FAO/GIEWS - Food Outlook May/June 1997

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Output of the 1997 wheat crop in Asia, is provisionally put at 231 million tons, about 2 million tons above last year and some 4 percent above average for the preceding five years. In China the early/winter wheat crop, which constitutes between 85 and 90 percent of production, will be harvested in May/June. Notwithstanding some reports of damage by disease, drought and high temperatures in main producing areas in the north, a favourable overall wheat crop of some 110 million tons is anticipated, marginally higher than last year and some 6 percent higher than average. In India, where wheat is harvested in March/April, the crop benefited from favourable weather during February and March and output is set to recover to 64.6 million tons from last year’s reduced crop of 62.6 million tons. At this level, production would be some 7 percent above average. Reports suggest that production might have been higher had adverse weather in early April not resulted in the damage of an estimated 500 000 tons in northern parts of the country. By contrast, early season dry weather in rainfed areas and a fall in fertilizer use are likely to result in lower production in Pakistan, where output is expected to be some 6 percent down on last year and 2 percent lower than average. In Bangladesh, the wheat harvest has been recently completed and a bumper output is estimated due to favourable weather conditions and adequate water and fertilizer availability.


Wheat Coarse grains Rice (paddy) Total 1/

1996 1997 1996 1997 1996 1997 1996 1997

( . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . million tons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . )
Asia 228.7 230.7 214.0 215.8 513.7 514.3 956.3 960.7
Africa 22.7 17.9 87.3 83.1 16.0 15.1 126.1 116.0
Central America 3.6 3.8 26.6 27.8 1.8 1.8 32.0 33.4
South America 21.6 19.1 54.1 63.7 18.1 18.1 93.8 100.8
North America 92.6 88.3 296.5 306.4 7.8 7.4 396.9 402.1
Europe 128.3 132.6 160.0 159.0 2.9 2.6 291.1 294.3
CIS 68.8 73.4 55.7 60.8 1.3 1.5 125.7 135.6
Oceania 23.8 17.7 10.8 9.7 1.0 1.5 35.5 28.9
WORLD 590.1 583.4 904.9 926.3 562.4 562.3 2 057.4 2 072.0
Developing countries 273.3 268.3 370.9 381.3 536.6 537.1 1 180.9 1 186.7
Developed countries 316.7 315.1 534.0 545.0 25.8 25.2 876.5 885.3

1/ Total cereal, including rice in paddy terms.

The region’s output of coarse grains in 1997 is provisionally forecast to be above average and similar to last year. The planting of 1997 main coarse grain crops is underway in some parts, though the bulk of planting will take place at the onset of the south-west monsoon in June, on which final output will depend heavily. In China, an above average crop similar to last year’s 137 million tons is anticipated. In India, coarse grains, except barley and some maize are mainly grown during the monsoon season on marginal lands under rainfed conditions with little use of fertilizers or other inputs. Early indications are that the monsoon could again be favourable this year. However, production is provisionally forecast at just over 31 million tons, some 2.5 percent and 4.7 percent lower than average and last year respectively.

Output of paddy rice in Asia has risen from 448 million tons in 1988 to 514 million tons in 1996 benefiting from 9 successive years of good Monsoon rains. For 1997, assuming that rains in Asia would again be normal, production in the region is likely to reach at least the level of the previous year's bumper crop.

Most of the 1997 paddy crops in the southern hemisphere and around the equatorial belt of Asia, are well advanced. In Indonesia, harvesting of the 1997 season main crop continues and the overall outlook indicates that a good harvest of about 51 million tons of paddy may be produced this year, slightly more than in 1996. In Malaysia, harvesting of the main paddy crop is virtually complete. Paddy output in 1997 is likely to be about 2 million tons, little changed from 1996. Dry weather in the past few weeks has compensated for the excessive precipitation earlier in the year, thus aiding the harvesting of the rice crop. In Sri Lanka, harvesting of the Maha crop is over. Although rainfall during the Maha season had been low and erratic, plantings expanded by about 9 percent to 477 000 hectares. This, combined with the projected 8 percent increase in area for the Yala crop, is likely to result in an output of about 2.5 million tons of paddy, substantially higher than the reduced crop in 1996 but still below the average achieved between 1993 and 1995.

