output target of 52.2 million tons of paddy has been set for 1997, which would be nearly 5 percent more than the 1996 harvest. As an encouragement to farmers, the producer support price for paddy has been raised by 16.6 percent. This increase was to compensate farmers for the reduction in fertilizer subsidies which has resulted in an overall rise in fertilizer prices of 21 percent. In Sri Lanka, harvesting of the Maha crop is underway. Last year, the output of rice in the country suffered a serious set-back because of drought. The overall growing conditions for the 1997 Maha crop are reported to be satisfactory, although earlier reports had indicated that some areas had been adversely affected by uncertainty in water supplies.

In the northern hemisphere, China's 1997 paddy season has begun with the sowing of early rice. Overall weather conditions are normal. In 1996, about 44 million tons of early paddy rice, which accounted for 23 percent of the country's total production, were gathered. In Japan, sowing of the 1997 rice crop is about to begin. For this season, the total target area diversion programme is set at 787 000 hectares, unchanged from the previous year; however, support prices for paddy have been lowered by 1.6 percent, the first reduction in 6 years.



Prospects for the sub-region's 1997 wheat crops, to be harvested from June, are generally unfavourable due to prolonged dry conditions. In Algeria, prevailing dry weather in the main winter grain areas since the beginning of the season caused poor emergence and stunted early plant growth. Also in Tunisia and Morocco, apart from some precipitation in February, the winter crop season has been characterized by generally dry conditions so far, which is adversely affecting yield potential. Throughout these countries it is anticipated that production will fall sharply from the good output in 1996, although still remaining above the severely drought-reduced crop in 1995. Good rains are needed soon to avoid further reduction of yield potential. In Egypt, growing conditions are satisfactory for the mostly irrigated wheat crop to be harvested from mid-May, and production could increase slightly from the previous year. Aggregate output of coarse grains in 1997 in the sub-region is also expected to fall somewhat from the previous year's good level. In Egypt, concern over the use of water is expected to result in a significant reduction in its 1997 planting of rice. Current plans are for only 360 000 hectares to be sown compared to over half a million hectares that have been cultivated annually since 1992. The bulk of the rice is normally planted from April to June.


In western Africa, rains have begun in southern parts of countries along the Gulf of Guinea while seasonably dry conditions prevail elsewhere. In 1996, favourable growing conditions resulted in average to above-average coarse grains harvests in the main producing countries of western Africa. However, in the Sahel, output remained below average in Cape Verde, Chad and Mauritania and in some traditionally deficit regions of Mali and Niger. Civil strife has also severely limited production in Liberia and Sierra Leone. In coastal countries along the Gulf of Guinea, first rains were received in early March in southern parts and land preparation for the first maize crop is underway. Seasonably dry conditions prevail in the north. In Liberia and Sierra Leone, the security situation is improving and rehabilitation programmes are distributing agricultural inputs to war-affected farmers.

In most of western Africa, average to above average paddy harvests were realised in the 1996 crop year and total output of paddy in the sub-region is estimated to have reached a record of 7.1 million tons or some 27 percent up from the previous year. Most countries begin the sowing of the new season crop around April.


In central Africa, 1996 coarse grains production was satisfactory in Cameroon and the Central African Republic. In Zaire, rice and maize have been harvested in the north and coarse grains are developing satisfactorily in the south. In the east, civil strife and the exodus of Rwandan refugees from camps is hampering agricultural activities and relief operations.


The sub-region’s 1996/97 aggregate wheat crop is estimated to be a record. In the Sudan, where harvesting of the crop is underway, prospects have improved following favourable conditions in February and latest forecasts indicate a crop of 630 000 tons, 20 percent higher than last year and above average. In Ethiopia, a record crop of 2 million tons was gathered last December, while in Kenya a bumper 1996/97 crop of 350 000 tons was harvested.

