Unfavourable weather during the growing season has adversely affected the cereal crop now being harvested. Aggregate cereal production in 1997 is expected to fall to a 20-year low of about 1.08 million tons from a record of 4.6 million tons in the previous season and less than half the average for the previous five years. Drought has probably scorched about 65 percent of the country's 3.5 million hectares sown to cereals. Wheat output in 1997 is estimated at 750 000 tons, about 73 percent lower than in the previous year. Production of barley is estimated to decline sharply to 300 000 tons from 1.7 million tons harvested in 1996.
As a result of the low level of domestic output in 1997, imports of wheat (excluding semolina) in 1997/98 (July/June) and those of coarse grains are forecast to increase sharply from last yearís 3.0 million tons and 0.8 million tons, respectively.
WFPís relief operation for 1997/98 (July/June) provides 6 250 tons of basic food commodities to assist 49 000 most vulnerable Western Sahara refugees.
EGYPT (11 August)
The output from the recently harvested wheat crop, almost entirely irrigated, is estimated at about 5.5 million tons, some 4 percent less than last year. Despite favourable weather conditions until April, strong dust storms and high temperatures at the end of the growing season adversely affected yields.
Imports of wheat and wheat flour in 1997/98 (July/June) are forecast to decline slightly to 6.2 million tons. Coarse grains imports, (virtually maize only) are forecast to remain at last yearís level of 2.7 million tons.
MOROCCO (11 August)
Reflecting unfavourable growing conditions, only some 4.8 million hectares were planted to cereals in 1996/97 season compared with some 6 million hectares in 1995/96. Cereal production in 1997, mainly wheat and barley, is estimated at 3.35 million tons, well down on last yearís record output of 9.7 million tons.
Reflecting the low level of production, imports of wheat in 1997/98 (July/June) are forecast to increase by 1.4 million tons to 2.4 million tons. The value-added tax on sorghum and maize has been reduced from 20 percent to 7 percent.
TUNISIA (11 August)
Cereal production in 1997 is expected to be significantly lower than last yearís record of 2.9 million tons, but of higher quality due to absence of diseases. Due to unfavourable weather and lower plantings, the output of the wheat crop is estimated at 660,000 tons, about one-third of the previous yearís harvest, while barley production is estimated to decline by 570 000 tons to 265 000 tons. The area planted to cereals in the 1996/97 season dropped markedly, especially in the main producing northern areas.
Imports of wheat in 1997/98 (July/June) are forecast to increase sharply to 1.1 million tons from 0.4 million tons imported last year. In the current year the country will also need to resume barley imports.