Light rains in late October brought relief to the 1997/98 second season cereal and bean crops, which had earlier been affected by dry weather. First season crops were also affected by El Niño- related effects, particularly provinces on the Pacific coast and in the Central Valley region. The output of paddy, the main crop, for both seasons is forecast to decline from last year’s average 200 000 tons to about 185 000 tons. Lesser damage has been incurred by maize and average output is expected. Production losses were incurred to the first season bean crop, an important staple, but some recovery is expected from the more important second season crop, as adequate growing conditions are reported in the main producing areas. A shortfall of some 20 000 tons is nevertheless expected.
Maize imports (mainly yellow maize) in marketing year 1997/98 are provisionally forecast to increase from the previous year’s relatively high receipts of 280 000 tons to about 290 000 tons, in anticipation of steady demand from the animal feed industry. Rice imports in 1998 (January/December) are estimated at 90 000 tons to cover demand of 275 000 tons.
CUBA (20 November)
Irregular and ill-distributed rains, combined with abnormally high temperatures attributed to the El Niño weather phenomenon, continue to be reported. However, more abundant rains are forecast in the next few months. No damage has so far been reported to the 1997 first season maize and paddy crops currently being harvested. Early forecasts indicate that maize output should be about 90 000 tons, which compares to last year’s 85 000 tons and to an average 82 000 tons in the past 5 years. The output of paddy, a main staple, is anticipated to remain close to the 1996 level of 270 000 tons, reflecting continuing finance problems faced by the Government in the import of farm inputs. A satisfactory output of vegetables and roots has been collected so far.
Harvesting of the 1997/98 sugar cane crop, a major foreign exchange earner, has started early to avoid possible El Niño effects which are forecast in the months ahead. Preliminary forecasts point to a level of production close to the low 1996/97 crop of 4.2 million tons.
Wheat imports in the 1997/98 marketing year (July/June) are anticipated at about 900 000 tons. Maize imports should be about 255 000 tons, while rice imports in 1998 (January/December) are forecast to be between 375 000 and 400 000 tons to meet steady domestic demand of approximately 500 000 tons.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC (22 November)
Normal to abundant rains since late September, typical of the hurricane season, have brought much needed relief to the 1997 second season rainfed maize and sorghum crops, currently being planted, as well as to other minor food crops, which had been affected by prolonged dry weather. The rains also helped replenish water reservoirs for the second season irrigated paddy crop which is about to be harvested. Additional rains are forecast for the remainder of the hurricane season. The output of maize is nevertheless provisionally forecast to decrease from last year’s above-average 60 000 tons to a low 39 000 tons. The irrigated paddy crop has been only slightly affected in some areas and is expected to be at near-record level.
Wheat imports in 1998 (January/December) are estimated at about 265 000 tons, similar to 1996. Maize imports are forecast to decrease from 690 000 to some 640 000 tons due to high carryover stocks. The Government intends to import about 40 000 tons of rice in 1998 to help keep a stable supply for this important staple and thus prevent any eventual stockpiling and price speculation as it has successfully done during the dry period earlier in the year.
EL SALVADOR (21 November)
Irregular and ill-distributed rains were reported in October but with no relevant effect on the normal development of the 1997/98 second season cereal and bean crops. The first season crops had been seriously affected by El Niño-related dry weather and about 125 000 tons of white maize were lost. Despite a slight recovery in the second season crop, production of maize is forecast to decline from last year’s above-average 630 000 tons to a low 506 000 tons. Sorghum output, by contrast, is expected to be about average as the bulk of the crop is collected from the second season crop. Only minor damage has been reported to the bean crop and an average output is anticipated. Despite losses incurred, supplies and prices of basic grains in the country have remained stable mainly due to the prompt action taken by the Government in the management of strategic reserves and increased imports. In an effort to help the drought affected farmers, technical assistance has been provided and new credit funds and conditions have been granted through the Ministry of Agriculture for the refinancing of crops.
Wheat imports in marketing year 1997/98 (August/July) are expected to increase slightly from the previous year’s receipts of about 195 000 tons. By contrast, imports of maize should increase from 190 000 tons to about 300 000 tons to help cover the deficit in production. Rice imports in 1998 (January/December) should be close to 1997 imports of 23 000 tons.
