FAO/GIEWS - Foodcrops and Shortages, February 1998 - Country texts.


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COUNTRY REPORTS

Northern Africa

AFRICA

NORTHERN AFRICA

ALGERIA (10 February)

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.

AFRIQUE

WESTERN AFRICA

BENIN (10 February)

Seasonably dry conditions prevail. Following favourable growing conditions, the 1997 cereal production is estimated at a well above average 915 000 tonnes, composed of 728 000 tonnes of maize, 158 000 tonnes of millet and sorghum, and 29 000 tonnes of rice. Aggregate root and tuber production is about 20 percent higher than last year at about 3.44 million tonnes, and pulse production is estimated at 100 000 tonnes, 35 percent above last year's level.

The overall food supply situation is satisfactory following the harvest of the main crops. The Government is setting up a security stock of about 1 000 tonnes of maize and assisting the creation of on-farm stocks. Maize, yams, gari (processed yams) are sold to Niger and Nigeria. The cereal import requirement for 1998 (January/December) is estimated at 205 000 tonnes (including re-exports), mostly wheat and rice.

BURKINA FASO (9 February)

Seasonably dry conditions prevail. Higher than normal temperatures have been reported in early February. The government recently published the final 1997/98 cereal production figures. Aggregate cereal production is now estimated at about 2 million tonnes, which is about 19 percent down from 1996 and 18 percent below the five-year average. This is the lowest level since 1990. The list of deficit areas has also been revised.

Reflecting this below-average harvest, the overall food supply situation will be tight in the areas which gathered reduced crops. The Government has estimated the emergency food aid needs at 67 200 tonnes to cover consumption requirements of 800 000 people for seven months. It has launched an emergency programme, including off-season production, nutrition, cereal banks reconstitution projects, as well as emergency food assistance, in order to assist populations affected by poor harvests in 1997. The Government will provide 9 000 tonnes of cereals to cereal banks and support livestock activities in the affected areas. Tuareg refugees from Mali are also receiving food assistance.

CAPE VERDE (16 February)

Seasonably dry conditions prevail. A serious outbreak of African Swine Fever, a highly contagious viral disease of domestic pigs, has been reported in most rural areas. Despite two successive poor harvests, the overall food supply situation remains satisfactory as the country imports the bulk of its consumption requirement. However, affected rural populations, notably in the semi-arid or arid zones, may need assistance. For the 1997/98 marketing year, the cereal import requirement is estimated at 100 000 tonnes.

CHAD (9 February)

Seasonably dry conditions prevail. Harvesting of recession crops is underway. Recent surveys indicate that production is not going to be significantly reduced following African Migratory Locusts infestations which were reported in late 1997 in Chari and Baguirmi, the main recession crop producing zones. A joint FAO/CILSS Crop Assessment Mission in late October estimated total cereal production for 1997/98 at 993 300 tonnes which is 13 percent up from 1996 and 9 percent above the five-year average. Reflecting better prospects for recession crops than anticipated, this figure is likely to be revised slightly upwards.

The overall food supply situation is anticipated to be better in 1997/98 than in 1996/97. Markets are generally well supplied and millet prices have declined in the Sahelian zone, except in Kanem and parts of Batha prefectures where they increased slightly. They are generally lower than the previous year at the same period, thus improving terms of trade for pastoralists. Some population movements have been reported in north Kanem and in bordering areas of Batha, Guéra and Ouddaï. The national security stock, whose recommended level is 22 000 tonnes, is exhausted. This may impede possible interventions in vulnerable areas. Donors are urged to assist with local purchases for the reconstitution of the national security stock.

COTE D'IVOIRE (10 February)

Preliminary cereal production for 1997 is currently estimated at 1.5 million tonnes, which is about the same as last year's level. Upland rice, which accounts for the bulk of the country’s rice production has been affected by the dry period and output is expected to be below normal.

The overall food supply situation is satisfactory and markets are adequately supplied. Organized repatriation is underway for the Liberian refugees and will be completed by the end of the year. About 210 000 Liberian refugees remain in the western departments. Their nutritional status is reported to be adequate. Food assistance is provided to 50 000 vulnerable people and to 30 000 children through school feeding. The cereal import requirement for 1998 (January/December) is estimated at 610 000 tonnes, mostly wheat and rice.

THE GAMBIA (9 February)

Seasonably dry conditions prevail. The aggregate cereal output in 1997 is estimated at 84 750 tonnes, some 24 percent lower than last year and substantially below average. This is largely due to the sharp decline in the outputs of maize and upland rice as a result of a long dry spell in July/August.

Following this reduced harvest, the food supply situation will be tighter in 1998 than in 1997. The most affected areas are Badibou and Jokadou in the North Bank Division (NBD), Saloum in the northern part of Central River Division (CRD); Wulli and Sandou in the north of the Upper River Division (URD). However, good prospects for groundnut production are likely to ease the income situation of farmers in some areas.

GHANA (10 February)

Seasonably dry conditions prevail. Aggregate 1997 cereal production is estimated at 1.77 million tonnes, which is close to normal but 2.5 percent lower than last year. Nevertheless, millet and maize production in the extreme north has been substantially lower than usual and some assistance is required to provide seeds and food supplies in these affected areas. The net cereal deficit in the Upper East Region, which was the most affected, is estimated at 14 000 tonnes of millet and maize. The roots and tubers production was slightly higher than average, close to 13 million tonnes. As a result of low water reserves in the north, dry season gardening, a source of pulses and vegetables, may be affected. An FAO/WFP Mission is underway in this region to assess the needs.

The overall food supply situation is satisfactory following the harvest of the main crops, although it could deteriorate in the coming months due to reduced output in the north. Some Togolese refugees still remain in Ghana after large repatriations in 1996. About 30 000 Liberian refugees are also receiving food assistance. The 1998 cereal import requirement is estimated at 410 000 tonnes, mostly wheat and rice.

GUINEA (10 February)

Cereal production in 1997 is estimated at 840 000 tonnes, which is about average. Nevertheless, the high number of refugees in some of the main producing areas is causing substantial damages, including soil degradation and deforestation and may have limited production activities in these areas.

Latest estimates put the total number of Liberian and Sierra Leonean refugees in Guinea at 405 000, notably located in the border areas and in Conakry. Food assistance is provided to 60 000 Sierra Leonean and 60 000 Liberian refugees amongst the most vulnerable. About 45 000 children also receive food assistance through school feeding. Organized repatriation is underway for the Liberian refugees and will be completed by the end of the year. The presence of refugees is increasing the demand for food items which results in rapid depletion of stocks available and price increases. The cereal import requirement for 1998 is estimated at 400 000 tonnes.

