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Southern Africaís food supply situation remains stable but El Niño poses potential threat, prompting Governments to initiate contingency plans to combat possible effects. Total cereal output for 1997 is estimated at some 10 percent below last yearís harvest but still above average. The overall food supply situation should remain generally stable for 1997/98, except in parts of Angola, Lesotho and Malawi where supplies are tight. However, reflecting concerns regarding drought in the coming months due to El Niño, export and import plans are likely to be revised and a larger quantity of maize imports may need to be sourced from outside the sub-region.

Heavy rains and floods attributed to El Niño have caused serious crop damage in eastern Africa. In Somalia, in addition to crop and livestock losses, floods caused numerous deaths and extensive damage to property and infrastructure. Thousands of people are homeless. With a reduced crop anticipated for the fourth consecutive year, the already difficult food supply situation is likely to worsen in 1998. Heavy rains and floods also resulted in loss of property and localized crop damage in Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda.

In the sahelian countries, an overall average cereal harvest has been gathered, notwithstanding drought reduced outputs in Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Mauritania and Senegal. Food supply difficulties are likely in central and northern Senegal and in parts of Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Mauritania and Niger. The 1997 cereal harvest is expected to be above average in most coastal countries in Western Africa. However, in Sierra Leone the food situation remains precarious.

Serious weather anomalies related to El Niño threaten crops in several parts of Asia. In Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand crop production is forecast to fall due to continued drought. The food situation in parts of Indonesia is extremely tight and the Government is providing emergency assistance. Elsewhere, food security in Korea DPR worsens as prolonged drought seriously reduces grain production. Drought also significantly reduced maize output in China and threatens planting of winter wheat, whilst in Papua New Guinea the overall food situation gives cause for serious concern as production falls due to prolonged drought and frost. Dry conditions are expected to continue until well into next year. Severe drought has also damaged crops in the Solomon Islands.

In Central America and the Caribbean the first season crops have been adversely affected by El Niño. Drier than normal conditions are forecast in the months ahead, which could affect second season production, raising concern also for planting of 1998 main season crops. In several parts, contingency plans for emergency and rehabilitation assistance are being implemented. El Nino, also threatens food and cash crops in the Andean countries and northwestern parts of the sub-region. In north-east Brazil, the impact of serious drought is emerging and is expected to worsen over the next few months.

In Europe, 1997 cereal output rose by 4 percent, reflecting recovery in several of the regionís eastern countries. Widespread rainfall and mild temperatures have favoured winter grain establishment for 1998 crops in western parts, but in the south-east, cold weather delayed planting and affected crop establishment

In the CIS, a significant increase in the cereal and pulse harvest is expected this year. Most of the increase reflects recovery in the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Moldova following drought-reduced crops last year. Output is also expected to increase in Georgia, Krgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

In the United States, 1997 production of coarse grains is expected to be higher than earlier estimated, taking output close to last yearís good level.

In Australia, 1997 cereal prospects remain good, following favourable rainfall in recent weeks. However, in parts of New South Wales, where dry conditions prevail, serious fires are threatening crops and disrupting harvesting.

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