GUATEMALA (20 November)
Adverse weather continue to affect the developing 1997/98 second season cereal and bean crops. These were affected by seasonal hurricane rains and heavy flooding in the south-central province of Escuintla in late September, and by dry weather again in October. The output of maize, the main crop, for both seasons is expected to decline from last year’s below average 1.1 million tons to 900 000 tons. This is mainly the result of first season crop losses caused by El Niño-related drought. Lesser damage is reported to the modest paddy crop and output should be slightly below-average. Localized losses are reported to the bean crop. In an effort to cope with the continuing effect of El Niño, contingency planning has been adopted by various Ministries and institutions, such as the financing of small irrigation systems, improvements of rural roads, control of strategic grain reserves, improvement in the dissemination of adequate weather information and other protective measures.
Wheat imports in marketing year 1997/98 (November/October) are likely to decline from last year’s receipts of 320 000 tons to some 275 000 tons, mostly as a consequence large carry-over stocks. Maize imports (July/June) should increase from 400 000 tons to about 610 000 tons in order to cover the deficit in production and thus meet the strong domestic demand. Rice imports in 1998 (January/December) should be about 35 000 to 40 000 tons.
HAITI* (18 November)
Harvesting of the 1997 second season irrigated paddy crop has started under adequate weather conditions. The crop was significantly affected during the first half of the year as a consequence of a prolonged drought which affected all crops. Output for the year should decline from the below-average 80 000 tons of the previous year. Planting of the bean crop has just started and a slight recovery is expected. The output of vegetables has been satisfactory.
HONDURAS (20 November)
Harvesting of the 1997/98 second season (main) maize and paddy crops is underway while that of beans has been recently completed under generally dry weather. Localized losses, particularly in the depressed areas of the south, were incurred to the first season crops by the early effects of El Niño, but increases in production were obtained in the main producing areas of the country which helped compensate for the losses reported. Maize output is provisionally forecast at an average 595 000 tons, while average sorghum production is anticipated. In order to cope with the potential impact of El Niño in the next few months, the Government has undertaken some protective measures including the construction of small irrigation systems and temporary water reservoirs, the drilling of wells and the sale of water pumps. Assistance from the international community has been received, mainly in the form of food aid distribution to the affected southern rural population and funds for the purchase of fertilizers.
Wheat imports in marketing year 1997/98 (July/June) are forecast to increase from 175 000 tons last year to about 195 000 tons. Maize imports should remain close to last year’s receipts of 145 000 tons. Rice imports in 1998 (January/December) should also be similar to 1997.
MEXICO (28 November)
Dry weather and warm temperatures in recent weeks have favoured harvesting of the 1997 maize crop currently underway. The crops, particularly those grown in the southwestern states, had been affected by torrential rains and flooding in early October, and formerly by long weeks of scant precipitation. Other cereal, food and cash crops were also affected. Despite damage incurred, latest official forecasts point to a well above-average crop of 18.5 to 19 million tons. The anticipated good results would be mainly due to improved yields caused by a larger use of fertilizers. The sorghum crop grown in the north-eastern states, affected by dry weather in the past 4 years, benefited from normal rains in October, and output is provisionally forecast at an above-average 5.5 to 6 million tons. This principally reflects enlarged plantings.
Planting of the 1998 irrigated wheat crop is underway in the main growing regions of the northwest. Water reservoir levels are reported to be adequate, following normal to abundant rains in late September, and average to above-average plantings are expected.
NICARAGUA (12 November)
Normal rains resumed in October benefiting developing 1997/98 second season (“postrera”) cereal and bean crops currently being harvested. However, prospects of recovery from losses incurred by El Niño-related effects to the first season maize crop are poor. Production increases in the non-affected areas have not been sufficient because of low yields and the anticipated output from the second season is not enough either. Maize output, therefore, is expected to fall from an earlier above-average estimate to a near -average level. By contrast, sorghum and bean production are expected to be satisfactory as the bulk of the output is collected from the second season crops.
Wheat imports in marketing year 1997/98 (July/June) are forecast to increase from the previous year’s receipts of 110 000 tons to some 120 000 tons. Maize imports are anticipated to increase significantly to cover the deficit in production and meet the strong domestic demand. Rice imports in 1998 (January/December) should remain close to 1996 level. PANAMA (12 November)
Light rains around mid-October favoured the developing 1997 paddy, maize and bean crops, for harvesting from December, as well as other minor food crops. The rains were, however, too late for any significant recovery from losses incurred to first season crops by early El Niño-associated effects. Early prospects are uncertain for planting of the 1998 crops, to be started from March, as dry weather is forecast to continue in the months ahead. A request for international assistance has been recently made.