FAO/GIEWS - Food Outlook, February 1998

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FAOís latest estimate of the 1997 wheat output in Asia has been revised upward slightly to 249 million tonnes, some 8 percent above 1996 and about 12 percent higher than the average of the preceding five years. The outlook for the 1998 winter wheat crop, to be harvested from April, is mixed. In China, a decline in production is anticipated due to the decrease in sown area as a result of insufficient rain. Out of six major wheat producing provinces three have been reported as experiencing dry conditions, which are forecast to continue into the spring. It is also reported that snow and low temperatures in the first-half of January have damaged wheat in parts of southern China. By contrast, in India, a good wheat crop is anticipated in most areas despite the slow development of crops due to low temperatures associated with above normal rainfall. Good crop conditions are reported in Rajastan, Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana with ample water supplies. In Pakistan, however, the area sown to wheat has declined sharply due to adverse weather at planting time. In Turkey, conditions are favourable so far and the wheat output is expected to be similar to last year.

The 1997 coarse grains output in Asia is estimated at 198 million tonnes, some 13 percent lower than last yearís record 225 million tonnes and 2 percent below the average for the preceding five years. Maize output fell sharply in China to a below-average 105 million tonnes, some 22 million tonnes or 21 percent below the bumper crop in 1996 due to severe drought in the northern parts of the country. Chinaís total coarse grains output in 1997 is estimated at 122.6 million tonnes, some 23 million tonnes below 1996. In India, despite a slight increase in the area planted, coarse grains output is estimated at 31.4 million tonnes, almost 3 million tonnes lower 1996. The food security situation in Korea, D.P.R. deteriorated due to a prolonged drought last year, which seriously affected maize production. The output of maize in 1997 is estimated at 1.14 million tonnes, the lowest on record.

FAO's estimate for the region's paddy output in 1997 has been increased by 2 million tonnes from the previous forecast to a record 520 million tonnes. Most of the increase is in China (Mainland) where the estimate of output has been raised by 1.5 million tonnes from the previous forecast to 196.5 million tonnes due to higher yields. In India, the estimate of paddy output has also been raised, by 1.2 million tonnes, from the previous forecast to 123 million tonnes. Most parts of the country received timely and adequate monsoon rains for the 10th consecutive year. In Bangladesh, harvesting of the Aman crop is virtually complete and the 1997 production estimate has been revised upwards by 500 000 tonnes from the previous forecast to 28.5 million tonnes reflecting good yields achieved due to favourable weather conditions and an adequate supply of inputs. In Viet Nam, where harvesting of the 10th month crop is complete or nearing completion, paddy output is estimated at 27.5 million tonnes, up 500 000 tonnes from the previous forecast and sligthly above the 1996 crop. Harvesting of the main-season (winter-spring) crop is due to start in February/March.


Wheat  Coarse grains  Rice (paddy)  Total 1/ 
1996  1997  1996  1997  1996  1997  1996  1997
( . . . . . . . . . . . . . million tonnes . . . . . . . . . . . ) 
Asia  231.5  249.0  224.7  198.6  519.9  520.2  976.1  967.8
Africa  22.8  15.5  87.6  78.4  15.7  16.8  126.0  110.6
Central America  3.4  3.4  27.0  28.7  2.0  2.1  32.4  34.2
South America  22.0  18.8  54.3  61.2  18.2  18.0  94.5  98.0
North America  92.0  93.0  296.3  291.0  7.8  8.1  396.0  392.1
Europe  128.7  132.6  160.2  172.6  2.9  2.6  291.7  307.8
CIS  67.4  80.1  55.3  67.6  1.3  1.4  123.9  149.0
Oceania  24.0  18.2  11.7  9.6  1.0  1.4  36.7  29.3
WORLD  591.7  610.6  917.0  907.6  568.7  570.6  2 077.4  2 088.8
Developing countries  276.4  283.6  382.5  357.0  542.9  544.1  1 201.8  1 184.8
Developed countries  315.3  327.0  534.5  550.6  25.8  26.5  875.6  904.1

