In western Africa, the performance of the 1997 cereal harvest in the Sahel is mixed. After an early start to rains, a long dry spell from the middle of July severely affected crops in Senegal, The Gambia and Mauritania. Although rainfall in August reduced losses somewhat, production of rainfed crops fell sharply. Growing conditions were more favourable in other countries except in parts of Burkina Faso and Niger. Cereal production in 1997 in the nine CILSS countries is estimated by FAO/CILSS at 9.1 million tons, 1.1 percent lower than 1996 and 0.6 percent lower than average. Above-average output is anticipated in Guinea Bissau, Mali and Chad, almost average in Niger and below average in Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Mauritania and Senegal. Compared to 1996, output increased significantly in Guinea Bissau, Mauritania and Chad, but remained similar to 1996 in Niger and Cape Verde where a very poor harvest is again expected. Output also fell in Burkina Faso, The Gambia and Senegal in comparison to 1996. In coastal countries along the Gulf of Guinea, growing conditions remained generally favourable, but in parts the dry season lasted much longer than normal. In southern Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin and the south-west of Nigeria, no rains fell between mid-July and late September, substantially delaying planting of second season crops. The harvest of the second season crops is now about to begin and the output is expected to be about average. Harvest prospects in Liberia and Sierra Leone are better than in previous years, due to improved security in Liberia and in the main agricultural areas of Sierra Leone. Nevertherless, the food supply situation remains critical in Freetown, due to the trade embargo imposed by ECOWAS, poor security, and limited trade between rural and urban areas.
In central Africa, growing conditions were favourable in the first season in most countries. Second season crops are growing satisfactorily in Cameroon, Congo, and the Central African Republic. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the food supply situation is still critical in the east, due to large numbers of displaced people.
In eastern Africa, heavy rains since mid-October resulted in floods and crop losses in several countries. In Somalia, a reduced 1997/98 "Deyr" crop is expected following flood losses. In Kenya, well above average rains caused localized crop losses in agro-pastoralist eastern areas and in main western growing areas. In Ethiopia, heavy rains at harvest also reduced potential yields of 1997 main season cereal crops. In eastern Uganda and Tanzania, localized losses of the 1998 "short rains" cereal crops are reported due to floods. Elsewhere, the harvest of 1997 main season cereal crops is underway in Sudan and the outlook remains generally favourable. By contrast, prospects are poor in Eritrea, due to an early cessation of the rainy season. In Rwanda and Burundi, abundant rains recently improved prospects for 1998 first season crops.
In southern Africa, 1997 cereal output is 16 percent above average but 10 percent below last year’s bumper crop of 24.4 million tons. In Angola, production declined by 15 percent due to poor rainfall, whilst output is expected to be lower than last year in Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe due to unfavourable weather. Food supply is tight in parts of Malawi due to drought-reduced harvests. In contrast, in Mozambique, output is estimated to be 11 percent higher due to increased plantings and favourable weather. A record coarse grains crop is expected in Namibia, following larger plantings and abundant rainfall. In Madagascar, locust damage to crops in southern parts will be offset by good harvests elsewhere. Countries with relatively large carryover stocks from last year’s harvest, such as South Africa and Zimbabwe, are expected to supply other countries in the sub-region. However, given concern about potential drought in the next season due to El Niño, export and import plans are likely to be revised. A larger quantity of maize imports may, therefore, need to be sourced from outside the sub-region.
In Asia, severe weather anomalies related to the El Nino phenomenon continue to affect several countries. In Indonesia, a severe drought, forest fires and smog negatively affected crop production, threatening the food security of thousands of people. In the Philippines, reports indicate that up to 36 provinces are considered highly vulnerable to El Nino related weather anomalies, particularly prolonged drought, which are forecast to last till next April. In the worst affected provinces, rainfall was less than 40 percent of normal. In Thailand, El Nino related drought is expected to reduce production of major crops, over the coming months. The second rice crop is expected to fall by some 38 percent to 2.8 million tons. In China, northern parts of the country continue to be affected by drought, which has already reduced maize production this year and which poses a threat to planting of winter wheat. In India, another normal monsoon overall is reported. Serious drought in Korea DPR, resulted in a substantial fall in domestic grain production this year, the third in a row, which further threatens food security. In Viet Nam, a typhoon at the beginning of November, killed an estimated 285 people and damaged 453 000 hectares of winter-spring rice. In Afghanistan, aggregate output in 1997 was 18 percent higher than last year as a result of good rains, whilst in Iraq 1997 output remained below normal due to shortage of essential inputs. Due to favourable weather conditions, 1997 wheat output increased in Saudi Arabia.