GUINEA BISSAU (9 February)

Seasonably dry conditions prevail. A joint FAO/CILSS Crop Assessment Mission estimated 1997 aggregate cereal output at 186 600 tonnes, which is 29 percent higher than 1996 level and above the average for the last five years.

Following this good harvest, the overall food supply situation is satisfactory. Markets are generally well supplied and prices remain mostly stable. Following entrance of Guinea-Bissau into the UMOA (Union Monétaire Ouest Africaine) and the Franc zone, food prices have increased somewhat, notably for rice. Cereal imports during the 1997/98 marketing year are estimated at 76 000 tonnes

LIBERIA* (10 February)

Following good climatic conditions, adequate security and agricultural inputs distribution, the preliminary estimate for cereal production is about 168 000 tonnes, which is 75 percent higher than previous year's level and about 60 percent of the pre-war level. Cassava production is about 280 000 tonnes, which is also substantially higher than the previous year’s level.

Following the stable security situation throughout the country humanitarian aid can be delivered in most areas and an improvement of the nutritional status of the population is reported. Food supply on the urban market is stable although most of the available food is coming from humanitarian assistance. Prices remain high on the urban markets and most people have turned to cassava as a substitute for rice. Nevertheless, all infrastructures have been destroyed by the war and are hampering the marketing of food commodities. A UN Consolidated Appeal has been issued, including agricultural rehabilitation programmes. Liberia remains heavily dependent on food aid, especially for the counties with a high number of returnees. In December, the number of refugees and displaced persons was estimated to be about 700 000, most of which are receiving food assistance. New Sierra Leonean refugees are arriving as a result of fighting and insecurity in Sierra Leone. The Government has recently appealed for international assistance for more than 100 000 refugees. The stable security situation is allowing the return of Liberian refugees from neighbouring countries. Organized repatriation is underway for about 480 000 Liberian refugees in neighbouring countries and should be completed by the end of 1998, while it is estimated that 120 000 refugees have returned spontaneously. The cereal import requirement for 1998 (January/December), is currently estimated at 210 000 tonnes, of which 110 000 tonnes is food aid.

MALI (5 February)

Seasonably hot and dry conditions prevail. Higher than normal temperatures have been reported in early February in southern Mali. Harvesting of recession crops is underway and prospects are favourable. A joint FAO/CILSS Crop Assessment Mission estimated aggregate cereal production for 1997/98 at 2.4 million tonnes which is 7 percent higher than 1996 and above the five-year average. Rice production reached a new record level of 663 000 tonnes. Low numbers of Desert Locusts may be present in a few of the major wadis in the Adrar des Iforas and Tilemsi Valley and breed if rainfall occurs.

Following this good harvest, the overall food supply situation is satisfactory. Markets are well supplied and cereal prices decreased since August/September, reaching levels generally much lower than those of 1996 at the same period. However, the national early warning system (SAP) classified the arrondissement of Aourou in Kayes region an several arrondissements in the north and west of Tombouctou region as at risk of food supply difficulties following poor harvests due to unfavourable growing conditions or pest attacks. Several other arrondissements may also face economic difficulties. The SAP recommended the development of activities generating income for the populations and constitution of local security stocks, notably through cereal banks. It estimated at 2 500 tonnes of cereals the possible emergency needs for the affected populations in Tombouctou area and at 205 tonnes in Kayes region. The national security stock is at 29 500 tonnes of millet or sorghum, which is higher than last year and will facilitate interventions during next marketing year, if needed. Stocks are available in the most at-risk areas, notably in Tombouctou and Gao regions. Food assistance is given to the Tuaregs who have returned from neighbouring countries. In contrast, refugees from Niger are reported in the north-east. Exportable surpluses are available for triangular transactions with neighbouring countries affected by deficits, notably northern and central Senegal, Mauritania and some areas of Niger or Burkina Faso.

MAURITANIA (9 February)

Particularly warm weather is reported in the south. Harvesting of recession and off-season crops is starting. Their production is expected to compensate for the very poor rainfed crop gathered in late 1997, following dry conditions during the growing season. A revision of production estimates prepared by the FAO/CILSS Assessment Mission in late October 1997 will be undertaken shortly by national statistical services in order to take into account production of recession and off-season crops. Pasture conditions are favourable. During December, solitary Desert Locusts were present at a few places in Atar and Zouerate areas.

The overall food supply situation is anticipated to be tight for farmers affected by poor rainfed crop production, notably in Gorgol and Guidimaka. Poor rainfed production in Senegal will also limit possible imports in the Senegal river area. Following substantial recent commercial imports, wheat and rice prices remain mostly stable. Local coarse grain prices also remain stable or have decreased slightly following harvesting of rainfed crops, but they remain at high levels.

NIGER (9 February)

Seasonably hot and dry conditions prevail. Higher than normal temperatures have been reported in early February. Harvesting of recession crops is underway. Aggregate cereal production in 1997/98 is estimated at 2.25 million tonnes, marginally down from 1996 but 4 percent above the average for the past five years. Late reports stated that small scale Desert Locust breeding, which commenced in September, continued in late 1997 in parts of the Tamesna. Groups of adults as well as solitarious and hoppers were present between Agadez and Arlit. Similar infestations were also reported at several places to the north-west of Arlit. Low numbers of solitarious adults will persist in a few places of Tamesna.

Despite this average harvest, the food supply is anticipated to be tight in several deficit areas which gathered poor crops, some for the second or third successive year. Cereal prices are particularly high, notably in Tillabery, Agadez, Tahoua and Diffa departments. The National Early Warnign System (SAP) estimated that most affected areas are the arrondissements of Diffa, Abalack, Agadez, Ouallam, Tchitabaradebm Arlit, Bilma, Maïné Soroa, N’Guigmi and Tchirozerine, the first five being particularly at risk. The Government has launched an appeal for international assistance to cover the needs of the affected populations in the vulnerable areas. It has requested especially that ongoing projects in affected areas organize activities in the coming weeks for off-season production in order to prevent population movements. However, higher than normal migrations of families or men in search of work are reported from the north of Tillabery department.

Following the government appeal, several donors have offered assistance for off-season gardening projects or pledged food aid contributions.

NIGERIA (10 February)

Shortages of fertilizers, improved seeds and pesticides were reported during the whole growing season. Nevertheless, following favourable growing conditions, global cereal production for 1997 is estimated at 22.2 million tonnes, which is 2.5 percent higher than last year. Production of roots and tubers is estimated at 58 million tonnes, which is slightly above average. Cash crops production is reported to have decreased, notably cocoa and rubber, as a result of agricultural policies in favour of food crops.