Harvesting of the 1996/97 secondary coarse grains in areas with bi-modal rainfall distribution is completed. Following the failure of the "short rains", poor crops were gathered in most countries of the sub-region. However, the main season crops, harvested last December, were good in the main producing countries and the aggregate 1996/97 coarse grains production is estimated at an above-average level of 2.3 million tons. In Ethiopia, the main season coarse grains crop reached a record level and the aggregate 1996/97 aggregate output, including the belg crop, is forecast at 9.4 million tons. However, in southern marginal agricultural areas the second crop was sharply reduced. In the Sudan, the 1996/97 coarse grains crop is estimated at 4.7 million tons, sharply above the poor harvest of the previous year. In Tanzania, the production declined from the previous year to 3.6 million tons, but remained above average, reflecting a good main crop season and a sharply reduced second crop season. In Kenya, in aggregate, coarse grain output declined sharply from last year to a below-normal level of 2.4 million tons. The main crop season output was reduced due to smaller plantings and reduced use of agricultural inputs, while the secondary season crop was severely affected by drought. In Uganda, the 1996 main coarse grains crop declined from the previous year but is estimated to be still about average. However, the second season crop declined sharply from the previous year mainly due to dry weather in eastern parts and insecurity in northern areas. In Somalia, the 1996/97 aggregate coarse grain production is estimated at 288 000 tons, 10 percent above last year but still below the pre-war average. But while the main season crop rose a sharp reduction occurred in the second season crop due to dry weather. The 1997 first season coarse grain production increased in Rwanda but declined in Burundi.


Revised estimates of the sub-region’s 1996 wheat crop indicate an output of 3.1 million tons, which is some 48 percent above the previous year’s 2.1 million tons. As a result of abundant water reserves for irrigation which encouraged large plantings, output was above-average in Lesotho, South Africa and Zimbabwe and above the previous year in Zambia. In South Africa, revised estimates of production point to a 1996 output of 2.7 million tons, 37 percent above the previous year’s already above-average crop. In Zimbabwe and Lesotho, production was three times larger than the 1995 drought -affected crop.

The outlook for the 1996/97 coarse grains crop to be harvested from April is generally favourable. Despite a relatively late start of rains in several areas and some dry conditions in parts of the sub-region in January, rainfall so far has been generally abundant, even excessive in several parts. In Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland, another year of good harvests is in prospect, provided favourable conditions continue until April. Moderate to heavy rains in January and February, particularly in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe, resulted in extensive flooding along river valleys, leading to population displacement, and losses of property and crops. This may also result in reduced yields due to waterlogging of soils. Latest indications point to a smaller maize crop in South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe than the bumper output earlier projected.

The 1997 paddy season is well underway in the sub-region. In Mozambique, the season began normally but was disrupted by dry and hot spells which delayed sowing in some areas and in the worst cases necessitated replanting. Preliminary estimates indicate that only 91 000 tons would be produced compared to 139 000 tons in the previous year. In Madagascar, a cyclone in late January caused damage to the rice crop in the southern farming zones, but crop losses were minimal since most of the crop was already harvested. However, the overall prospects for 1997 crop are uncertain as there is a potential threat of a locust attack.


Harvesting of the 1997 wheat crop has started in some of the main growing irrigated areas of the North-West of Mexico, which accounts for most of the sub-region’s production. Weather conditions were favourable at planting and during most of the growing period, and water reservoir levels are adequate. Production is forecast to increase somewhat from the 1996 level to an about-average 3.8 million tons. This reflects enlarged plantings, despite higher input costs, largely in response to anticipated increases in the Government’s minimum producer support prices.