In Central America and the Caribbean, second season crops are being harvested in most countries. Chances of recovery from first season crop losses caused by El Niño are small in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Panama. However, in Honduras and Mexico average to above-average maize output is expected. In the Dominican Republic, abundant rains since October favoured drought affected rainfed crops and replenished reservoirs for the mainly irrigated paddy crop. In Cuba, a low paddy output is forecast due to continuing shortage of inputs. In Haiti, conditions were favourable for second season irrigated paddy but total output is expected to remain low due to losses in the first season.
In South America, torrential rains attributed to El Niño adversely affected harvesting of the 1997 wheat crop in southern areas and delayed planting of the 1997/98 maize crop. In Argentina, wheat planting was reduced by wet conditions. In Brazil, crop losses due to flooding are reported in one of the main producing states, while drier than normal conditions are beginning to occur in the north-east and are expected to cotninue in the months ahead. Above-normal rains are also reported in Uruguay. The wheat and maize outlook depends largely on the impact of El Niño in the months ahead. In the Andean countries, planting of 1998 main cereal crops has begun in Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru which may coincide with the peak effects of El Niño. In Colombia, the situation is particularly difficult as prolonged dry weather and high temperatures combined with torrential rains in parts adversely affected crops. In Venezuela, crops have only been slightly affected and an above-average maize output is expected.
In Europe, widespread showers and mild weather favoured winter grain establishment in western parts, but unseasonably cold weather in the south-east affected planting. Aggregate cereal output in 1997 is estimated at 303 million tons, 12 million tons above 1996. A slight decrease in production in the EC was more than offset by larger crops in the major producing countries elsewhere in the region. In the Baltic countries, the 1997 grain harvest exceeded last year’s good levels and aggregate output increased by 11 percent to 4.8 million tons. The early outlook for winter grains for harvest in 1998 is satisfactory in the Baltic States.
In the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), An FAO Crop Assessment Mission in September, provisionally estimated 1997 cereal and pulse output at 150 million tons (cleanweight), 18 percent above last year. All CIS countries are expected to harvest crops larger than or similar to last year. Most of the estimated 23 million ton increase in production reflects recovery in the Russian Federation, Ukraine, and Moldova. Output, however, is also expected to increase sharply in Georgia, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, in response to incentives and better availability of inputs. Smaller increases are anticipated in Azerbaijan, (affected by floods) and Kazakhstan, reflecting financial constraints, low profitability in marginal areas and input constraints. Although the aggregate harvest is significantly larger, crop quality is poorer than last year due to low input use and excessive rains. Ample supplies caused prices of grains to fall sharply in the Russian Federation and the Ukraine, which may result in reduced plantings in 1998. Indications are that winter grain plantings in the Russian Federation declined marginally, but ploughed area for spring planting is sharply down. In the Ukraine also, indications are that the winter grain area is also down.
In North America, winter wheat planting in the United States for 1998 harvest is complete under generally favourable conditions. The 1997 wheat crop is officially estimated at 68.8 million tons, some 10 percent above 1996. The official forecast for 1997 aggregate coarse grain production has been raised to 265.6 million tons, but remains lower than the 267.8 million tons harvested in 1996. In Canada, the bulk of the 1997 wheat harvest is complete and the latest official estimate puts it at some 23.5 million tons, 21 percent below 1996. The coarse grain crop is also forecast down from the previous year at about 25 million tons.
In Oceania, prospects for the 1997 winter grains crops in Australia remain favourable following timely and abundant rainfall in recent weeks. Output nevertheless will be considerably lower than last year due to reduced plantings and dry conditions earlier in parts. In addition, in parts of New South Wales, where dry conditions prevail, serious fires are threatening crops and disrupting harvesting. Recent rainfall in the summer coarse grains areas has improved prospects greatly for the crop soon to be planted for harvest in 1998.