Food supply is still constrained by high levels of post- harvest losses and high distribution costs but is satisfactory following the marketing of the main crops. The cereal import requirement for 1998 is estimated at 1.3 million tonnes, including 1 million tonnes of wheat and 200 000 tonnes of rice.

SENEGAL (18 February)

Seasonably hot and dry conditions prevail. Higher than normal temperatures have been reported in early February. Harvesting of recession crops is underway and prospects are more favourable than the previous year. Due to a long dry spell in July/August, the 1997 aggregate rainfed cereal production is estimated at 774 000 tonnes, which is about 20 percent below the previous year’s level and below average. Production of off-season and recession crops, which is forecast to be around 40 000 tonnes, is additional to this amount.

Following the reduced cereal harvest in 1997, the overall food supply situation is going to be tight during the 1997/98 marketing year. In urban areas, food supply is adequate despite a price rise for imported rice in early January 1998. In rural areas, prices of rice remain generally stable but those of coarse grains are increasing in the areas which gathered a poor rainfed crop in 1997, notably in the north and the centre-north. The areas most at risk are located in the centre and the north, in the regions of Diambel, Fatick, Louga, Thiès and Saint Louis. In September, the Government started food distributions in the affected areas and requested assistance for off-season production activities and the mobilization of cereals from surplus areas of the south. In mid-January, the Government launched an appeal for food assistance amounting to 82 600 tonnes of cereals to cover the needs of about 2.5 million persons.

SIERRA LEONE* (10 February)

While the food supply situation in Freetown might improve following the recent events in Sierra Leone, it is likely to worsen in rural areas. As the Economic Community of Western African States (ECOWAS) military forces now control Freetown, the economic embargo in force since August 1997 might be lifted soon, allowing some improvement in the functioning of food markets as well as the flow of relief food supplies to the capital. In contrast, the resurgence of insecurity in rural areas could hamper preparations for the next rice crop in the coming months as well as agricultural rehabilitation activities, thus aggravating the already precarious food supply situation.

Since the implementation of the economic embargo in August 1997, very little humanitarian assistance has been provided to the country, despite UN-ECOWAS agreement on sanctions exemption mechanisms for such assistance. Also, due to restricted internal commercial activity and poor infrastructure, movement of available food supplies has been severely hampered with food prices rising to levels beyond the reach of large part of the population.

If fighting spreads into the rural areas, which remained relatively calm during 1997, this will hamper performance of vital agricultural activities such as land preparation and planting of the rice crop, which normally starts in April. Heightened insecurity will also impede the distribution of inputs to farmers and possibly also lead to looting of cassava fields and rice or stocks on farms by the fighters. As a result, area planted and crop production may fall in 1998 if peace is not fully restored throughout the country.

FAO estimates Sierra Leone’s cereal import requirement for 1998 at about 260 000 tonnes. If peace is re-established and the embargo lifted soon, it is estimated that about 180 000 tonnes of cereals would be imported by local traders up to the end of 1998, leaving a food aid requirement of 80 000 tonnes. If these conditions cannot be rapidly implemented and humanitarian assistance remains restricted, the country could face a large scale food crisis.

TOGO (10 February)

Seasonably dry conditions prevail. As a result of generally good climatic conditions, aggregate cereal production for 1997 is estimated at 770 000 tonnes, which is about 18 percent above the previous year. Roots and tubers production is estimated at 1.2 million tonnes, which is above average, while pulse production reaches 102 000 tonnes, about 13 percent below last year level.

Markets are well supplied with foodstuffs following the marketing of the main crops. The cereal import requirement for 1998 (January/December), is estimated at 90 000 tonnes of wheat and rice.

CENTRAL AFRICA

CAMEROON (9 February)

Prospects for the 1997 cereal output are generally good. However, African migratory Locust infestations have developed in late 1997 in the north, from swarms coming from southern Chad. They have damaged the millet and sorghum crops, which were being harvested and were also threatening recession crops. Recent surveys indicate that only a few isolated locusts are still present and there is no risk of damage on the recession crops. Residual African Migratory Locust populations migrated to the south of the region where they are likely to breed at the beginning of the next rainy season in June-July 1998.

The food supply situation is going to be somewhat tight in the traditionally deficit areas of the north. Most refugees who fled fighting in the Republic of Congo have now returned. The cereal import requirement for 1997/98 (July/June) is estimated at 260 000 tonnes of wheat and rice and 10 000 tonnes of coarse grains.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (9 February)

Reflecting favourable growing conditions, 1997 cereal production is estimated at about 120 000 tonnes which is above average. Cassava production is estimated at 580 000 tonnes.

About 35 000 refugees from Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo arrived in the Central African Republic in late May/early June. There are also 27 400 assisted Sudanese and about 5 000 Chadian refugees in the country. For the 1998 marketing year (January/December), the cereal import requirement is estimated at about 40 000 tonnes, mainly wheat and rice.

CONGO, REP OF (9 February)

An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment team, which visited the country as part of an inter-agency mission from 18 to 30 January 1998, found that livestock production has suffered to a greater extent from the consequences of the civil strife than crop production, as cassava, the main staple, is an enduring crop. On the other hand, urban dwellers of Brazzaville who have lost their jobs in the private sector following the destruction of the business centre will experience great difficulty accessing adequate food. Food prices are high because of transport and marketing constraints.

On the basis of an estimated total population of 3.124 million at mid-1998 and after allowing for waste and other food uses, total food production in cereal-equivalent terms will fall short of utilisation requirements in 1998 by an estimated 118 000 tons. Normally, such a deficit would be covered commercially as the country has the requisite import capacity. However, due to the disruption of trading activities particularly in Brazzaville, it is assumed that for 1998, commercial food imports will reach only 80 percent of the 1995/96 level which amounts to 72 000 tons. This leaves an import gap of 46 000 tonnes. This is expected to be filled by a variety of coping mechanisms (increased fishing and hunting, short-cycle crops, etc.) and food aid targeted at vulnerable groups such as IDPs, refugees, victims of floods, unaccompanied children and others.

CONGO, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF * (18 February)

Torrential rain in January caused flooding and landslides in several regions of the country. In the Kivu region, in the east, the Bukavu-Uvira road has been blocked. Prices have already doubled in Uvira due to the difficulty in transporting goods along the traditional Dar es Salaam-Kigoma- Uvira supply line. Importers are now exploring the Mombasa- Uganda-Goma link. Meanwhile, the railway bridge from Kalemie to Kindu collapsed, forcing to find an alternative route to ferry supplies

Flooding and an epidemic of cholera are reported from Kisangani. A UN inter-agency mission visited the town to assess the needs of the affected population. Over 1 500 persons have been affected by cholera, with 270 deaths reported. Emergency assistance has been air-lifted.

