INFORMATION AND EARLY WARNING SYSTEM ON FOOD AND AGRICULTURE
CROP PRODUCTION IN LATIN AMERICA CONTINUES
TO BE AFFECTED BY EL NIÑO
9 February 1998
El Niño-related irregular and ill-distributed
precipitation and temperature anomalies continue to affect crops in many
parts of the region. In the southern areas of South America, heavy rains
hampered harvesting of the 1997 wheat crop, which has just been completed.
The output and quality of this crop has been adversely affected in some
areas. By contrast, abundant rains have benefited the development of the
1998 maize crop to be harvested from late February. In the Andean countries,
heavy rains and flooding are affecting planting of the 1998 cereal crops
in various parts, while drought is severely affecting crops in other zones.
In the central parts of the sub-region, abnormally high temperatures prevail
from the Andes eastward to the Atlantic seaboard, posing a serious threat
to planting of the 1998 maize crop in some parts.
Reflecting the impact of El Niño, the aggregate
cereal import requirements in the 1997/98 marketing year are anticipated
to increase significantly from the previous year’s level of 30 million
The situation by sub-region is as follows:
CENTRAL AMERICA (INCLUDING
Growing conditions have been particularly difficult
for the recently harvested 1997/98 second season crops due to the adverse
effects of El Niño, which reached its peak by the end of the year.
Persistent dry weather in January and its expected continuation in the
next few weeks could seriously jeopardize sowing of the 1998 first season
cereal crops in most countries to be started in March.
Dry weather, combined with unusually high temperatures
still prevails over most of the country. Water rationing is being implemented
in some areas as these conditions are forecast to continue in the
weeks ahead, (March and April are normally the warmest months in the country).
A state of emergency was declared by the Government in September, and contingency
measures such as the construction of water tanks, reservoirs, etc. have
been adopted to help the rural population cope with the effects of El Niño.
Many small maize producers, mostly at subsistence level, experienced severe
crop losses. Rice sustained serious losses in the large producing northern
province of Guanacaste, and to a lesser extent in the central areas along
the Pacific coast and the southern province of Puntarenas. The important
coffee crop was also affected and lower yields are consequently anticipated.
Pastures continue to be affected by drought and the cattle industry is
expected to suffer in the long run from these unusual conditions. A programme
prepared by the Government to store foliage for cattle and other initiatives
has been initiated.
Precipitation has been irregular in the last two months
and abnormally high temperatures have been reported. Intensive but isolated
rains are forecast in the months ahead. So far no damage has been reported
to food crops such as potatoes and vegetables. The rainfed (winter) paddy
crop is currently being planted. Harvesting of the important sugar cane
crop started in November, well in advance of its normal harvest period
of January, to avoid losses by heavy rains at the peak of El Niño
phenomenon in late December.
Heavy rains and flooding in January have negatively
affected crops, particularly in the northern and north-western areas of
the country. Considerable losses are reported to paddy and other crops
(tomatoes, onions, plantains, cassava, sweet potatoes, beans and bananas),
which are important for the food security of the region. Losses have also
been incurred by cash crops (tobacco). Damage to housing and infrastructure
is reported. About 21 000 people, mostly small farmers, have been affected.
More rains are forecast in the weeks ahead. The Government has requested
Normal weather in the last few weeks has been too late
to reverse the damage caused by earlier drought to the recently harvested
1997/98 second season maize crop. A considerably below-average output has
been gathered. The bean crop, by contrast, was not seriously affected by
the dry weather and an average harvest has been gathered. Normal growing
conditions are reported for sorghum and some improvement in production
is expected to help compensate for the losses of maize. Despite the drop
in maize production, cereal prices have remained stable mainly due to the
timely intervention by the Government in facilitating imports. However,
emergency food assistance is required, as well as the need for assistance
for the rehabilitation of agricultural activities. Technical assistance
and other forms of support are being provided by the Government and other
public institutions, and an appeal for assistance to the international
community has been made by the Government for the affected population in
the eastern part of the country.
Harvesting of the 1997/98 second season cereal crops
has been nearly completed under generally dry weather. A reduced output
of maize, the main cereal, is anticipated due to severe drought-induced
losses to first season crops, and to intensive rains and flood damage to
the plantings of the second season crops. Production of sorghum is also
expected to be below average. The food situation is tight in rural areas.
Government and private institutions have adopted a wide range of emergency
measures to help mitigate the effects of El Niño. An appeal for
emergency food aid and technical assistance has been made to the international
Adequate rains in November have been followed by an
erratic rain pattern since December, but this is unlikely to delay planting
of the 1998 first season cereal, bean and other food crops, which normally
starts in February. More rains are forecast in the weeks ahead. The area
planted to maize and paddy (irrigated and non-irrigated) is expected to
recover from 1997 when the crops were severely affected by drought throughout
the first half of the year. The food situation remains tight and assistance
is being provided by the international community.
