In Eastern Africa, the outlook for 1997 crops is mixed. In Ethiopia, output of the secondary "belg" crop is expected to be reduced due to delayed and erratic rains. The "belg" crop accounts for only some 7 percent of cereal production but in several areas it provides the bulk of annual needs. In Burundi, the food supply situation remains tight. Food prices are high and access to food remains difficult for large sections of the population, particularly in urban areas. In Somalia, the nutritional and health situation of the population in southern areas is rapidly deteriorating as a result of a drought-reduced 1997 secondary season (Der) crop and persistent civil conflict. Food aid is urgently needed.
The 1997 cereal crop in southern Africa is forecast to be much lower than last year. Rainfall in 1997 was generally favourable during much of the growing season, despite a relatively late start in several areas, dry conditions in parts in January/February and excessive rains in some areas. However, unusually cold weather in June has delayed harvests in some areas and adversely affected yields.
The south-west monsoon arrived on time in several parts of Asia, favouring planting and early development of main rice and coarse grains crops. In India a normal monsoon is officially predicted, whilst in China a bumper summer crop is anticipated due to favourable weather and an increase in plantings. Notwithstanding early favourable conditions, final cereal output in the region will depend crucially on the performance of the monsoon in coming months. Food problems in Korea DPR give cause for serious concern and deaths due to starvation may ensue before the next harvest unless there are substantial food imports. Food production in Iraq remains constrained by shortages of agricultural inputs. An FAO/WFP mission is currently making an on-the-spot assessment of the crop, food and nutrition situation in the country. Food supply difficulties persist in Afghanistan.
In Central America and the Caribbean, planting of 1997 main season cereal crops is almost complete and near record maize plantings are estimated for the sub-region. However, in Haiti crops have been severely affected by drought and assistance is being provided by the international community. In South America, harvesting of the 1997 maize crop is almost complete in southern areas and record production is expected in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.
In the CIS, the outlook for 1997 cereal harvests is better than last year. If conditions remain satisfactory until the harvest, output is likely to recover sharply in the Ukraine and Moldova and remain close to last year's levels in the Russian Federation.
Prospects for 1997 cereal crops remain satisfactory in Europe. Production is forecast to remain above average in the EC whilst production is expected to recover in some eastern European countries after a drought-reduced crop last year.
In the United States, another good wheat crop is in prospect. Winter wheat conditions improved due to favourable weather in recent weeks and aggregate wheat output is now forecast at almost 63 million tons. Conditions have also been favourable for maize planting and output is expected to increase, by a further 6 percent, from last year's already good harvest.
In Australia, a good 1997 winter grain crop is in prospect following favourable weather. However, less land has been devoted to grains this year and output is forecast to fall from record levels in 1996.