Flooding has also affected Kinshasa where the Congo river reached the highest levels for at least five years and burst its banks in several areas. Heavy flooding is also reported in the town of Mbandaka where about 4 000 persons have been affected, as well as in Kalemie, in the southeast, which has been cut off from the rest of the country in December when a bridge was swept away.

The food supply situation is critical in the east where severe malnutrition is reported among the remaining refugees and the security situation is still tense. Increased civil strife in North and South Kivu has resulted in considerable population movements and disorder, while recent flooding has impeded the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Some fighting has been reported in Uvira in mid-February. In addition to about 190 000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), of whom some 95 000 in Masisi, humanitarian sources estimate the number of remaining refugees at more than 20 000. UNHCR has suspended its operations related to Rwandan refugees as well as rehabilitation activities in this region and food aid monitoring and distribution remains very limited. In Uvira region, refugees are coming from Burundi. Some 400-500 refugees arrived from Burundi over the past few weeks. According to UNHCR, most of the refugees were located in Sange and Kiliba, two areas north of Uvira, and many of them were being absorbed into the local communities.

In the West, most of the 40 000 Congolese who had sought refuge in Kinshasa following fighting in Brazzaville have returned. About 50 000 assisted and 119 000 unassisted Angolan refugees ere located in the south of the country. Around 92 000 Sudanese and 37 000 Ugandan refugees also remain in the country.

The 1998 cereal import requirement (January/December) is estimated at 200 000 tonnes of wheat and rice and 60 000 tonnes of coarse grains.

EQUATORIAL GUINEA (9 February)

The staple foodcrops are sweet potatoes, cassava and plantains. Some 10 000 tonnes of wheat and rice are imported annually. The food aid requirement in 1998 is estimated at 2 000 tonnes of wheat.

GABON (9 February)

The staple foodcrops are cassava and plantains, the production of which is estimated at about 330 000 tonnes. Production of cereals in 1997, mainly maize, is estimated at around 25 000 tonnes. The country imports the bulk of its wheat and rice requirement which is estimated at 76 000 tonnes. No food aid is necessary.

EASTERN AFRICA

BURUNDI* (11 February)

Harvest of the 1998 first season foodcrops is almost complete. Preliminary results of a joint FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission, currently visiting the country, indicate that this season’s food output will remain at the same reduced level of last year with an increase in plantings offset by lower yields. A delay of one month in the beginning of the rainy season, coupled with shortages of seeds, limited the expansion in the area planted following the return to their households of large number of population previously in regroupment camps, the return of refugees from neighbouring countries, and a relative improvement in security conditions. Excessive rains since mid-October and unseasonable precipitation in January resulted in floods and crop losses in marshland areas and, in general, reduced yields of cereal and pulse crops. However, the abundant precipitation benefited root and tubers and bananas.

Reflecting the reduced harvest, prices of food staples have increased in January 1998 from their level of a year ago. A substantial food deficit is anticipated in 1998 and the food supply situation of the lower segments of the population will tighten in the first half of the year.

ERITREA* (9 February)

Unseasonable rains in October at harvest time led to spoilage in stacks of harvested cereals and reduced yields of the crops already adversely affected by a dry spell in September, when the crops were at the critical maturing stage. The grain output is estimated at the same reduced level of 1996. Also, as a result of the unexpected heavy rains, high levels of locust infestations were reported in northern parts but control operations have been undertaken.

Cereal prices, which normally decline at harvest time, registered a sharp increase in November reflecting the anticipated poor output. With a below-average cereal harvest for the third consecutive year and a sharp reduction in grain import availability from neighbouring Ethiopia, the food situation will be tight in the year ahead.

ETHIOPIA* (9 February)

An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission which visited Ethiopia from 2 November to 2 December 1997 forecasts a 1997 Meher harvest of 8 786 000 tonnes of cereals and pulses, which is 25.6 percent below last year’s Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) post-harvest estimates. The reduction in production is primarily a result of poor Belg rains followed by late, low and erratic rainfall during the Meher growing season, particularly in lowland areas, exacerbated by unusually heavy rains at harvest time. A 20 percent reduction in fertilizer use in key producing areas due to the removal of subsidy and credit restrictions on slow repayers was another factor contributing to the decrease. Army-worm, the main migratory pest this year was effectively controlled by MoA-supported spraying teams. Non-migratory pests and diseases, though present, were not considered to be beyond the usual levels of tolerance in most zones. Livestock production was threatened by mid-main season droughts in all agro-pastoralist areas, causing a 60-70 percent fall in prices, premature migrations and increased morbidity and mortality. Fortunately, the late rains reversed the situation in October and November and a normal state now prevails.

On the basis of the above Meher production estimate and a forecast Belg harvest in 1998 of 320 000 tonnes of cereals and pulses, the Mission estimates a total grains import requirement of 530 000 tonnes in 1998. This includes 420 000 tonnes of relief food aid required for 5.3 million rural people affected by a poor harvest and structural poverty. The remaining deficit of 110 000 tonnes is expected to be covered by commercial imports.

Wholesale prices for all major cereals at the beginning of the 1997 Meher harvest were substantially above last year's levels, with national averages ranging from 13 percent for teff to 53 percent for maize. These increases reflect tighter supplies and traders' expectations of reduced production in comparison to last year.

KENYA (9 February)

Heavy rains particularly in November and January resulted in serious floods which caused loss of life, extensive damage to infrastructure and housing, left many villages isolated and displaced large sections of the local population. The areas worst affected include the Coast Province, North Eastern Province and parts of the Eastern Province. These areas have been declared a Disaster Zone by the Government, which has appealed for international assistance to cope with the emergency.

The rains also adversely affected the 1997/98 maize crop, the main staple of the country. Torrential rains in October/November, at the time of the harvest of the main season crop, which accounts for some 80 percent of the annual output, reduced yields of maize already affected by a dry spell at the critical grain-filling stage. Yields of wheat were also affected by heavy rains at harvest. However, the worst effect of the floods was on the second season crops, grown in the bi-modal rainfall areas of Western, Central and Eastern provinces from mid-October to February. The maize output of this season is estimated to have declined by one- third from normal levels, while the bean crop was sharply reduced due to both adverse weather and lack of seed. In aggregate, the 1997/98 maize production is estimated at 2.3 million tonnes, slightly above the reduced level of 1996/97 but below the average of the past five years. In consequence, the food supply situation is anticipated to be tight in the months ahead. Maize import requirements, expected to be covered mostly commercially, are estimated at 800 000 tonnes. This is, however, lower than in the previous year when maize imports reached 1 million tonnes. Total cereal imports, including wheat and rice in which the country has a structural deficit, in 1997/98 (October/September) are provisionally forecast at 1.2 million tonnes.