In the northern hemisphere, the 1997 paddy season has also begun. In Bangladesh, sowing of the Aus crop has started. This is the first of the three crops in the paddy season. Cyclones in the second half of May have adversely affected the crop although the extent of damage is believed to have been small. In the past, the Aus crop has accounted for up to about 20 percent of the country's total rice production, but now represents less than 10 percent because the country has shifted emphasis to the irrigated Boro rice crop. The bulk of the 1996/97 season Boro crop had already been harvested before the recent period of adverse weather. China's 1997 early paddy season is advancing rapidly with most of the early rice already planted. In the south, conditions have been generally favourable, although in mid-May floods have damaged some of the crops in Guangdong, a major rice growing province. In the central provinces, excessively high temperatures have caused some stress to the crop early in the month. Since then, however, the situation has improved somewhat with the arrival of rains. Mainland China is expected to harvest some 190 million tons of paddy rice in 1997, the same as last year's outturn. In Japan, planting of the 1997 rice crop is nearing completion. The total target area diversion programme is unchanged from the previous year, but support prices for paddy have been lowered by 1.6 percent, the first reduction in 6 years. In the Republic of Korea, planting of the 1997 crop has also begun. The area under rice is expected to decline and preliminary indications indicate that output this year would be around 6.6 million tons paddy compared to 7.2 million tons harvested in 1996. In the Islamic Republic of Iran, planting of the new season's paddy rice normally starts around May but violent earthquakes during the month in some of the main rice growing regions of the country are expected to affect production prospects in 1997. In 1996, the Islamic Republic of Iran produced a record 2.6 million tons of paddy.

In south and south east Asia, the 1997 paddy season awaits the start of Monsoon rains, while in some countries the 1996 second crops are still being gathered. Policy announcements in several countries have indicated the likely production targets for this year. In Myanmar, the ambitious plans of the past three years to expand extensively the second season paddy crop have been curtailed by the shortage of water supplies for irrigation. Last year, output of paddy in the country was 17.1 million tons, substantially below the target. Assuming conditions remain unchanged, 1997 could again see an output of around 17 million tons. In Thailand, planting of the 1997 main season crop in the north and north east region is likely to start in the next month. With the prices of fragrant rice soaring in the past year, farmers could be encouraged to grow more of this variety in the coming season. The yields of this traditional variety are generally lower but this may be compensated by increased plantings of other higher yielding varieties grown in the second season.



The outlook for the 1997 wheat crop about to be harvested, is mostly unfavourable in the sub-region, except in Egypt. Aggregate output for the sub-region is forecast at 11.8 million tons, some 29 percent below last year’s record, but still an above-average crop. In Tunisia, below-normal rainfall during the growing season resulted in a reduction in plantings and output is likely to be lower than last year. In Morocco, rains in April arrived too late to benefit the crop which had been adversely affected by unfavourable weather since the beginning of season and output is estimated to be down by some 40 percent from last year’s record. In Algeria, rains in April somewhat alleviated the effect of earlier drought on crops, but the wheat crop is expected to be well down from last year’s. By contrast, reflecting satisfactory growing conditions, wheat production in Egypt is estimated at about 5.95 million tons, some 4 percent higher than last year’s output. Aggregate output of coarse grains in 1997 in the sub-region is forecast at some 10.8 million tons, about 18 percent lower than the previous year’s good output. In Egypt, the 1997 paddy season is well advanced. In recent years, Egypt's output of paddy had been substantially boosted by intensive efforts to raise yields. Between 1985 and 1996, yields per hectare rose by over 40 percent to 8.2 tons per hectare, one of the highest in the world and a record 4.9 million tons of paddy was harvested in 1996. However, this year output of paddy rice is likely to fall sharply from previous years because of a substantial reduction in plantings reflecting more limited water for irrigation.