In Indonesia, where harvesting of the second-season rice crop is complete, over 400 000 hectares of the crop were reportedly damaged by heat and drought attributed to the El Niño weather phenomenon and, accordingly, the estimate of production for 1997 has been reduced by over 1.3 million tonnes from earlier expectations to 49.1 million tonnes. Planting of the 1998 main-season crop, which usually begins in October/November, was delayed due to lack of moisture and this could reduce yields in 1998. Harvesting of the main-season paddy crop in Thailand is nearing completion, but a reduction in yields is expected due to delayed planting attributed to inadequate moisture at the beginning of the season. The estimate for the 1997 output has been reduced by 360 000 tonnes to 20.6 million tonnes. Planting of the second-season crop, which is dependent on irrigation, is underway but the area is expected to be significantly reduced due to insufficient water reserves. The 1997 estimate of paddy production in the Democratic Republic of Korea has been reduced by 100 000 tonnes from the previous report to 1.7 million tonnes due to a prolonged drought that affected crops during their critical stages of development. In Pakistan, the estimate of paddy production has been revised downward slightly to 6.4 million tonnes, due to heavy rains and hail in the Sindh region during October, which are reported to have reduced yields.

Elsewhere, harvesting of the main season paddy crop in the Philippines is complete and total output for 1997 is estimated at 11.2 million tonnes. Planting of the second-season crop is nearing completion, but the area is expected to fall sharply due to a lack of water for irrigation. In the Republic of Korea, rice harvesting is almost complete and a slight increase in production is expected reflecting favourable weather conditions during the growing season and efforts by the government and farmers to develop higher quality varieties. In Sri Lanka, paddy harvesting is nearing completion and the 1997 output is officially estimated at 2.6 million tonnes. In Japan, the government introduced additional measures aimed at reducing the increasing rice stocks caused by the series of bumper harvests since 1994, mandatory rice imports under its Uruguay Round commitments and stagnant domestic per caput consumption. The measures are: (a) an expansion of the set-aside paddy area target by 176 000 hectares to 963 000 hectares, representing about 36 percent of its total rice area and (b) a 2.5 percent reduction in producer prices from their 1997 value.


NORTHERN AFRICA: Production of wheat in 1997 is estimated at 9.9 million tonnes, 40 percent down compared with 1996ís above-average crop of 16.6 million tonnes, mainly due to unfavourable growing conditions. Most of the countries in the subregion harvested below-normal crops. Production declined by almost three-quarters to 750 000 tonnes in Algeria and by 61 percent in Tunisia to 903 000 tonnes, while in Morocco output is about 60 percent lower than in the previous year. Output of the almost entirely irrigated crop in Egypt is estimated at 5.8 million tonnes, marginally above last year's level. The subregion's coarse grain crop in 1997 has also been affected by unfavourable weather. Aggregate output is estimated at 9.2 million tonnes, some 4.3 million tonnes less than last year.

Growing conditions for the 1998 crops are generally satisfactory in most countries of the sub-region, except in Algeria. Above-normal rainfall in recent weeks in most parts of Morocco has favoured crop development. In Tunisia, good rainfall since September has allowed winter crop planting in most parts of the country and is favouring crop development. In Algeria, however, prevailing dry conditions since December, particularly in western and central parts has depleted soil moisture reserves, increasing stress on crops. Timely rains are therefore needed for the remainder of the growing season to ensure a satisfactory harvest.

The regionís paddy production in 1997 is estimated at a new peak of 5.6 million tonnes, 500 000 tonnes higher than the previous forecast. All of the increase is in Egypt, the regionís dominant rice producer, where a combination of larger area, adequate input availability and distribution, and favourable growing conditions contributed to the higher output. Early information on farmersí planting intentions for 1998 points towards an even larger planted area than in 1997.