While the abundant rains of the past months improved pastures for livestock, an outbreak of Rift Valley Fever in October, as a result of the flooding that has caused an explosion in the mosquito population that carries the culprit virus, has resulted in the deaths of many people. These conditions have also favoured the appearance of a complex of animal diseases causing the loss of thousands of cattle, sheep, goats and camels.

RWANDA* (9 February)

An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission in the second half of January, found that a one month delay in the onset of rains limited an otherwise significant expansion of cultivated area, while the ensuing excessive precipitation resulted in flooding in the valley marshlands, affecting 10 percent of the cultivated area and limiting yields of some crops. Among the negative effects of the abundant rains and related humid conditions were fungal diseases, excessive weed growth and reduced sun exposure. Particularly affected were the yields of beans (root diseases, black fly) and potatoes (mildew). A continuation of the unseasonable rains could bring yields further down. Lack of quality seeds and cuttings also had a yield-depressing effect in many areas. In general, yields of sorghum, wheat, beans, Irish potatoes and sweet potatoes are estimated to have declined in comparison to last year’s season A. On the other hand, yield improvements were observed for bananas, maize, rice, peas, groundnuts, soya, taro, yams and cassava. Total food crop production in the 1998 A season is estimated at 2 194 227 tonnes, an increase of seven percent over 1997 A. This includes about 77 400 tonnes of cereals (some 18 percent less than 1997 A), some 110 000 tonnes of pulses (an increase of seven percent over 1997 A, mainly as a result of significantly increased plantings), 1.4 million tonnes of bananas (+25 percent) and some 656 000 tonnes of roots and tubers, about the same as in last year’s season A.

Compared to the average of 1989-93 A, this season’s production is just five percent below pre-crisis levels. All in all, Rwanda’s food crop production is on the way to recovery. Yet, two caveats are in order. First, there are now more Rwandans who have to feed themselves than before the civil strife; on a per caput basis, current production is only some 80 percent of pre-war levels, implying that substantial food deficits persist. And second, if the unseasonable rains persist beyond the time of the Mission, production estimates will have to be revised downwards.

Reflecting the insufficient production, food prices continue to rise, aggravating the already precarious food security situation of a large number of households. The Mission forecasts food aid requirements of 82 000 tonnes of cereal equivalent for the first semester of 1998; of this, some 70 000 tonnes have already been pledged, while 12 000 tonnes will remain uncovered due to insecurity in western areas and current land transport difficulties in the region.

There is an urgent need to overcome input supply bottlenecks, especially for seeds and cuttings, on a sustained basis; this is a top priority for the coming season but must also be addressed within a longer-term framework.

SOMALIA* (9 February)

Torrential rains in mid- October caused the worst floods in decades, resulting in an estimated 2 000 deaths, 250 000 displaced persons, serious damage to housing and infrastructure and crop and livestock losses.

The heavy rains that persisted until early January adversely affected the 1997/98 secondary ”Deyr” crops, normally accounting for some 20 percent of the annual cereal production, which had been planted just before the floods occurred. Worst affected areas are the main southern agricultural parts, along the Juba and Shebelle rivers, particularly Baidoa, Q/dhere, Dinsor, Bardere, Jilib, Jamame, Sablale, K/Warey, Brava, Kismayo, Xagar and Afmadow where crop losses are estimated to be around 80 percent. With a recession in water levels, extensive replanting began in December but the outcome is uncertain. For the country as a whole, preliminary estimates indicate that production will be less than half the expected normal level. This is the fourth year of below-average harvest. The floods also resulted in losses of household cereal stocks from the 1997 main “Gu” season. Production of that season was also poor due to dry spells. Aggregate cereal production in 1997/98 is provisionally estimated at 269 000 tonnes, some 7 percent lower than last year’s below-average level. Import requirements for the 1997/98 marketing year (August/July) have been revised upward to 330 000 tonnes, of which about 115 000 tonnes will need to be covered by food aid. However, only a few pledges have been made to date, amounting to 15 000 tonnes.

While the floods alone resulted in losses of livestock estimated at 35 500 animals, an outbreak of Rift Valley fever combined with other animal diseases, occurring since December 1997 in north-eastern Kenya and southern areas of Somalia is reportedly causing losses of large numbers of animals, mainly camels and goats.

SUDAN* (9 February)

An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission, which visited Sudan from 15 November to 5 December 1997, forecasted total cereal production at 4.64 million tonnes in 1997/98 comprising 3.39 million tonnes of sorghum, 0.57 million tonnes of millet, 0.63 million tonnes of wheat (to be harvested in April 1998) and a relatively small amount of maize (0.05 million tonnes) mainly produced in the South. Compared with last year’s record harvest, total cereal production is down by 14 percent, with sorghum 20 percent lower, millet 27 percent higher and wheat 2 percent down. Production of all three cereals is above the five-year benchmark average of 1988/89-1992/93. Sorghum output is the third highest of the last five years and millet is the second highest (after the 1994/95 bumper year).

The total cereal output of 4.64 million tonnes will be less than the total cereal consumption requirement for 1997/98, after allowing for losses, seed and other uses. However, due to the exceptional sorghum crop last year and the national ban on sorghum exports during 1997, the carryover stocks at the end of October 1997 were high, estimated by the Mission at 900 000 tonnes (mostly sorghum). Some drawdown of these stocks will be necessary to meet national food requirements.

The overall food outlook for 1997/98 is therefore favourable but in the South, North Darfur and North Kordofan food deficit problems will occur. The situation is most serious in the South where cereal production is estimated to be down by 45 percent on last year (excluding Renk). Eastern Equatoria, Lakes, Bahr El Jebel and Bahr El Ghazal are the most affected States, where the first season crop was lost due to the prolonged early drought. Some long season sorghum crops survived but yields will be low. Insecurity has again disrupted farming activities in Bahr el Ghazal and parts of Jonglei. Logistical problems and insecurity will also limit the amount of food which can be moved into the region (even from the Renk scheme in Upper Nile). The Mission estimates that some 60 to 70 per cent of the population in Eastern Equatoria, Bahr El Ghazal, Lakes, parts of Jonglei state and the transitional zones will need emergency food assistance for three to six months in 1998. It is estimated that 915 500 persons affected by a reduced harvest will require 30 000 tonnes of food commodities, to be supplied through WFP, Nairobi. In addition, 34 000 tonnes of relief food assistance will be required for 1.3 million displaced people in the South, transitional zone and Khartoum displaced camps.

