Torrential rains and flooding in recent months have affected parts of the country, particularly the Northern Huétar region and the Province of Limón on the Caribbean coast, where serious damage to bean and banana crops respectively is reported. About 80 percent of domestic bean production is from the Northern Huétar region, and as result of the loss incurred some 20 000 tons would need to be imported to help meet domestic demand. Cereal crops have not been significantly affected and provisional estimates indicate that a slightly below-average 17 000 hectares of maize have been planted for the 1997/98 season.
The area planted to paddy is estimated to be similar to last year’s below-average 46 000 hectares despite government policies to stimulate production .
Wheat imports for marketing year 1997/98 (July/June) are expected to increase from 165 000 tons last year to about 175 000 tons. Maize imports, mostly yellow, are expected to remain close to the relatively high level of 280 000 tons of the previous year, in response to steady demand from the animal feed industry. Rice imports in 1997 (January/December) are estimated at about 50 000 tons, similar to 1996.
CUBA (12 June)
Planting of the 1997 first season maize and paddy spring crops has been interrupted by torrential rains extending from eastern to central areas of the country. The rains, however, ended a long dry spell. The rain affected some crops, but no significant damage is anticipated. The area planted to maize is expected to be about average, while that planted to paddy, currently being harvested, should be close to last year’s low level, despite government efforts to encourage plantings to help meet domestic demand.
Prospects for the 1997 sugar cane crop, currently being harvested, are uncertain. Planting was delayed because of hurricane weather and difficulties in financing the import of farm inputs. Output is provisionally estimated at 4.2 million tons compared to 4.45 million tons in 1996, which represented a recovery from the poor crop in 1995 .
Wheat imports in marketing year 1997/98 (July/June) are forecast to remain close to the previous year’s relatively low level of receipts, partly reflecting government difficulties in financing imports. Maize imports should be similar to last year’s 255 000 tons. Rice imports in 1997 (January/December) are provisionally forecast at between 375 000 and 400 000 tons, to cover domestic consumption.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC (12 June)
Prospects for the 1997 first season coarse grain and other rainfed food crops have improved with the arrival of the first rains of the rainy season which had been delayed for several weeks. The dry spell had been particularly intensive in April and all rainfed crops have been adversely affected. Early forecasts put production of maize and sorghum at slightly below-average levels compared to last year’s satisfactory output. By contrast, the irrigated paddy crop, currently being harvested, as well as other irrigated crops are anticipated to be above average. Price speculation and stockpiling of some food items, including rice, was a consequence of an anticipated shortage in production, but the situation is reported to be gradually returning to normal.
Wheat imports in marketing year 1997 (January/December) are forecast at about 248 000 tons. Maize imports should be above last year’s relatively low level of 690 000 tons, mainly due to continuing constraints in the poultry feeding industry. Rice imports are expected to be about 40 000 tons.
EL SALVADOR (2 June)
Normal rains have favoured planting of the 1997/98 main season maize and sorghum crops, currently underway, and helped keep soil moist for sowing of the second season paddy crop to be started from June. Provisional forecasts indicate that maize output should increase from last year’s above- average output of 630 000 tons to about 668 000 tons provided good weather persists. This reflects mostly farmers’ decisions to enlarge plantings attracted by a recent government’s programme which has raised farmers’ expectations of higher prices. Sorghum production should increase from last year’s below-average level and be about average. The outlook is also good for the modest paddy crop which should increase from a low 1996 output to an about average level.
Wheat imports in marketing year 1997/98 (August/July) should increase from the previous year’s receipts of 195 000 tons to about 205 000 tons in anticipation of an increase in bread consumption caused by an improved economy. Maize imports, mostly yellow, are expected to remain close to the 1996 relatively high level of imports, thus helping meet the steady domestic demand in human consumption and growing demand from the animal feed industry. Rice imports in 1997 (January/December) are provisionally forecast to decline slightly following the modest increase in domestic production.
GUATEMALA (1 June)
Normal weather conditions have benefited planting of the 1997/98 main season cereal crops currently underway. The area planted to maize, the main crop, is anticipated to increase from last year’s 575 000 hectares to 600 000 hectares. Early forecasts indicate that production would increase for the third consecutive year and reach an average level. Intended plantings of sorghum should slightly increase from 1996 but should still remain below average. Plantings of the small paddy crop, by contrast, are expected to be slightly above average.