Irregular and ill-distributed rains in the last two
months had no adverse effect on the 1997/98 second season (main) maize,
sorghum and bean crops currently being harvested. An average maize output,
but lower than previously forecast, is anticipated. Production of sorghum
should be below average as a consequence of the losses incurred by drought
to first season (main) crop, particularly in the south. Paddy output is
also anticipated to decline but to a lesser extent as the bulk of the crop
is grown in the northern, central and northeastern areas where the effects
of the drought have been less intense. Government has requested international
assistance to the affected population, mostly subsistence farmers, for
emergency food aid and the rehabilitation of agricultural activities. To
help mitigate the impact of El Niño, the Government has undertaken
a number of measures including construction of small irrigation systems
and temporary reservoirs, and drilling of wells.
Despite drought damage to rainfed crops, particularly
in the south-western parts of the country, followed by hurricanes, the
production of maize and sorghum has been satisfactory. Water reservoirs
are at adequate levels for the 1998 irrigated wheat crop to be harvested
from April, and an average output is tentatively forecast. However, storms
and heavy rains forecast for the northern parts of the country in the next
two months could affect plantings in the large producing states of Sonora
Irregular and ill-distributed rains in December negatively
affected the 1997/98 second season ("postrera") crops, currently being
harvested, and delayed planting of the third season ("apante") crop. A
reduced output of maize, the main cereal, is expected, mostly as a consequence
of the severe drought damage to the first season crops. Production of sorghum
is also expected to decline significantly from last year. The Government
has appealed for international assistance in the form of emergency food
aid and technical support for the rehabilitation of agricultural activities.
Unusually high temperatures and dry conditions continue
to affect the country, particularly the Pacific coastal provinces. Precipitation,
mostly on the Atlantic coast, has been irregular and ill-distributed. Prospects
are extremely uncertain for the planting of the 1998 paddy and maize crops
to start in April, as latest forecasts point out to drier than normal weather
in the weeks ahead. About 100 000 tons of rice, the main cereal, are likely
to be imported in 1998 to help meet the deficit in last year’s production.
The livestock sector was also severely affected in 1997 and the situation
could deteriorate in the current year due to the poor state of pastures.
Only irrigated crops, such as bananas, were spared drought damage. Assistance
for emergency food to the affected population and the rehabilitation of
agricultural activities has been requested from the international community.
Several emergency measures have also been adopted by the Government to
help mitigate the impact of El Niño.
The strong impact of El Niño continued into January
in most countries of the sub-region. Unusually warm and dry conditions
persist in the northwestern parts of South America, while torrential rains
and flooding are reported along the coasts of Ecuador and northern Peru.
In the central parts of the sub-region, warm temperatures are registered
from the Andes eastward to the Atlantic seaboard, with record high temperatures
in various locations. In the southern areas, heavy rains continue in some
parts and wetter than normal conditions are expected in the weeks ahead.
Harvesting of the 1997 wheat crop has been recently
completed following some disruption caused by the intensive rains. The
crop is reported in good condition in the southern parts of the key producing
province of Buenos Aires, while crop quality problems are reported in the
western parts of this province and northern and central La Pampa. In the
northern sections of the wheat producing belt, where precipitation has
been the heaviest, lower yields are expected. Production should decline
from last year’s record but should nevertheless remain well above the 5-year
average. The excess humidity, by contrast, has largely benefited the 1998
maize crop, to be harvested from March, and a record output is anticipated.
A bumper sorghum crop is also expected.
Generally dry conditions in the highlands and valleys
are affecting the planting of the 1998 first season cereal and potato crops
currently underway. Reduced plantings are reported in some parts where
sowing has already been completed. Intensive precipitation and flooding,
by contrast, in the Amazonian areas were reported in December. A state
of national emergency was declared in September, when torrential rains
and flooding resulted in some casualties and heavy damage to infrastructure
in the south-western parts of the country. Contingency measures and a plan
of action have been prepared by the Government to assist the agricultural
sector, as well as other sectors, to cope with the possible effects of
the phenomenon. These measures include the use of more resistant crop varieties,
the rehabilitation and improvement of existing silo establishments, the
increase in production of substitutes to the important potato crop (mostly
grown in the drought affected highlands) and the safe storage of seeds.
The output of the recently harvested 1997 wheat crop
was lower than in 1996, but still above average. The decline has been mainly
due to the torrential rains in the main producing southern states of Parana,
Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul. Harvesting of the 1998 maize crop
has already started in some of the southern areas and output is tentatively
forecast to decline considerably from the high 1997 production level, mainly
as a consequence of reduced plantings. However, the decline in area planted
is principally due to farmers’ decision to switch to alternative crops
which attract higher prices relative to maize. In the north-east of the
country, where sowing of the 1998 maize crops should start from March,
the outlook is poor as extremely dry conditions associated with El Niño
have prevailed for weeks. Planting levels remain uncertain as drier than
normal conditions are forecast to prevail until April. The majority are
subsistence farmers living off small crops of maize, beans and cassava.