In North Darfur, crop failure has occurred due to drought in Umm Keddada, Mellit and Kutum, and food shortages are already evident. Millet prices are high and livestock prices are falling. Even though millet production in North Darfur as a whole is better than last year, many people in these two provinces are unlikely to be able to purchase their food needs, and interventions will be necessary. The Mission estimates that 180 000 people will require 9 530 tonnes of emergency food assistance between April and September 1998 in North Darfur. A further 14 000 people affected by floods and civil conflict in southern Tokar may need 300 tonnes of food assistance for between three to six months.

The situation in North Kordofan also gives cause for concern. Production is better than last year but the State is still in deficit and the value of cash crops and livestock has fallen. In particular, the provinces of Sodari and Bara have suffered widespread crop failure and access to adequate food supplies will be difficult in the second half of the year. Food aid requirements are expected largely to be procured locally, except for limited amounts to be imported for the South, due to internal logistics constraints. Due to widespread crop losses in the South and parts of North Darfur and North Kordofan, there is also an urgent need for seeds for the next planting season.

TANZANIA (9 February)

Heavy rains and consequent flooding since November 1997 has severely disrupted rail and road systems in the country, causing serious problems in transporting essential goods to areas of need. Of particular concern are remote villages where framers have lost production or stocks due the rains and where relief food cannot be transported due to impassable roads.

The heavy rains resulted also in crop losses and damage to the 1997/98 “Vuli” crop, grown from October to February. The worst affected areas were low-lying parts of Mara, Arusha, Kilimanjaro, Tanga and Shinyanga regions, as well as southern parts of Mwanza where heavy clay soils predominate. However, as crop cultivation is also practised in highland areas production here will be favourable due to higher rainfall. Overall, losses in low lying areas will be offset by gains in the highlands. The Vuli crop, which is the least important of the country’s three annual crops, is anticipated to recover from a succession of drought-affected harvests .

Following a destructive drought in 1996/97, large numbers of livestock were lost in pastoral areas. Heavy rains in the last few months have had a very beneficial effect on pastures, which will result in recovery in the livestock sector. From a household food security point of view, such recovery has important implications for some sections of the population, such as the Masai, who rely heavily on livestock.

In central and southern parts, where cereal crops of the 1998 main season are at developing stage, crop losses to floods in low-lying areas of Iringa and Mbeya regions may be significant. However, the abundant precipitation of the past months has been generally beneficial and, provided that favourable weather prevails in the remainder of the growing season, production may recover from the poor level of 1997. An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission has just returned from the country and is finalizing its report.

UGANDA (9 February)

Harvesting of the 1997 second season food crops is almost complete. Heavy rains from mid-November to early December, mainly in the eastern parts, resulted in floods and mudslides which caused loss of life, damage to housing and infrastructure and localized crop losses. However, the overall outlook for the current second season food crops, now being harvested, is favourable. Despite the localized crop losses, the abundant rains since the beginning of the season were beneficial for crop development. The heavy rains have also improved pastures and livestock conditions, particularly in the Karamoja region, previously affected by prolonged dry weather.

Prices of maize and beans, which by December 1997 had doubled in a year, are anticipated to decline with the arrival of the new crop in the markets; the previously tight food supply, following two consecutive reduced harvests, is expected to ease. Nevertheless, the food situation will remain difficult for the large number of displaced people in northern parts, affected by persistent civil conflict.

Food assistance to the flood-affected population is currently being provided, but the operations are being hampered by bad road conditions.

SOUTHERN AFRICA

ANGOLA* (11 February)

Conditions have so far been generally favourable for crops in most parts of the country. Despite a slow start of the season with below normal rains in southern areas until December, widespread rains in January have significantly improved conditions for crops, particularly in cereal growing areas of the centre and the south. However, agricultural activities and the food supply situation continue to be hampered by security constraints in several parts of the country. The early planted crops have reached maturity, and a near normal harvest is expected.

The food supply situation remains tight in several parts of the country, largely due to the continuing tense security situation. Food aid pledges by donors amount so far to 273 000 tonnes, of which 167 000 tonnes have been delivered so far. An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission is scheduled to visit the country in April/May to review the harvest outcome and estimate the cereal import and food aid requirements for 1998/99.

BOTSWANA (10 February)

Following generally sparse and below normal rains in most parts of the country between October and December, abundant and widespread rains were received in January 1998, becoming heavy in the north and lighter in the south. This led to a sharp increase in area planted and improved conditions for crops now at emergence and vegetative stages. As a result of late planting in several areas, timely and well distributed rains in February and March will be critical for crops. Seed supply is reported to be adequate to meet normal requirements.

The national food supply situation remains generally satisfactory. The level of stocks held by the marketing board and by commercial millers is considered to be adequate to meet needs for the rest of the marketing year which ends in March. However, given the low harvest of the 1996/97 season and the possibility that many farmers took advantage of favourable prices to sell most of their grains to milling companies, farm level stocks is expected to be very low.

LESOTHO (10 February)

Prospects are very poor for the 1997/98 harvest. The crop season has been marked by generally erratic and below normal rainfall between September and December, with high temperature in many areas which further reduced the level of soil moisture. As a result, early planted crops suffered serious water stress and planting was delayed in many areas. Widespread rains in January significantly improved conditions of crops and encouraged some farmers to plant more land. This will increase the size of area planted which was forecast in early January at only a third of the 1996/97 level. Seed and fertilizer supply are considered adequate. However, more rains are needed in February and March for late planted crops to complete their growth cycle. A prolonged dry period associated with El Niño could lead to crop losses from 25 to 50 percent of the 1997 harvest.

Following a below average cereal harvest in 1997, the food supply situation remains tight. Stock levels are relatively low, representing about two month consumption needs in January. Little food aid is expected during the current marketing season as food aid pledges of 13 400 tonnes have already been delivered.

MADAGASCAR (10 February)

Despite a late start of rains which delayed the transplanting of rice in some areas, favourable rains were received in most areas in December, January and the first two dekads of February. The area planted is reported to be normal but may be somewhat reduced as a result of the delayed start of the season. However, the persistence of swarms of African Migratory Locust (Locusta migratoria capito) continue to be the major threat to the 1998 crops to be harvested in March/April. Locust movements are reported in the southern and south-western parts of the country but also in western and central major agricultural areas. Aerial and ground control operations are in progress. However, given the potential impact of locusts on crops, harvest prospects are uncertain.

The national food supply situation is generally satisfactory except in the southern areas where the 1997 production was reduced by the combined impact of locusts and drought. Food aid pledged by donors amounts to 29 500 tonnes, of which 16 000 tonnes have been delivered.

