Drier weather in early November favoured harvesting of the 1997 wheat crop which had been delayed due to above-average rains in October attributed to the El Niño phenomenon. Localized flooding has been reported in northern parts of the country and large producing southwestern Buenos Aires province. No damage, however, has been incurred to the crops, but wheat yields could be affected and a fungus outbreak occur should the excessive rains resume. The abundant rains, by contrast, benefited some areas in Cordoba and Santa Fe that were being affected by severe dry weather. Early forecasts point to a 14 million tons wheat crop, compared to a record 16 million tons in 1996, but production would still be above average.
Planting of the 1997/98 maize crop has also been delayed due to excessive rains and damage to crops in some parts of the Buenos Aires province is reported. By early November, about 70 percent of the intended area planted to maize had been sown. Agricultural activities have been accelerated in anticipation of the unusually excessive rains which are forecast towards the end of the year and due to El Niño.
BOLIVIA (12 November)
Weather conditions in October favoured fieldwork activities in preparation for planting of the 1997/98 main season cereal and potato crops. Intended wheat plantings should be close to last year’s above-average level. The area planted to maize, the main cereal, as well as sorghum, is provisionally forecast at near record levels. Planting of the important potato crop is also anticipated to be satisfactory. No serious damage has so far been reported due to El Niño, as the bulk of the 1997 crops had been gathered before the El Niño impact started to be felt. Localized damage was reported in September, however, when torrential rains and flooding affected the southwestern department of Sucre.
Wheat imports in marketing year 1997/98 are provisionally forecast to increase from last year’s receipts of 330 000 tons to 375 000 tons.
BRAZIL (28 November)
Harvesting of the 1997 wheat crop has just been completed. The crop has been affected in the last few weeks by torrential rains and flooding in the southern states of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul, particularly in the latter state which accounts for 32 percent of domestic production, with resulting damage to crops as well as severe damage to housing and infrastructure. Wheat yields are possibly affected and the appearance of fungal disease is likely to occur because of the excess humidity. Production is tentatively estimated at about 2.6 million tons, compared to an average of 2.4 million tons in the last five years.
Planting of the 1997/98 maize crop has been delayed because of excessive rains. More rains are forecast in the next few weeks. The area planted to maize is provisionally forecast to decline from the near record in 1996 but still remain above average. However, the outcome of the crop will be principally determined by the impact of El Niño in the months ahead. Technical advice is being disseminated to the rural population by the Government on how to cope with the potential effects of the phenomenon.
CHILE (20 November)
Normal growing conditions are reported for the 1997/98 wheat crop which is about to be harvested. The area planted has increased considerably from last year’s drought affected crop and an above-average 1.6 million tons are provisionally forecast. Planting of the maize crop continues and the area planted should be above average.
Wheat imports in the 1997/98 marketing year (December/November) is expected to remain close to last year’s receipts of 750 000 tons.
COLOMBIA (28 November)
Light rains in the second half of October brought some moisture relief to the 1997/98 cereal crops currently being planted. The rains ended 6 weeks of precipitation shortfall across most of the northwestern part of the country. Prospects are nevertheless poor for maize, the main crop, particularly in the highlands of Nariño and Cundinamarca provinces, which have been affected by prolonged dry weather and elevated temperatures and where forest fires have been reported. The area planted is expected to decrease from last year’s below-average level. The outlook is also poor for the sorghum crop. Production is anticipated to decline for the fourth consecutive year. The intended area planted to paddy is tentatively forecast to stay close to 1996 slightly below-average level, but this will largely depend upon the development of El Niño phenomenon which is expected to reach its peak in the next few months. Fruit and vegetable crops benefited from the rains and prices of some food items which significantly increased fell back to near normal levels in anticipation of larger supply.
Cereal imports in 1998 are forecast to increase considerably from relatively high levels reached in 1997 in order to compensate the deficit in production and meet the steady domestic demand.
ECUADOR (16 November)
The coastal provinces, from Esmeraldas in the north to Guayas in the south, continued to be affected in October by intensive rains and, in some parts, by high tides. Damage to housing and infrastructure is reported, as well as to banana and sugar plantations. A state of emergency has been declared for these areas and assistance is being provided by the international community. Planting of the 1998 maize crop, the main crop, has started and the area planted is tentatively forecast to remain close to 1997 satisfactory level. Despite localized flooding, the area planted to paddy is expected to be about average and production should be sufficient to meet the needs of the population. A contingency plan has been prepared by the Government to help the population cope with the effects of El Niño. This includes technical advice to farmers on protective measures and the use of alternative crops, public works such as the cleaning of canals and country roads, strengthening of bridges, and the repair of the sewage system in some municipalities. Preventive health and sanitary measures have been adopted all over the country.
Wheat imports in the 1998 marketing year (January/December) are expected to be about 485 000 tons, similar to 1997.
PERU (28 November)
Planting of the 1998 main cereal crops has started and intended plantings of wheat are provisionally forecast to be close to last year’s satisfactory level. The area planted to maize is also forecast to be at near record level. Above-average plantings of paddy are expected. But the outcome of the 1998 crops will largely be determined by the development of El Niño phenomenon. The Government actively continues its programme of preventive and emergency measure at national, regional and local levels, in anticipation of the worst impact in the next months. In the north, where intensive precipitation has been reported, near the border with Ecuador, and more abundant rains are forecast, public works are being carried out which include the cleaning of canals, control of river banks, and other infrastructural repair works. In the south and in the highlands, where drought is anticipated, a programme for drilling water wells has been initiated. Risk maps of the areas likely to be affected and educational material, combined with community awareness campaigns, have been prepared and distributed.
Wheat imports in marketing year 1998 (January/December) should be close to 1997 receipts of 1.2 million tons. Maize imports are tentatively forecast at about 800 000 tons which compares to this year’s 750 000 tons.
URUGUAY (12 November)
Abundant rains have benefited the development of the 1997 wheat crop. Harvesting has just started and a satisfactory output is provisionally forecast; however, the outcome of the crop will be significantly determined by the intensity and duration of the rains which are forecast for the weeks ahead as a consequence of El Niño-related effect. Planting of the 1997/98 maize crop continues and the area planted is tentatively forecast to be above average. The intended area planted of the important irrigated paddy crop is also expected to be at near record level, reflecting expanding exports to neighbouring countries.
VENEZUELA (16 November)
Normal rains in October across most of the country benefited the developing 1997 maize crop, currently being harvested, and planting of the 1997/98 paddy crop. Early forecasts indicate that maize output should be at an above-average 1.1 million tons, which compares to 1 million tons in 1996. Production of sorghum, by contrast, is expected to decrease from 440 000 tons to 250 000 tons, mainly because of farmers’ decisions to reduce plantings as a consequence of the strong import competition. The intended area to paddy is provisionally forecast to remain close to the previous year’s average level.