WESTERN AFRICA: The outcome of the 1997 cereal harvests in the Sahelian countries has been somewhat mixed. After an early start to the rains, notably in the west of the Sahel, which allowed early planting, a long dry spell from the middle of July to mid-August severely affected crops in Senegal, The Gambia and Mauritania. Growing conditions were generally more favourable in the other countries except in the centre and east of Burkina Faso and in certain areas of Niger. The 1997 aggregate cereal production of the nine CILSS countries has been estimated by joint FAO/CILSS Crop Assessment Missions at 9.1 million tons which is 1.1 percent lower than in 1996, 0.6 percent lower than the average of the previous five years and 8.9 percent lower than the record 1994 output. Above-average output was obtained in Guinea Bissau, Mali, Niger and Chad, and below average in Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Mauritania and Senegal. In countries along the Gulf of Guinea, growing conditions for the 1997 cereal crops were generally favourable. Aggregate cereal production in the nine coastal countries for 1997 is estimated at 30 million tonnes. Record cereal crops are reported in Benin, Togo and Nigeria while below average crops are estimated in Guinea. In Liberia, the implementation of the peace process and favourable climatic conditions allowed a good cereal output which is 75 percent higher than last year. In Sierra Leone, despite the precarious security situation in the main cities, cereal production is estimated to be 20 higher than 1996, due to good climatic conditions and adequate security in most producing areas during the second half of 1997.

Throughout most of western Africa, paddy harvests ranged from average to above-average and the subregionís aggregate output for 1997 is estimated at a record 7 million tonnes. The official estimate for paddy production in Nigeria, the largest rice producer in the subregion, is 3.3 million tonnes, unchanged from the earlier report but up slightly from 1996. The increase is attributed to a 15 percent expansion in harvested area which more than offset the impact of a decline in yields to 1.6 tonnes per hectare. In Mali, output is now estimated at 664 000 tonnes, 11 percent less than expected earlier due to lower yields caused by flooding. In Liberia, the end of the civil unrest and the availability and distribution of agricultural inputs resulted in an increase of paddy output in 1997, estimated at 168 000 tonnes, compared to 94 000 tonnes in 1996. A slight improvement in yields occurred also in Senegal, Guinea and Guinea Bissau due to favourable weather during August and September.

CENTRAL AFRICA: Millet and sorghum have been harvested in northern Cameroon and Central African Republic. In Congo and Gabon, the main maize crop is developing satisfactorily. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, torrential rains caused flooding in several regions and prices are rising due to the difficulty in transporting goods.

EASTERN AFRICA: Harvesting of the 1997 wheat crop is complete. The subregionís aggregate output is preliminarily estimated at 2.7 million tonnes, 9 percent below the bumper crop of the previous year but still above average. In Ethiopia, the wheat crop is estimated at 1.6 million tonnes, 16 percent down from the previous year, reflecting erratic weather during the season. In the Sudan, wheat output increased 16 percent to 640 000 tonnes, the second highest crop on record. In Kenya, heavy rains at harvest time reduced yield potential of the wheat crop, now estimated at 320 000 tonnes, 9 percent down from good harvest of 1996.

Harvesting of the 1997/98 main season coarse grains is completed in the subregion while the secondary seasonís crops are being harvested, with the exception of Ethiopia where the crop is about to be planted. The 1997/98 aggregate coarse grains output is provisionally forecast at 19 million tonnes, 12 percent below the record crop in 1996 but still about average. In Ethiopia, late and erratic rains during the season, coupled with torrential precipitation at harvest, resulted in a 25 percent drop in coarse grains output from the record of 1996/97 to 6.7 million tonnes, but the crop was still above average. In the Sudan, coarse grain production declined by 15 percent from the previous year but at 4 million tonnes remained above average. Production was adversely affected by below average precipitation in parts, particularly in the South. In Eritrea, the 1997 coarse grains were affected by an early cessation of the rainy season; the output is estimated around the reduced level of the previous year. In Kenya, the 1997/98 maize output is forecast at 2.2 million tonnes, somewhat lower than previously anticipated but still slightly above the reduced level of 1996/97. A dry spell during the main season and heavy rains during harvest of the main and secondary seasons, adversely affected yield potential. In Tanzania, the 1997 coarse grain production was sharply reduced by dry weather. Prospects for the 1998 secondary crop, now being harvested, have deteriorated following excessive rains since December and serious floods in the first half of January. In Uganda, the 1997 first coarse grains season was reduced as a result of dry weather but the outlook for the second crop, now being harvested, is favourable despite localized floods. In Somalia, the 1997/98 coarse grains production is forecast at around the poor level of the previous year. Output in the main season was affected by erratic rainfall and in the secondary season was sharply reduced by torrential rains and floods. In Rwanda and Burundi, the 1997 coarse grains output recovered from the reduced levels of recent years but remained below average. The outlook for the 1998 first season crops, now being harvested, is uncertain as a result of a late start of the rainy season and recent heavy rains.