The rainy season has started in the south of some Sahelian countries allowing coarse grains plantings to begin. Significant rains have been received in early May in the south of Mali and in late April over the extreme south of Niger. Rains started in late March/early April in Burkina Faso, decreased significantly in late April and were widespread in the south and the centre in May. In Chad, rains started in late March in the extreme south and increased in April and early May. In Senegal, Gambia, Guinea Bissau and Mauritania, seasonably dry conditions still prevailed in May. Plantings will progress northwards following the onset of the rains.

In the south of the coastal countries, from Guinea to Nigeria, abundant rains from early April to May allowed the planting of the first maize crop. In the north, millet and sorghum planting is well underway following widespread rains in May. In Liberia, agricultural activities are recovering following the implementation of peace agreements and rehabilitation programmes. In Sierra Leone, insecurity is hampering the implementation of rehabilitation and resettlement programmes as well as agricultural production, notably in the north. In 1996, the aggregate cereal output for the eight coastal countries (Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Togo) is estimated at around 25.6 million tons compared with 27 million tons in 1995.

Following the start of the rainy season, planting of the 1997 paddy season crop is underway. In several countries, including Côte d' Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea and Guinea Bissau, the overall availability of rice is generally satisfactory following the large crop last year and the rise in imports in 1996. This may dampen farmers’ incentives to plant this year. However, large pockets of refugees remain and in many localized areas significant food deficits still need to be met, which would help support local farm prices. In Liberia, despite a recovery in paddy output in 1996 to 94 000 tons, this represented only 30 percent of production levels prior to the civil strife.


Normal growing condition prevail for the developing coarse grains crops. In central and southern Zaire, maize is maturing and the harvest has started in the south, following the end of rains in this area. Land preparation for the planting of rice is underway in the north where abundant rains are reported. In Cameroon and the Central African Republic, the planting of millet and sorghum is beginning in the north following the onset of rains. In the centre and the south, the first maize crop is growing satisfactorily. In Gabon and Congo, precipitation were widepsread from March to mid May and the second maize crop is growing well.


Harvest of the 1997 wheat crop has been completed in Sudan; latest aggregate estimates indicate a bumper crop of 650 000 tons, second only to the record crop in 1992. Early prospects for the 1997 crop, which is being planted in Ethiopia and Kenya, are favourable reflecting abundant rains so far. The sub-region’s aggregate output is preliminary forecast at a record 3.2 million tons, substantially up from in the previous year.

Prospects for the 1997 main season coarse grains crops, which are at different stages of growth throughout the sub-region are generally favourable following good rains since late March. In Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda, where the 1997 second season coarse grains are about to be harvested, a good output is expected following normal weather conditions since the beginning of the season. By contrast, in Tanzania prospects for the main "long rains " crop in the unimodal rainfall central and southern parts are poor; rains were late and erratic and the maize crop, to be harvested from June, is anticipated to be reduced in several parts. The early outlook for the "masika" crop is also unfavourable in bi-modal areas of the north following dry weather in April. In Ethiopia, prospects for the "Belg" coarse grain to be harvested from June, are uncertain following erratic rains in parts. In Kenya, the area planted to the 1997 maize crop is estimated to be average but production is forecast to rise reflecting an increased use of agricultural inputs. In Eritrea and Sudan planting of the 1997 coarse grains is underway under favourable weather conditions so far.