Fieldwork is underway under generally favourable conditions in most countries of the sub-region for the main 1997 coarse grain (mostly maize) planting season. In Mexico, the main producer, the area planted to maize is provisionally forecast to be smaller than last year’s but still well above average, while that of sorghum should be average. In Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, normal to abundant rains in recent weeks have kept soils moist and average to above-average maize plantings are anticipated, while in Guatemala, the area planted is forecast slightly below average. In the Caribbean, normal and well distributed rains in the Dominican Republic have favoured land preparation for rainfed crops, and filled water reservoirs in the irrigated areas. Average to slightly above-average sorghum and maize areas are expected respectively. In Cuba, sowing of the maize crop should start from May, plantings are expected to be below average reflecting the continuing shortage of farm inputs. In Haiti, overall plantings could decline slightly from last year’s about average level. In the North-West of the country, the crop and food situation is reported critical as a consequence of a long dry spell which has severely affected standing crops.


Fieldwork has started in the southern parts of the sub-region in preparation for planting of the 1997/98 wheat crop. In Argentina, where generally dry weather over the main growing areas has prevailed in the last two months, sowing should start from late May and early forecasts point to an area close to last year’s record. In Brazil, normal to abundant rains in February over the large producing areas helped improve soil moisture. Sowing has started and the area planted is likely to expand from last year to an above-average level, but much will depend upon the measures that the Government will adopt for the financing of the crop. In Uruguay, sowing is due to start from June and plantings are anticipated to decline from the previous year’s record but should still be above average. In Paraguay, the area planted is expected to be close to last year’s record while expanded plantings are forecast in Chile. In the Andean countries, harvesting of the 1996/97 main season wheat crop has been interrupted in parts of Bolivia, due to torrential rains and flooding which may have caused significant damage to the crop. In Ecuador, in the highlands, where the bulk of the wheat crop is grown, planting of the 1997 crop has been delayed as a result of irregular and ill-distributed rains; however, slightly above-average plantings are anticipated. In Peru, normal to abundant rains since late February over the main wheat growing areas have interrupted planting of the 1997 crop for harvesting from May. Planting had earlier been delayed due to insufficient rain and as a result, the area sown will probably be smaller than last year’s record level but could still remain above average. In Colombia, sowing has started under favourable weather conditions and the area planted is provisionally forecast to be slightly smaller than last year’s.

Harvesting of the 1996/97 coarse grain crop (mainly maize) continues in the southern areas of the sub-region under generally dry weather. Average to above-average outputs are expected in all countries. In Argentina, output is forecast at an above-average 14.4 million tons but down from the 15.2 million tons crop in 1996. In Brazil, where harvesting is well advanced, beneficial rains in February helped reduce the impact of an earlier dry spell and output is provisionally forecast at the well above-average level of 34.2 million tons. In Chile, the crop has been affected by a long dry spell particularly in the northern and central parts of the country; but, overall maize production should be about average. In Uruguay, harvesting is well advanced and output should be about average, while in Paraguay a record maize crop is expected to be gathered. In the Andean countries, in Bolivia, where harvesting of the 1996/97 first season crop is underway, significant losses are reported in the main producing Department of Santa Cruz due to heavy rains and flooding. In Peru, normal to abundant rains since late February in most parts have benefited planting of the main season coarse grain crops which had earlier been delayed because of insufficient moisture. Despite excessive rainfall and flooding in some southern parts of the country plantings are forecast to be above average. In Ecuador, sowing of the coarse grain crops continues under favourable conditions and near record plantings are anticipated. In Colombia, sowing of the maize crop is currently underway and the area planted is expected to increase from last year, but it would still remain below average for the third consecutive year. In Venezuela, normal rains have benefited fieldwork for planting of the 1997 coarse grain crops.

The 1997 paddy season in the region is well advanced and harvesting is underway. Output of paddy in Argentina is estimated at 1 075 000 tons. This is about 10 percent more than last year, mainly because of a significant expansion in area to around 215 000 hectares, double the rice acreage a decade ago. In Brazil, the region's largest rice producer, paddy output is expected to fall to its lowest level in the decade to less than 10 million tons, well below the already poor output of 1996. The reduction would be largely on account of smaller plantings following a tightening of credit availability for rice producers. In Uruguay, despite reduced water reserves in the irrigated main growing areas, total output of paddy in 1997 is expected at around 950 000 tons, virtually unchanged from 1996. In Peru good rains through October/November have benefited the rice crops in the ground and output is expected to rise above the 1.2 million tons harvested last year.