SOUTHERN AFRICA: Following good rainfall in the 1996/97 season resulting in abundant irrigation water in most of the major dams, the subregion's aggregate 1997 wheat crop is estimated at about 2.7 million tonnes. This is above average but slightly lower than the 1996 bumper crop. In Zimbabwe, a record crop of 300 000 tonnes is estimated while in Zambia output was also above average. In South Africa, output is estimated at an above-average 2.3 million tonnes but this is sharply below the previous yearís bumper crop.

The subregionís aggregate 1997 coarse grains crop (mostly maize) is estimated at 17.0 million tonnes, some 13 percent above average but 13 percent lower than last yearís bumper level. Similarly, in Angola, Malawi, South Africa and Zimbabwe production was above average but lower than in 1996. Record crops are estimated in Mozambique and Namibia while output is below average in Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Zambia, due to unfavourable weather.

The outlook for the 1998 coarse grain crop remains uncertain although so far the negative effects of El Niño have been less than anticipated. Farmers limited planting in several countries including South Africa because of concerns over the possibility of an El Niño-related drought. However, although rainfall from September to January has been somewhat irregular, total amounts recorded are generally about average. Following early rains in many areas and a dry spell in December, widespread and abundant rains in January provided adequate soil moisture for the favourable development of crops. However, the outlook for rainfall later in the 1997/98 season is still very uncertain as the El Niño is expected to remain active until March. Much of the outcome of the season will depend on rainfall during the next few weeks.

In Madagascar, which accounts for over 90 percent of the subregionís rice output, paddy production in 1997 is estimated at about 2.5 million tonnes, close to 1996ís good crop. In Mozambique, production was well above average at 180 000 tonnes. In both countries the 1998 season began under normal weather conditions and widespread rains since January have reduced the threat of an El Niño-induced drought. However, there are serious concerns in Madagascar given the recent spread of locusts in the major rice producing areas of the country.


The unusually dry conditions and warm temperatures associated with the current El Niño weather phenomenon, which were forecast to be at their peak towards the end of 1997, have persisted in January across most of the subregion. Significant moisture deficits, accumulated over weeks, are reported in various locations of Central America and the southern Caribbean. Latest weather forecasts point to drier than normal conditions in the weeks ahead. This could pose a threat to planting of the 1998/99 crops to start from April in most countries.

Planting of the 1998 wheat crop in the large producing irrigated areas in the north west of Mexico has been recently completed. Water reservoir levels are adequate following abundant rains mainly in October. However prospects are uncertain and much will depend on weather conditions in the weeks ahead. Exceptionally heavy rains associated to El Niño are forecast in the subregion.

Harvesting of the 1997 second season coarse grain crops has been completed in most countries. Despite drought-induced losses caused by El Niñoís early effects on first season crops, particularly in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Panama, aggregate maize output for the subregion is estimated at an above-average level. This is principally due to a near record output in Mexico, the main producer in the subregion. Sorghum output in the subregion is estimated at a record level, which also mostly reflects good output in Mexico offsetting drought-induced losses elsewhere. In the Caribbean, by contrast, a poor 1997 maize output was gathered, particularly in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, mainly because of drought. In Cuba, production was average.