Prospects are generally favourable for the 1997 coarse grain crop currently being harvested in the sub-region. Initial estimates of production indicate an output of about 17 million tons, 12 percent lower than last year’s bumper crop but above the average of the past 5 years. The decline is concentrated in South Africa. Rainfall has been generally favourable during much of the growing season despite a relatively late start of rains in several areas, dry conditions in many parts of the sub-region in January/February, followed by excessive rains which provoked flooding in some producing regions. Recently completed FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions in Angola and Mozambique have confirmed earlier favourable indications. In Angola, the Mission has forecast coarse grain production at 431 000 tons of which 86 percent is maize. This output is above the average of the previous 5 years which was affected by civil strife but 14 percent lower than the bumper 1996 production, due to below normal rainfall. In Mozambique, total coarse grain production is provisionally estimated at 1.4 million tons, close to 10 percent above the previous year’s already good output. This is largely attributed to an increase in the area planted, higher yields in some provinces and generally satisfactory weather conditions. An excellent crop is also forecast in Namibia, provided there is no pest infestation. A good harvest is also expected in Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, although most of these countries anticipate output to be lower than last year’s bumper harvest as irregular rainfall patterns may result in reduced yields in many producing regions. The 1997 maize crop in South Africa is expected to be about 8.2 million tons, sharply below the 10 million tons harvested in 1996.

Prospects are favourable for the sub-region’s 1997 wheat crop to be planted during the upcoming winter season. Good rainfall and abundant water in dams are expected to encourage large plantings in most growing regions and output is expected to be above-average in Lesotho, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The 1997 paddy season is well advanced, harvesting is underway and aggregate output is expected to be close to last year’s record. In Madagascar, cyclones have damaged crops in the southern farming zones. In particular, the main rice crop which was sown in December for harvesting in June has been affected badly with most of the transplanted crop destroyed. However, rapid replanting of the crop and improved weather in the past weeks has helped to redress the situation. Current expectations are that, although delayed, a large harvest could still be expected in 1997, with only marginally lower yields, provided the recent outbreak of migratory locusts in the southern parts of the country can be efficiently controlled. In Mozambique, paddy production in 1997 is estimated at 180 000 tons, 30 percent above the previous year despite earlier reports of flood damage to the crop, reflecting a larger area sown, and favourable weather.


Harvesting of the 1997 wheat crop in Mexico, virtually the sole wheat producer in the sub-region, is about to be completed. Output is provisionally estimated at about 3.7 million tons, up 12 percent from 1996 and slightly above the average of the last 5 years. Despite high costs of production, farmers were attracted by the increase in government minimum support prices and wheat plantings were consequently increased.

Planting of the 1997 main season coarse grain crops in Central American countries continues under generally favourable weather conditions, except in Costa Rica where recent floodings caused damage particularly to bean crops. Maize plantings are expected to increase in almost all countries compared to last year and be close to the 1994 record levels. The overall area planted to sorghum however is forecast to decline, principally as a result of reduced plantings in Mexico, the main producer, due to the anticipated competition from low-cost imports. In the Caribbean, in Haiti, a long dry spell has seriously affected the crops, particularly in the North-West Department, and plantings are expected to be substantially reduced. In the Dominican Republic, also affected by dry conditions, the outlook is poor for rainfed maize and other food crops while prospects for irrigated crops are satisfactory. In Cuba, slightly below-average maize plantings are expected.


Planting of the 1997 wheat crop is about to start in the southern areas of the sub-region. In Argentina, soil moisture is considered adequate in the southern wheat belt, while rain is much needed in the large growing areas of central Santa Fe and northern Buenos Aires provinces after a long dry summer. Early forecasts point out to a considerable decline in plantings from last year’s record, but the area planted should still be well above average. In Brazil, plantings are forecast to decline by 17 percent from last year, mostly due to lower domestic prices because of competition of low-cost imports and dry conditions in the key producing state of Parana. Early production forecasts point to a 2.5 million ton crop compared to 3.3 million tons in 1996. In Uruguay, the area planted is also expected to decline from last year’s high level but should nevertheless be slightly above average. In Chile, drought continues to affect some of the main cereal producing areas, and wheat plantings are provisionally forecast at close to 1996 reduced level. In the Andean countries, in Bolivia, harvesting of the 1997 main season wheat crop is back underway after an interruption caused by torrential rains and flooding in the second half of February. Production should be slightly below average. In Peru, provisional forecasts indicate that production should be above average. In Ecuador, some rain is needed for the developing crop as precipitation has been scarce and ill distributed in the highlands where the bulk of the crop is grown. In Colombia, wheat plantings should be close to last year’s low level.