In the United States, the outlook for the 1997 wheat crop is favourable. Latest official estimates put overall winter wheat plantings at 19.5 million hectares, 7 percent less than the area sown in the previous year, and the smallest area since 1978. However, as of mid-March, most of the crop was reported to be in good to excellent condition and winterkill was reported to be much less than during the 1995/96 winter. Thus, the difference between the harvested area in 1996 and 1997 could be much less pronounced. The most advanced crops are now in the jointing stage, somewhat ahead of normal, and soil moisture conditions are reported to be generally adequate for satisfactory development. Contrary to earlier expectations, latest indications suggest farmers may not compensate for the reduction in winter wheat plantings with spring wheat. The March USDA Prospective Plantings Report forecasts spring wheat platings at some 11 percent down from the previous year. This is mainly due to more attractive prices for other crops such as oilseeds and edible beans. Nevertheless, as less winter wheat abandonment is reported, if favourable conditions continue, the aggregate wheat production could still increase from the below-average crop in 1996. In Canada, the bulk of the wheat crop for the 1997 harvest has yet to be sown in May-June. Early indications point to a slight decrease in spring wheat area to about 10 million hectares from nearly 10.6 million hectares in 1996, due to a normal rotation of land back to oilseed production. Based on these tentative planting intentions and assuming normal growing conditions, aggregate Canadian wheat output in 1997 is expected to fall by some 2 million tons from the previous year, to about 28.5 million tons.

In the United States, land preparation and some early planting and of the 1997 coarse grain crops is already underway in some southern areas, but the bulk of the maize crop planting in the major producing Corn Belt states takes place from late April. The USDA Prospective Plantings Report has indicated that maize sowings will increase 2.4 percent. Most of the increase is seen in the eastern Corn Belt where farmers are expected to rotate land back to maize from soybeans which they were forced to plant last year when heavy spring rains disrupted the normal maize planting period. Assuming that farmers' planting intentions are realized, and that weather conditions are normal for the remainder of the season, an increase of about 2.5 percent could be expected in the United States aggregate coarse grains crop. In Canada, there are indications that, as is the case for wheat, coarse grain plantings will also decrease somewhat from the previous year, but remain well above the average of the preceding five years. However, the outcome of the spring planting campaign will depend greatly on weather conditions in the coming weeks.

In the United States, preliminary indications from the USDA are that a slightly smaller output of paddy may be produced in 1997. The forecast, however, is highly tentative as sowing of the new paddy crop starts normally around April.


Early prospects for the region's 1997 wheat and coarse grain crops remain satisfactory. Throughout most of the region winter damage to crops already in the ground is reported to be less than in the previous year, and good weather is favouring spring planting operations. Latest reports indicate winter grain planting increased in the EC, and remained close to last year's level or increased somewhat in most other countries of the region. While in the EC yields are expected to drop somewhat from last year's bumper levels, improvements are anticipated in some eastern countries, although much will depend on farmers' access to finances for vital inputs.

In the EC, tentative estimates indicate that the aggregate area sown to winter grains 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. In these area, spring maize plantings are expected to increase, 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 is expected to slip back somewhat due to a return to normal yields after last year's record levels.