The strong impact of El Niño in late 1997 carried on into January. Unusually warm and dry conditions have continued in the northwestern parts of subregion, while heavy rains and flooding are reported along the coasts of Ecuador and northern Peru. In the central parts of the subregion, warm temperature anomalies prevail from the Andes eastward to the Atlantic seaboard, with record high temperatures in some locations. In the southern areas, widespread torrential rains were reported through most of January. Prospects for the 1998 cereal crops are uncertain throughout most of the subregion as the current strong impact of the phenomenon is expected to continue in the weeks ahead.

Harvesting of the 1997 wheat crop in Argentina has been delayed by excessive rains in several northern producing areas. By contrast, the harvest is virtually complete in some other important producing areas that have been spared the heavy rains. By mid-January, about 93 percent of the total area planted had been harvested compared to 97 percent at the same time a year ago. Fungus outbreaks and sprouting are reported in some of the rain affected areas, with a negative impact on crop quality and yields. The latest official forecast puts production at 13.9 million tonnes, 13 percent lower than last yearís record but still well above the average of the past five years. In Brazil, harvesting has been completed and wheat output is estimated at 2.7 million tonnes, down from last yearís 3.3 million tonnes, but nevertheless above average. The decline is due to intensive rains in the main producing states of Parana, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul, which resulted in crop losses and fungal diseases affecting crop quality and yields. In both Uruguay and Paraguay, harvesting has been completed and near record outputs of 650 000 tonnes and 550 000 tonnes respectively are estimated, notwithstanding intensive rains particularly in the main producing areas of Uruguay. The increased outputs are largely a result of expanded plantings in response to good export possibilities to neighbouring countries. In Chile, harvesting is underway and despite crop damage by heavy rains associated with El Niño, an average output is anticipated. In the Andean countries, fieldwork is underway in Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru in preparation for planting of the 1998 wheat crop, mostly grown in the highlands and mountain valleys of these countries. Contingency action has been taken in various parts to cope with the potential impact of El Niño which is expected to manifest itself in the form of strong drought in the areaís high plateau.

The 1997/98 coarse grains season is well underway in the southern areas of the subregion. In Argentina prospects for maize are good despite some planting delays due to heavy rainfall. Although the area is estimated to be 9 percent less than last year, early official forecasts point to a record crop of 16.5 million tonnes, provided the satisfactory levels of moisture brought by El Niño remain. The sorghum area increased by 13 percent, and a record crop is in prospect. In Brazil, harvesting of the maize crop is about to start in the main producing central and southern areas of the country under wetter than normal conditions. By contrast, unusually high temperatures and dry conditions attributed to El Niño prevail in the north-east and pose a threat to sowing of the 1998 maize crop, which is due to start in March. Total Brazilian coarse grains production in 1998 is tentatively forecast at 32.5 million tonnes, down from last yearís 34 million tonnes but still above-average. In Uruguay, harvesting is about to start and early forecasts point to a decline from last yearís record output. In Paraguay, a bumper crop is anticipated. In the Andean countries, in Ecuador, planting of the 1998 main season maize crop is underway. Heavy rains and flooding caused by El Niño continue to affect all the coastal and some of the inland provinces, with severe damage to infrastructure and most sectors of the economy. Localized damage to maize and other cereal crops is reported. In Peru, planting of the 1998 coarse grain crops is underway. Heavy rains and flooding related to El Niño are reported in several parts of the country. Localized damage to crops is reported in some cases while in others, by contrast, the intensive rains have been beneficial to rainfed crops and helped fill water reservoirs for the irrigated crops. In Bolivia, planting of the 1998 main season coarse grain crops continues under generally dry conditions. However, intensive precipitation is reported in some parts and a reduction in plantings is expected as a consequence of the unusual rain pattern. In Colombia, the effects of El Niño continue to be strongly felt in the form of heavy rains and flooding along the southern Pacific coast, while unusually warm and dry conditions prevail in northern and west-central parts. Fieldwork has started in preparation of planting of the 1998 first season cereal crops and contingency action in various areas of the country has been implemented to help mitigate the impact of the phenomenon. In Venezuela, land is being prepared for sowing of the 1998 coarse grain and other food crops in March. Unusually warm temperatures and dry conditions are reported across the country, except for the north-west where recent light rains helped restore moisture to the soil.