Wheat imports in marketing year 1997/98 (July/June)are provisionally forecast at about 275 000 tons, slightly below last year’s relatively high volume of imports. Maize imports are expected to increase from 290 000 tons to some 330 000 tons, reflecting an anticipated increase in human consumption and the steady strong demand from the animal feed industry. Rice imports in 1997 (January/December) should remain close to 1996 receipts of 35 000 tons.
HAITI* (1 June)
Prospects are poor for the 1997 main season cereal and other food crops. After reaching average cereal production levels in 1996, following a period of political upheaval and economic difficulties which adversely affected agriculture, the country has been seriously affected by dry weather which lasted from end-November to mid-May. All crops have been damaged, particularly in the North West, as well as in the Central Plateau, parts of the North East and the Grand’ Anse in the South West. Conservative estimates of losses are put at between 40 and 70 percent compared to production in 1996. Overall, maize production is provisionally forecast at 130 000 tons while paddy output is expected to be about 55 000 tons. This compares to an average of 210 000 tons and 90 000 tons respectively in the last five years. The bean crop is estimated to be between 45 000 and 50 000 tons.
The food supply situation is under control as a result of international assistance to affected zones. Measures have been taken to prevent food assistance provided interfering with the re-initiation of normal agricultural activities in these zones, and thus seeds, farm labor instruments and other agricultural inputs have been distributed to the population.
HONDURAS (4 June)
Normal rains benefited planting of the 1997/98 first season coarse grain, paddy and bean crops which was recently completed. However, it is reported that swarms of locusts have recently been spotted in the north and west of the country, on the border with Guatemala. An official assessment is being conducted for verification of possible damage to crops. The area planted to maize, the main crop, is provisionally estimated at a near average 436 000 hectares compared to last year’s 391 000 hectares when plantings were affected by adverse weather. Plantings of sorghum have decreased from 77 000 hectares to about 71 000 hectares. Plantings of the modest paddy crop are estimated at a slightly above-average level. The area planted to beans is about average. Wheat imports in marketing year 1997/98 (July/June) are expected to increase from the previous year’s 175 000 tons to about 195 000 tons, mainly in response to anticipated increases in food consumption. Maize imports are forecast to increase significantly, mostly as a consequence of low carry-over stocks and the steady domestic demand. Rice imports in 1997(January/December) should be about 25 000 tons, compared to last year’s receipts of 32 000 tons.
MEXICO (5 June)
Harvesting of the 1997 wheat crop is virtually complete in the main producing irrigated areas of the North West. Output is provisionally estimated at a slightly above-average 3.7 million tons, up some 4 percent from 1996. This is principally due to a combination of enlarged plantings and favourable weather conditions. Despite higher input costs, farmers were attracted by higher minimum support prices and the withdrawal of price controls on the sale of traditional white bread. Wheat imports in marketing year 1997/98 (July/June) are expected to be at about 1.5 million tons compared to last year’s 1.8 million tons.
Sowing of the 1997 maize crop continues under favourable conditions. Plantings are anticipated to increase from last year’s above-average 8 million hectares to 8.1 million hectares. This largely reflects the government’s decision to allow higher producer prices following the gradual recovery of the economy. Planting of the 1997 spring/summer sorghum crop is due to start from July. Despite favourable weather conditions in the large producing areas of the North East, following four years of severe dry spells, intended plantings are likely to decline significantly. This is mostly the result of anticipated cheap import competition and the outburst of a fungus infection detected in the autumn/winter crop, currently being harvested in various states. Maize imports in marketing year 1997/98 (October/September) are provisionally forecast to increase to about 4.3 million tons from last year’s 3.7 million tons, mainly in response to expanded domestic demand. Sorghum imports should be close to last year’s 2.1 million tons.
NICARAGUA (10 June)
Planting of the 1997/98 main season cereal and bean crops has begun in advance due to an early start to the rainy season. The outlook is good for all crops. The area planted to maize, the main cereal, is expected to increase for the third consecutive year. Plantings are provisionally forecast at about 300 000 hectares compared to last year’s above average 280 000 hectares. Above-average sorghum plantings are also anticipated. The area planted to paddy is forecast to stay close to the above-average level in 1996.
Wheat imports in marketing year 1997/98 (July/June) are forecast to increase from the previous year’s receipts of 110 000 tons to about 120 000 tons. Maize imports are also anticipated to increase from some 80 000 tons to about 90 000 tons in response to steady demand. Rice imports in 1997 (January/December) should be similar to last year’s 30 000 tons.