MALAWI (9 February)

The outlook for the 1997/98 cereal crop is generally good. Despite a late start of the season, rainfall in most parts of the country has been so far very favourable this year. The rains have been generally light in the south but heavy in the north, resulting in flooding in some areas with losses of property and lives. Total area planted is expected to be comparable to the 1996/97 level but may be somewhat reduced as a result of the late start of rains. The supply of major agricultural inputs is considered adequate. Harvest prospects are therefore generally favourable for northern and central areas as well as for early planted crops in the south. For late planted crops in the south, much of the outcome will depend on continued rains during the next few weeks of February and March.

The national food supply situation remains tight, following a reduced cereal harvest in 1997. The cereal import requirements is estimated at some 300 000 tonnes of maize and the government has appealed for international assistance to import part of its food needs. Food aid pledges by donors amounting to around 10 000 tonnes of cereals have been delivered.

MOZAMBIQUE* (10 February)

Crops continue to benefit from favourable conditions in most parts of the country despite concerns over a possible El Niño- induced drought. Rains started early in September in the southern areas, gradually reaching central and northern major agricultural provinces. Rainfall in December and January was normal and crops are reported in good vegetative conditions. Seed and fertilizer supply is reported to be adequate. A few areas of concern include the western provinces of Tete and Manica, where dry spells in November and December and floods in January have affected crops in some districts. The wet weather which continued in February with heavy rains could affect yields in northern and central areas with waterlogging of crops and loss of soil nutrients. Initial indications are that area planted this year could be at least similar to the 1996/97 level. A near normal harvest of cereal and other crops is expected provided good weather conditions prevail in the remainder of the season.

Following a good harvest in 1997, the national food supply situation is generally satisfactory and a stable flow of grain is reported from surplus areas in the centre and the north to southern districts. An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission is scheduled to visit the country in April/May to review the harvest outcome and estimate the cereal import and food aid requirements for 1998/99.

NAMIBIA (10 February)

Weather conditions have so far been favourable in most crop growing areas of the country, reducing concerns over an early drought in January/February. Rainfall since January has been widespread and heavy in some areas, providing substantial improvement in crop growing conditions in the north-east and Caprivi regions. Pastures have also benefited from these favourable conditions. However, rains are still needed in February and March to bring to maturity the crop which was mostly planted in late December and January. A prolonged dry spell in February/March would adversely impact yields for the late planted crops. This could lead to a harvest of some 10 to 20 percent below last year’s bumper crop.

The food supply situation continues to be satisfactory. Following a good cereal crop in 1997, available supply and planned commercial imports should cover consumption requirements until the next harvest in April.

SOUTH AFRICA (12 February)

Rainfall in late December and much of January was abundant, covering most parts of the country. This provided much needed relief for crops, particularly in western and eastern areas which received little rains during the first two decades of December. Crop growing conditions have now improved substantially. However, as a result of the poor December rains and subsequent late planting of crops, especially in Free State, Mpumalanga and Northwest Provinces, maize production is expected to be reduced by about 15 per cent, compared to last year. Furthermore, the first dekad of February was marked by above average temperatures and below average rainfall over much of the country at a time when a large part of the maize is coming into the critical pollination stage. A prolonged dry spell in the coming weeks would seriously affect this portion of the crop.

However, as a result of the recent good rains, dams have been filled and soil moisture raised, and particularly in commercial farming areas, the availability of irrigation will help cushion the impact of a drought. Nonetheless, an extended drought could lead to a crop of up to 20 percent less compared to last year. This would seriously reduce the country’s ability to export maize, particularly to needy countries in the sub-region.

The overall food supply situation continues to be satisfactory. The wheat crop harvested in November 1997 was above-average at about 2.3 million tonnes but much below last year’s good crop. The aggregate 1997 cereal crop is estimated at 11.9 million tonnes, which was also above average but lower than the previous year’s bumper crop.

SWAZILAND (12 February)

Weather conditions have been generally favourable since October with normal to above normal rains falling over most growing areas. In keeping with contingency planting measures suggested by the government, farmers started to plant early, especially in the Low Veld. Fast maturing and drought tolerant maize varieties were used in drought prone areas. Area planted to maize is expected to be slightly lower than last year’s level, largely as a result of crop diversification by some farmers. The early planted crop is now reported at the tasselling to grain-formation stages, while the late planted crop is at the late vegetative stage and in good condition. Harvest prospects are generally good but yields may be somewhat affected by above normal rains in several areas which may cause the leaching of nutrients and weed infestation.

The national food supply situation for the current marketing year (1997/98) is expected to remain satisfactory. Available supply and planned commercial imports are also expected to cover consumption needs for the rest of the season.

ZAMBIA (11 February)

Early prospects for the 1998 cereal crops are generally favourable so far in major growing areas. Following moderate to heavy rains in many areas in November and December, widespread abundant rains were received across the country in January and early February. While the rains have largely benefited crops, waterlogging and loss of soil nutrients are reported in some areas and may negatively affect yields. Initial indications are that planting will be near the 1997 level in the northern highly productive areas and slightly lower elsewhere, with a trend towards diversification from maize to millet/sorghum, but also other crops such as paprika, sunflower, oilseeds, cotton and tobacco. Overall, in southern and western provinces which are generally vulnerable to drought, diversification to non-cereal crops in areas of concern by the impact of El Niño may account for 30 percent of the crop. Area planted by small scale farmers may have also been limited in some areas due to lack of credit and input distribution. The effective demand for fertilizer is reported to be low as prices appear to be out of reach for small farmers.

The national food supply situation for the 1997/98 marketing year remains relatively tight. However, most cereal requirements are expected to be met through commercial channels. Substantial import contracts have been arranged by the Government and private traders, part of which will be placed in a reserve stock and improve the stock levels.

ZIMBABWE* (11 February)

Moderate to heavy showers were received in November and early December over the northern and central areas of the country. Planting in southern districts began in late November while it was reported to be at an advance stage elsewhere with the early planted crops at late vegetative to flowering stages. Widespread rains have continued to benefit crops across most parts of the country. The current rains have especially improved the situation in the southern half of the country where dry conditions had persisted, and some planting and replanting was reported in January. In general, the late arrival of rains, coupled with repeated drought warning, resulted in a reduction of planting compared to 1997.

More rains are needed in February and March for crops to reach maturity, particularly in southern areas. A prolonged dry spell or an early end of rains in February could lead to an overall loss of some 10 to 20 percent of harvest compared to the 1997 level. Meanwhile, the food supply situation is relatively tight. Following the recent food riot in the capital, the Government is striving to reduce the price of maize and has released part of the strategic Grain Reserve on to the market. For the upcoming marketing year, there may be less carryover stock available to help cushion the impact of a drop in output, and the country may become a net importer. Targeted assistance may also be required for vulnerable population groups in regions of the south that will have a poor harvests as a result of erratic rainfall.