Harvesting of the 1997 paddy crop is complete and the regionís 1997 paddy output is now estimated at 18 million tonnes, somewhat less than expected earlier due to downward revisions to yield estimates in some countries and lower harvested areas in others. The area in Brazil, the regionís largest rice producer, fell by 10 percent in 1997 to 3.5 million hectares, the lowest in 10 years, largely due to the tightening of credit. As a result, output is estimated to be well down from the previous year at 9.6 million tonnes. In Uruguay, paddy output is officially estimated at 1 million tonnes, reflecting record yields and a larger area. Plantings of the 1998 paddy crop are virtually complete in most countries but excessive rains and floods, attributed to the El Niño weather phenomenon, have caused delays in some countries.


In the United States, the final official estimate of the 1997 wheat crop is 68.8 million tonnes, some 10 percent up from 1996 and above the average of the past five years. Prospects for the 1998 wheat crop are satisfactory. Weather conditions have been generally favourable for the dormant winter crop and moisture supplies are reported to be adequate in most areas. Contrary to earlier expectations of no change, or a modest increase, in winter wheat area for 1998, the USDA in January estimated a planted area of 18.9 million hectares, 4 percent down from the previous year and the lowest since 1973. This reduction most likely indicates that farmers are shifting land out of wheat this year because they expect less attractive prices compared to several other crops. Early indications already point to a reduction in spring wheat plantings also.

In Canada, latest estimates put the 1997 wheat crop at 24.3 million tonnes, about 20 percent down from the previous year and below the average of the past five years. The reduction is mostly due to a rotation from wheat to oilseeds but also average yields were lower. A small area of winter durum wheat has already been planted but the bulk of the wheat for the 1998 harvest will not be sown until May-June. Winter precipitation is reported to be lower than normal across most of the major producing areas thus good rainfall this spring will be needed to ensure good planting conditions.

The final official estimate of the 1997 coarse grains crop in the United States is 265.6 million tonnes, almost unchanged from last yearís crop and above the average of the past five years. Of the total, maize is estimated to account for 238 million tonnes. As regards the 1998 maize crop to be sown this spring, plantings are tentatively expected to increase due to more favourable market indications for feed grains than for wheat. In Canada, aggregate output of coarse grains in 1997 is estimated at some 25 million tonnes, about 11 percent down from the previous year, but still above the average of the past 5 years.

In the United States, rice harvesting is complete and the 1997 paddy output is estimated at 8.1 million tonnes, unchanged from the previous report and 4 percent larger than the 1996 crop. The increase is attributed to a 9 percent expansion in area to 1.23 million hectares. However, the 1997 estimated yield of 6.6 tonnes per hectare is 4 per cent lower than the record yield in 1996, mostly as a result of adverse weather conditions that prevailed at planting time in the southern rice producing states.


FAO's latest estimate of the region's aggregate cereal output in 1997 is 308 million tonnes, 4.5 million tonnes up from the forecast in October and 16 million tonnes up from 1996. Wheat output rose by 4 million tonnes to 133 million tonnes. Although wheat production fell in several EC countries, due mostly to weather-related yield reductions, this was more than offset by a sharp recovery in output in Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania after last year's reduced crops. Coarse grains output in the region rose by some 12 million tonnes to nearly 173 million tonnes in 1997. Larger maize crops throughout the region accounted for the bulk of this increase while output of barley also rose, but mostly in the eastern countries. As regards rice, the bulk of which is grown in the EC, output in 1997 is estimated to have fallen to 2.5 million tonnes from 2.8 million tonnes in 1996.