Elsewhere in the region, indications are that winter grain plantings in eastern countries have remained close to last year's level or increased somewhat. In Poland, prospects for the winter 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 been adversely affected although the full extent of the damage is not yet known. In Romania, prospects for the developing winter cereals are satisfactory. Winter weather conditions have generally been much more favourable than last year when the rate of winterkill was well above normal. Latest official indications, put winter wheat plantings for the 1997 crop at about 2.1 million hectares, which is some 20 percent up from the reduced area harvested in 1996. In Hungary, 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. In Bulgaria, the area planted to winter cereals (mostly wheat and barley) is estimated to have increased by some 20 percent from the previous year to almost 1.5 million hectares, despite generally inadequate and aging machinery, and farmers' limited financial resources. Of the total, wheat is estimated to account for 1.2 million hectares, while 280 000 hectares have been sown to barley. Although weather conditions have so far been favourable, prospects for winter crop yields and spring crop planting will depend greatly on farmers' access to finance for vital inputs. In the Baltic countries, the early outlook for the 1997 cereal harvest is satisfactory and, given favourable weather, output could remain close to the 4 million tons harvested in 1996.

Planting of the new season rice crop is expected to start soon in the region. In the EC, the 1997/98 crop season will see the first reduction in the EC's intervention price for paddy. These prices are scheduled to fall by a total of 15 percent by year 1999/2000 from the 1996/97 base level. For this year, the intervention price for paddy is fixed at 333.45 ECUs per ton, down 5 percent from the 351 ECUs available in the previous year. The year 1997 would also see the implementation of a compensatory aid scheme for farmers and the concurrent fixing of the maximum guaranteed area of rice production so that the output of rice would not exceed the ceiling level. These measures, including penalties imposed on production in excess of these maximum guaranteed areas, could have a curbing impact on production.


In the CIS, the outlook for 1997 winter cereals is mixed. The aggregate area sown to these grains, (mainly wheat and rye) is estimated to have fallen by at least 1 million hectares to about 26 million hectares. Larger areas sown in the Ukraine (+ 0.4 million hectares) and in most smaller states, have been offset by reduced plantings in the Russian Federation (-1.2 million hectares), in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. In the Russian Federation, shortages of working capital, fuel and machinery delayed plantings; in the central Asian states, where the grain areas have been expanded very rapidly in recent years, the cut back is an effort to stem the declining yield per hectare. Good snow cover this winter has resulted in average to less-than-average winterkill and overall winter grains are reported to be in good condition. In the Ukraine, the outlook to date is better than last year but in the Russian Federation the harvested area is likely to fall 1-1.5 million hectares from 13.8 million in 1996. As winter grains accounted for about 30 percent of the area sown and nearly 40 percent of aggregate output in 1996, the final outlook for the 1997 harvest will depend crucially on growing conditions during the spring, the extent of spring grain plantings and farmers’ timely access to inputs.


1/ The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) includes 12 member states (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Moldova, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, the Ukraine and Uzbekistan).


In Australia, planting of the main 1997 wheat and coarse grains crops is due to start in May. Latest official forecasts indicate that aggregate winter grain area will decrease by about 2.5 percent from the previous year's high level. Wheat plantings are forecast to decline by 500 000 hectares to about 10.5 million hectares. Farmers' planting intentions are reported to be mostly influenced by expectations of lower prices in the 1997/98 marketing year, but also reflect some limited rebuilding in sheep numbers and a return to more normal crop rotation patterns after the disruption of an extended drought in Queensland and New South Wales. Soil conditions are reported to be good in most winter cropping regions, enabling growers to complete early land preparation meaning only modest rains are needed to allow winter crop planting intentions to be realised later in 1997. Based on current area indications, and assuming a return to normal yields after last year's bumper levels, winter grain output is tentatively forecast to decrease by about one-quarter from 1996. Harvest of the minor 1997 summer coarse grain crop (mostly sorghum), is due to start soon. Output of sorghum is forecast to drop sharply to about 1 million tons, from about 1.6 million tons in the previous year. Less favourable prices prior to planting last year prompted farmers to switch to alternative crops such as cotton and beans.

In Australia, harvesting of the 1997 paddy crop has begun. Good rains and improved irrigation water supplies in New South Wales, where virtually all the rice is grown, is expected to boost output to 1.41 million tons paddy, which would be 52 percent higher than in 1996.

Previous Page TOC Next Page