UNITED STATES (20 February)
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. The final official estimate of the 1997 coarse grains crop in the United States is 265.6 million tonnes, almost unchanged from last year’s 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.