Harvesting of the 1997 coarse grain crop (mainly maize) is well advanced in the southern areas of the sub-region. In Argentina, output is provisionally estimated at a significantly above-average level of 14.4 million tons. An above-average sorghum crop is also anticipated. In Brazil, a satisfactory maize output of 30.6 million tons has been collected from the first crop, up 12 percent from 1996. Assuming good harvest weather persists, a bumper total crop of 36.8 million tons is expected for the whole year. By contrast, in Chile, a low output is provisionally estimated because of drought. In Paraguay, a record maize crop has been harvested while in Uruguay maize and sorghum production are provisionally estimated at slightly below-average levels. In the Andean countries, in Bolivia, satisfactory outputs are provisionally estimated for all cereals. In Ecuador and Peru, a near record 1997 maize crop is provisionally forecast. In Colombia, harvesting is due to start from July and average and below-average outputs are expected. In Venezuela, above-average plantings are expected for maize; however, for sorghum it should be below average, mainly due to strong competition from low cost imports.

The 1997 paddy season in the region is well advanced and in many countries, harvesting of the main crop is virtually complete. Output of paddy in Argentina is now estimated at 1.2 million tons, a record and about 24 percent more than last year, reflecting an increase in plantings to around 215 000 hectares, 11 percent more than last year and double the rice area a decade ago. In Brazil, the region's largest rice producer, paddy output is expected to fall to 9.7 million tons, its lowest level in the decade and well below the already poor output of 10.2 million tons in 1996. In Uruguay, the 1997 paddy output is estimated at 950 000 tons, virtually unchanged from the previous year. In Peru good rains have benefited the rice crop and output is expected to rise above the 1.2 million tons harvested last year. Venezuela, which has emerged as an exporter in recent years, is likely to maintain its output at about last year's level of 638 000 tons.


Prospects for the 1997 wheat crop in the United States remain generally favourable. The first official forecast for total wheat production is 61.5 million tons, just 1 percent down from 1996 (see tables A.10 & A.11). Based on crop conditions as of 1 May, winter wheat production is put at 42.5 million tons. Despite a severe freeze in parts of the hard red winter wheat plains in April, average yields and harvested areas of hard red winter wheat are still expected to be higher than last year and ouput is forecast to rise by about 17 percent, more than offsetting the expected reduction in soft red winter and white winter wheat output. With regard to spring wheat, output is tentatively projected to fall to about 19 million tons based on reduced planting intentions, average yields and average harvested-to-planted ratios. However, the final outcome of the spring wheat planting season is still very uncertain as wet conditions in early May slowed spring fieldword in the main producing northern plains and farmers could have switched to other crops or left land idle. In Canada, the official March seeding intentions report (see table A.12) indicated wheat plantings would fall by almost 10 percent, from 1996, due mainly to a shift to oilseeds production. As of mid-May, planting was reported to be progressing at about the normal pace under generally favourable conditions. Based on these latest indications, and assuming normal growing conditions, Canadian wheat output in 1997 is forecast at 26.8 million tons, versus 30.5 million tons in 1996.

The coarse grain crop in the United States is forecast to increase for the second consecutive year, after the sharp reduction due to drought in 1995, to 278.6 million tons 1996 (see tables A.10 & A.11). The official March seeding intentions report indicated that the area planted to maize this year would increase by 2.4 percent to nearly 33 million hectares reflecting a switch back to maize after larger soyabean plantings last year. By mid-May, favourable conditions had allowed rapid planting progress, indicating that farmers' original intentions could easily be achieved within the normal planting season. Whether farmers will continue planting maize beyond their original intentions if conditions remain favourable will depend largely on price developments for maize relative to soyabeans in the latter part of the planting season. In Canada, planting of the 1997 coarse grain crop is underway. According to the seeding intentions report, the aggregate area sown to the major coarse grains is expected to fall by about 3 percent, but neverthless would remain well above the average of the preceeding 5 years (see table A.12). Based on these planting intentions and the conditions for developing crops so far, aggregate 1997 coarse grain output in Canada is forecast at 27.8 million tons compared to 28.7 million tons in 1996.