Pastures are also being affected by the moisture deficits.
Heavy rains in October and part of November affected
plantings in the major wheat producing central areas of the country. The
output of the 1998 crop, currently being harvested, is expected to decline
from 1997. As a result, increased imports will be required to cover the
anticipated production deficit. In December, below-normal rains were registered
throughout the country, with considerably higher temperatures relative
to the previous months, which raised concern at the risk of forest fires
in certain areas. Generally normal weather conditions were reported in
January, which improved the outlook for the 1998 maize crop to be harvested
Abnormally warm and prolonged dry conditions persist
in the north-western parts of the country. Severe dry conditions are also
reported along the Andean mountain range, in the mountain valleys, and
along the Caribbean and parts of the northern Pacific coasts. Water reservoir
levels are reported to be low and water and electric power rationing measures
have been implemented in some areas, particularly in the northern departments
of Guajira, Magdalena and Bolivar. Similar measures have been implemented
in the central departments of Santander, Cundimarca, and Tolima, as well
in the departments of Cauca and Nariño in the south-west. The number
of forest fires continues to increase because of the drought, and river
transportation and access to marine ports have become increasingly difficult.
By contrast, heavy rains and flooding are reported in some regions of the
Pacific coast, as well as in the interior departments of Caquetá
and Putumayo, where landslides are also reported. Plantings of the 1997/98
second season cereal crops, as well as the area planted to other food and
cash crops, were reduced in most parts of the country. Plantings of rainfed
crops were significantly reduced principally because of farmers’ fears
of losing their crops. Prospects are uncertain for planting of the 1998
first season cereal crops to commence in April as present conditions are
forecast to persist for the next few weeks.
Planting of the 1998 wheat crop, mostly grown in the
highlands, has started under generally normal conditions while sowing of
maize (yellow) and paddy is underway mainly in the coastal provinces of
Manabi and Las Guayas, as well as in the central and southern provinces
of Los Rios and Loja. Torrential rains and flooding, and isolated landslides,
were reported in November/December in all the coastal provinces and in
the interior provinces of Bolivar, Cotopaxi and Los Rios, resulting in
a high number of casualties, and severe damage to housing, infrastructure
and to the agricultural sector. Cereal as well as other food and important
cash crops, such as coffee, cocoa, bananas and sugar cane have been seriously
damaged. An assessment of the situation has not yet been made. The livestock
sector and several shrimp farms have also suffered. A state of emergency
has been declared by the Government and a request for assistance to the
international community has been made.
Planting of the 1998 cereal and potato crops is underway.
Heavy rains have been reported since December all over the country, resulting
in flooding and landslides in the northern, central and south-eastern parts
of the country. The rains became even more intensive in late January and
are particularly affecting the large rice producing areas of the northern
coastal province of Piura. Bananas, other food and cash crops, like cotton,
grow in this area. Further north, in the province of Tumbes, heavy rains
were also reported and could affect bananas in this province. Serious damage
has been suffered by housing and infrastructure in the northern departments
of Tumbes, Piura, Lambayeque, Cajamarca and La Libertad, and the central
department of Ancash. In the south, the departments of Arequipa, Ayacucho,
Apumirac, and Huanvelica were also affected by the heavy rains, as well
as the interior departments of Cusco and Puno. Emergency measures have
been adopted by the Government and a request for international assistance
has been made. Intensive precipitation is also reported in the northern
mountain range but with no damage to the important potato crops grown at
Abnormal heavy rains in December resulted in overflowing
of the Paraguay river, thus affecting the provinces of Concepción,
San Pedro, Presidente Hayes, Alto Paraguay and particularly the provinces
of Asunción, including the metropolitan area, and Neembucu in the
southern part of the country. Severe damage to housing and infrastructure
is reported and about 60 000 people are estimated to be directly affected
by the floods. An assessment of possible damage to the agricultural sector
has not been made yet. An appeal for international assistance has been
made by the Government.
Dry and warm conditions are reported along the Caribbean
coast and in the western parts, while near normal weather conditions are
reported in the rest of the country, thus benefiting fieldwork in preparation
for planting of the 1998 coarse grain and paddy crops to be started from
|This report is
prepared on the responsibility of the FAO Secretariat with information
from official and unofficial sources. Since conditions may change rapidly,
please contact Mr. Abdur Rashid, Chief, ESCG, FAO, (Telex 610181 FAO I;
Fax: 0039-6-5705-4495, E-Mail (INTERNET): GIEWS1@FAO.ORG)
for further information if required.
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