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.