In the United States, the planting of the 1997 rice crop has begun. The area to be sown to paddy is estimated to be marginally up from 1996. In Texas, plantings have been delayed because of irregular rainfall; apprehension has been expressed that late planting could cause a reduction in yields and milling quality and reduce the chances of a second "ratoon" crop in Texas. Texas produces almost exclusively long grain rice. In Arkansas, however, despite cool weather, planting is marginally ahead of last year but rice "emergence" is behind schedule. Arkansas is one of the 3 states that intends to increase the area under rice this year. For the country as a whole, production in 1997 is forecast to decline by 5 percent to 7.37 million tons paddy because of a projected reduction in yields.


FAO tentatively forecasts the EC's total cereal crop in 1997 at some 202 million tons, down from the record crop of 208 million tons last year but still well above the average of the past 5 years. Although overall cereal plantings are estimated to rise some 2-3 percent following a reduction in the set-aside restrictions, yields are expected to decline somewhat from last year's bumper levels. Good rains throughout the majority of the EC since late April have alleviated earlier fears of drought after very dry conditions during most of March and April. However, Spain, Portugal and the southern tip of France are still reported to be at risk from particularly low yields because of the exceptionally dry conditions. Output of soft wheat, which accounts for nearly half of the total EC cereal crop, is expected to fall only marginally in 1997 while the small durum wheat crop which is grown in the drier southern parts of the Community could fall by about 5 percent. FAO forecasts the EC's 1997 total wheat output at some 97 million tons, compared to 99.8 million tons last year. Barley output is also seen to fall considerably despite a significant increase in area. However, the summer maize crop is anticipated to remain close to last year's level. In aggregate, coarse grain output is now forecast at 103 million tons, versus 105.3 million tons in 1996.

In eastern parts of the region prospects remain generally satisfactory for the winter cereal crops and increased outputs are in prospect in several countries. In Bulgaria, winter grain planting increased and spring cereal plantings (mainly maize) are expected to remain close to last year's level. Yields of all crops will continue to be constrained by farmers' lack of funds for inputs but nevertheless, the aggregate cereal crop in 1997 is expected to recover sharply from last year's drought-reduced level. In Hungary, winter grain planting is estimated to have increased and yields of winter grains are expected to recover. Total wheat output is forecast to reach about 5 million tons from just below 4 million tons in the previous year. In Poland, latest reports indicate significant losses of winter grain crops due to harsh winter temperatures with limited snowcover. The potential for spring grain crops to offset the winter losses is limited by the late start to the spring planting season and below-normal soil moisture reserves. In aggregate, 1997 cereal production in Poland is forecast to fall to about 24 million tons from 25 million tons last year. In Romania, prospects are very favourable for the winter grain crops and output is forecast to recover sharply from last year's reduced level. Assuming normal weather continues, wheat output is expected to reach a bumper 7.8 million tons. As of mid-May, spring maize planting was also reported to be progressing well after earlier delays due to exceptionally wet weather in April. In the Baltic states, the outlook for the 1997 grain harvest is satisfactory. Growing conditions have been favourable to date but difficulty in marketing last year's good harvest has likely resulted in some reduction in the area sown, notably in Lithuania.

In the EC, planting of the new season rice crop has just begun. In Italy, the largest rice producer in the Community, weather conditions are generally normal for seeding and the area planted to rice in 1997 is expected to be around 234 000 hectares, slightly below the previous year and also below the maximum quota of 239 259 hectares allowed. In Spain, heavy rains in recent months have helped to raise water availabilities to about 80 percent of the full capacity of its reservoirs. The "maximum guaranteed" crop area for Spain is 104 973 hectares, i.e. plantings in excess are subject to a penalty in the form of reduced compensatory aid. Last year, the country planted some 107 000 hectares, nearly twice the drought-affected area harvested in 1995. In France, the area sown to rice is estimated to be 24 000 hectares, marginally up from the previous year. For this year, the intervention price for paddy in the EC has been fixed at 333.45 ECUs per ton, down 5 percent from the previous year.


