Following good rains in October, which prompted early planting of winter grains, rainfall has been insufficient since December in western and central parts of the country. Continued dryness in these areas has somewhat depleted soil moisture reserves and increased stress on crops. Overall however, prospects for the 1998 harvest in May/June appear to be favourable so far, although timely rains are still needed for the remainder of the growing season in the western and central areas. Scattered adult desert locusts may be present in few places in the central and southern Sahara. These may breed in areas of recent rainfall or run-off.
As a result of unfavourable weather conditions, production of cereals in 1997 dropped to about 1.08 million tonnes from a record 4.6 million tonnes in 1996. Cereal imports in 1997/98 (July/June) are forecast at about 5.5 million tonnes.
EGYPT (10 February)
The prospects for the mainly irrigated wheat crop, to be harvested from mid-April 1998, are favourable. The area sown to wheat is expected to increase and wheat production in 1997 is estimated at about 5.8 million tonnes. Maize output is estimated at 5.9 million tonnes. The Egyptian General Authority for Supply Commodities is pursuing a policy aimed at reducing the country’s dependency on wheat imports through the use of more locally-grown wheat and corn flour to meet local growing demand.
On 6 January 1998, a 5 sq.km immature swarm was seen coming from the south at Wadi Frukit near the Sudanese border. Other dense immature swarms appearing from the south were also reported. Most of them settled in coastal and sub-coastal areas between Halaib and Shalatein. Control operations were undertaken although many of the swarms split up and some continued east across the Red Sea. By the end of January, some of the swarms had started to mature. More than 11 000 hectares were treated. A few more swarms are likely to appear from the south on the south-eastern coastal plains during periods of southerly winds in the coming weeks. Most of the swarms are expected to continue east across the Red Sea while a few may remain in green areas, mature and lay eggs or move northwards along the coast.
Imports of wheat and wheat flour in 1997/98 (July/June) are forecast at 7 million tonnes, marginally lower than in the previous year. Coarse grains imports are forecast at 2.8 million tonnes, some 9 percent lower than last year.
MOROCCO (10 February)
Above normal rainfall was received in most parts of the country, except in the south where rains remain below normal. Cumulative rainfall has so far been above normal in most crop areas. Presently, crop development is progressing satisfactorily and the prospects for the 1998 harvest in June/July is generally favourable. Isolated solitary adult desert locusts may be present in the extreme south-west and breeding in areas of recent rainfall.
Production of cereals in 1997, mainly wheat and barley, estimated at 4.1 million tonnes, was 60 percent lower than in 1996, due to unfavourable growing conditions. As part of the government effort to expand the irrigation of arable lands, about 1 million hectares of farmlands have been irrigated by the end of 1997.
Imports of wheat in 1997/98 (July/June) are forecast at 2.4 million tonnes compared with 1.3 million tonnes in 1996/97.
TUNISIA (10 February)
Sufficient rainfall has been received since September, allowing the planting of the winter crop in most parts of the country. In northern areas, however, the sowing was somewhat delayed as a result of bad field conditions. Overall, the prospects for the 1998 winter crop to be harvested in May/June remain favourable so far. To encourage farmers to sow more area, the Government has decided to freeze fertilizer prices at last year’s levels and provided other incentives, including subsidies and credits. Production of cereals in 1997, estimated at 1.1 million tonnes, is far below the previous year output, due to a serious shortage of rainfall.
Imports of wheat and barley in 1997/98 are forecast at 1.3 million tonnes and 300 000 tonnes, respectively.