Early prospects for the 1998 cereal crops are satisfactory. Precipitation has generally been above average throughout the EC maintaining favourable levels of soil moisture. However, rainfall has been particularly heavy in Portugal, southern Spain and southern Italy, causing some flooding and delays in winter grain planting. In the Community, aggregate winter grain plantings are estimated to have increased slightly. Latest information indicates larger areas of wheat, rye and triticale but less barley. As the land set-aside rate for 1997/98 remains at 5 percent some reduction in spring plantings is likely. In eastern countries of the region, unseasonably mild weather in December and early January has diminished protective snow cover and may have prompted some early development of winter crops, giving rise to concern should temperatures drop in the coming weeks. Latest information regarding winter grain plantings indicates similar or reduced areas throughout these countries. Drought hampered autumn fieldwork in Hungary, while heavy rains affected planting in Bulgaria and Romania and, as a result, winter grain plantings are expected to have slipped back somewhat in all three countries. In Poland and the Czech Republic winter planting proceeded smoothly last autumn under generally favourable weather conditions and areas sown are estimated to be similar to the previous yearís. In the Slovak Republic latest reports indicate winter sowings may have increased slightly. In Albania a further recovery in the winter grain area is tentatively estimated.


FAOís latest forecasts of the 1997 output of cereals and pulses in the CIS is 155 million tonnes, some 20 percent up from 1996 (127 million tonnes) in response to better yields and less under-reporting of output compared to previous years. In the Russian Federation the 1997 grain harvest is officially estimated at 88.5 million tonnes, compared to 69.3 million in the preceding year. In Ukraine, output is officially estimated at 35.4 million tonnes, nearly 11 million tonnes more than the official estimate for 1996 (24.5 million tonnes). In Kazakhstan, better yields offset the further reduction in the areas sown and output increased somewhat to 12.3 million tonnes.

With regard to 1998, early indications point to some downturn in grain production. Preliminary indications are that the aggregate area sown to winter grains in the major states has declined somewhat mostly as a result of lower plantings in the Ukraine; the area sown in the Russian Federation is close to last yearís level of nearly 13.5 million hectares, but the area sown in the important north Caucasus region is down. In addition, a spell of extremely cold weather and inadequate snow cover in some places in December has caused some crop damage and winterkill could be higher than last year. Moreover, grain prices in 1997/98 have fallen sharply in the region prompted by the larger 1997 harvest and the higher proportion of feed quality grain, limiting farmerís working capital

and reducing incentives to plant grains in the spring. Accordingly, the area ploughed, ready for planting in the spring has fallen sharply. In a number of smaller states, e.g. Kyrgyzstan the rapid expansion of the area sown to cereals is likely to slow as other crops become more profitable. In Uzbekistan the targeted area to be sown to winter grains has been reduced, which could have a beneficial effect on average yields. In Turkmenistan the area sown could increase marginally.

1/ The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) includes 12 member states (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Moldova, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, the Ukraine and Uzbekistan).


Australiaís 1997 winter wheat crop harvest is drawing to a close. The latest official forecast in late November put output at nearly 18 million tonnes compared to last yearís record output of 23.7 million tonnes. In addition to a 4 percent reduction in area, crop yields were affected by erratic weather conditions in some parts. However, the current strong El Niño weather phenomenon did not affect production of the 1997 winter grains as much as earlier expected. Aggregate coarse grains output in 1997 (including the minor summer crop of mostly sorghum and maize harvested early in 1997) is now forecast at 8.9 million tonnes, 2.2 million tonnes down from 1996. Prospects are generally favourable for the 1998 summer crop, which is being sown or already developing in some parts, following adequate rains in the major producing areas during. Sorghum production is forecast to rise by about 15 percent from 1997 to about 1.6 million tonnes.

The 1997 paddy crop in Australia, which accounts for over 95 percent of the regional total, is estimated at about 1.4 million tonnes, up from 951 000 tonnes produced in 1996. The dramatic rise in production is a result of a 10 percent increase in area to 166 000 hectares and notably improved water supplies in New South Wales, where most of Australiaís rice is grown. For the 1998 season, area seeded to rice is estimated at 140 000 hectares, down by 16 percent from 1997 due to significantly lower water allocations in New South Wales. Accordingly, the official forecast for Australiaís 1998 paddy production is 1.2 million tonnes, or 14 percent below 1997.

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