In the CIS, the current outlook is for an upturn in the 1997 grain harvest, particularly in the Ukraine and Moldova, where the 1996 harvest was severely affected by drought. The aggregate area sown to winter grains declined by over 1 million hectares but growing conditions have mostly been good and better yields are expected in the main producing areas. Spring grain plantings are well underway and there are adequate to good soil moisture reserves for crop development in most states. Moreover, in most states, grain production remains profitable. In Belarus and in the Ukraine, spring grains have been planted and the area sown was larger than last year. In the Ukraine, 86 percent of the crop is reported to be in good condition. In spite of chronic shortages of cash and inputs, yields are expected to recover sharply from last year’s drought reduced levels and output of grains and pulses could recover to about 34 million tons from an estimated 26 million tons in 1996. In Moldova also, a sharp recovery in output is expected. In the Russian Federation, the reduction of 1.5 million hectares in the area sown to winter grains could in part be compensated by better yields, notably in the key producing areas of the North Caucasus and the Povolski regions, which were affected by drought last year. The final harvest outcome will depend crucially on the area sown to spring crops. Planting of these grains is in full swing and will continue into June in the New Lands. Farmers appear to be giving priority to sowing grains at the expense of other spring crops, notably sugar beet and soyabeans. Provided the spring grain planting target of 40 million hectares is met the Russian grain harvest could remain close to last year’s level of 75 million tons, assuming a continuation of the good growing conditions experienced so far. In Kazakhstan, the main crop is being sown and planting will continue into June. Early prospects are satisfactory but the outcome will depend on the areas sown, farms’ access to inputs (which could be somewhat better than last year) and weather until harvest. Elsewhere, most smaller CIS states have increased their winter grain (wheat) area but in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, the irrigated area has declined and the harvest is likely to remain close to last year’s levels.

At this early stage FAO estimates that the 1997 output of cereals and pulses in the CIS could recover by up to 10 million tons to 139 million tons, mainly in response to a sharp recovery in the Ukraine and Moldova, small increases in Belarus, Kazakstan, Azerbaijan and Georgia and outputs similar to last year’s levels elsewhere. However, as spring grain planting is still in progress these estimates are highly tentative. Preliminary indications point to an increase in the area sown to barley and a small decline in that sown to wheat. Given normal weather until the harvest, output of wheat is tentatively expected to increase to 73 million tons from 69 million tons in 1996. Output of coarse grains could rise by 5 million tons to 61 million tons. Production of paddy could remain fairly stable at 1.3 million tons and that of pulses could increase reflecting better weather conditions.

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 Ucraine and Uzbekistan.


In Australia, winter wheat and coarse grain planting for harvest in late 1997 is underway in some parts, but the bulk of the crops have still to be planted in the coming few weeks. Farmers' early planting intentions point to a 5 percent reduction in the winter wheat area from last year's high level, and assuming a return to normal yields after 1996's bumper levels, winter wheat output is forecast to decrease by about one-quarter from last year. However, after generally favourable pre-season soil moisture conditions, early rains have been somewhat patchy and persisting dryness in some parts of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland is becoming a concern for planting prospects. If good rains are not received soon in the major producing areas, even the reduced plantings intended may not be achieved. As regards the minor 1997 summer coarse grain crop (mostly sorghum), the harvest is underway and good yields are reported. Nevertheless, output is forecast to drop by about 40 percent from the previous year to 1 million tons reflecting reduced plantings. Harvesting of the 1997 paddy crop is virtually complete. Good rains and improved irrigation water supplies in New South Wales, where virtually all the rice is grown, has boosted output to 1.46 million tons paddy, which would be over 50 percent higher than in 1996.

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