ASIA

AFGHANISTAN* (10 February)

Prospects for the 1998 harvest in May/June remain uncertain, due mainly to ongoing fighting in the northern provinces which comprise some 40 percent of the country’s irrigated cereal and about 53 percent of its rainfed area. The FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission that visited the country last June/July estimated the 1997 total cereal production at 3.66 million tonnes, 18 percent higher than the previous year. Following the recent earthquake which hit the Northern part of the country, the food situation is very tight in the affected areas. Relief assistance is urgently required in these areas. According to WFP, 30 000 Afghanis in the Takhar region will need relief food aid for the next three months, due to the loss of all food supplies, including livestock; a total of 1 500 tonnes of food is required to feed quake survivors. Since 9 February, WFP has started to provide food to affected population and plans to dispatch 20 convoys carrying 70 tonnes of food each, on average, from Tajikistan en route to the remote Afghan regions.

A consolidated Appeal for Assistance to Afghanistan was launched on 4 February 1998 for a total amount of US$ 153.5 million to cover the period January-December 1998. Main activities of the Appeal include agriculture, education, health, income generation activities, rehabilitation of physical infrastructure, relief and food aid.

Imports of cereals in 1997/98 are forecast at 710 000 tonnes, similar to last year, including an emergency food aid requirement of 170 000 tonnes.

BANGLADESH (6 February)

The output from the recently harvested ‘Aman’ paddy crop is provisionally estimated at 9.6 million tonnes which is slightly lower than earlier estimate of 10.2 million tonnes, but about 1 percent higher than the production of last year. The failure of rains in October following the cyclonic storms during the last week of September were responsible for the downward adjustment of estimates. The production target for the ‘boro’ rice crop, to be harvested in May/June has been set at 7.5 million tonnes, against the previous year’s harvest of 7.46 million tonnes. 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 essential inputs.

The outlook for the wheat crop, to be harvested in March- April is favourable; the production target is set at 1.5 million tonnes, against the previous year’s crop of 1.45 million tonnes. Despite recent price rises, the overall food supply situation remains satisfactory. As of end-December 1997, the government-held cereal stocks were estimated at 826 000 tonnes. Current projections indicate that the country will import some 1.1 million tonnes of wheat and 350 000 tonnes of rice.

CAMBODIA (6 February)

Production of the main, wet season paddy is provisionally estimated at 2.76 million tonnes for 1997/98 and the forecast output of the second, dry season irrigated crop, to be harvested in March, is put at 0.735 million tonnes, giving a total paddy production of 3.49 million tonnes. At this level, despite the reported shortfall in rain in some parts of the country and a decline in area under rice, aggregate output would be about 3 percent above 1996/97 production and 27 percent higher than the average for the previous five years. For secondary crops, maize, cassava, sweet potatoes and vegetables, planted area have increased but heavy floods have severely damaged maize production.

CHINA (6 February)

Official estimates indicate that the overall grain output to reach 492.5 million tonnes in 1997, the second highest crop on record after the previous year’s 504.5 million tonnes. This is despite the severe drought in the northern parts of the country which affected more than 33 million hectares of farmland. The revised estimate of maize production is now put at 105 million tonnes, about 18 percent lower than the previous year and 2 percent below the average of the preceding five years.

Production of the 1998 winter wheat crop, to be harvested from April, is anticipated to decline due to the decrease in sown area which resulted from insufficient moisture. Out of six major wheat producing provinces three have been reported as experiencing dry conditions which are forecast to continue into the spring. Snow and low temperatures in the first-half of January have also damaged wheat in parts of southern China.

Overall, the food supply situation is favourable with satisfactory stock levels in the country, following the previous year’s bumper crop harvest.

CYPRUS (10 February)

The country received above normal rainfall in November and prospects for the 1998 wheat and barley crops, due for harvest from June appear to be favourable. No serious outbreak of plant diseases and pests are reported. Production of cereals in 1997, mainly barley is estimated at 40 000 tonnes, some 72 percent less than the previous year. Domestic production normally accounts only for less than one-third of total consumption requirements.

Imports of wheat in 1997/98 (May/April) are forecast at 95 000 tonnes, 6 percent higher than the previous year. Aggregate imports of barley and maize are forecast at some 540 000 tonnes, about 32 percent higher than last year.

INDIA (6 February)

The overall outlook for the rabi grains (mainly wheat), to be harvested in April/May 1998, remains favourable. For the 1997/98 rabi season starting 1 October 1997, cumulative rainfall as of 28 January 1998 was below normal in 10 (out of 35) sub-divisions, accounting for 9 percent of the rabi grain production. This compares with 11 sub-divisions accounting for 58 percent of rabi grain production with below-normal rainfall at the same time in 1996/97.

Despite heavy rains late last year which slowed the kharif rice harvest in southern parts of the country, paddy production is forecast at 110 million tonnes, some 2 percent up on the previous year. Accordingly, the estimate for aggregate paddy output for 1997/98, including Kharif and Rabi, has 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 tenth consecutive year.

According to latest official reports, the Government wheat stocks as of beginning-November 1997, were estimated at 8.03 million tonnes compared to 9.72 million tonnes a year earlier. The total foodgrains stocks for the same period, on the other hand, were 18.27 million tonnes, against 15.34 million in the previous month and 21.32 million a year earlier.

INDONESIA (16 February)

El Niño-related drought, considered to be the worst in half a century, has reduced food production in Indonesia and exacerbated forest fires, adversely affecting the food security of the poorer sectors of the population. The Asian financial turmoil, which affected several countries including Indonesia, has also played its part in aggravating the food situation through a reduced import capacity and domestic price rises due to currency devaluation. The price rises, which sparked-off riots in several towns, are reported to have been accentuated by panic buying and hoarding by traders.

Paddy production in 1997 is provisionally estimated to be some 2 million tonnes below the previous year’s output of 51.1 million tonnes, mainly reflecting the drought damage to crops harvested in the later part of the year. The maize crop has also been affected. In addition to foodcrops, drought has reduced the output of coffee, cocoa and rubber, resulting in a contraction in incomes and erosion of purchasing power of the farmers dependent on such crops. The food supply situation is tight in areas which have been seriously affected by drought such as central Irian Jaya, East Timor and parts of central Java and Yogyakarta, which have been seriously affected by drought. Throughout the country, food prices have increased sharply and food stocks are dwindling. The food stocks held by the National Food Logistics Agency (BULOG) are being replenished through imports. The Government has prepared a drought response plan for eight months (October 1997-May 1998) and taken a number of measures to cope with the food supply difficulties.

Current indications are that the output of the main season rice crop for harvest in the coming months would be somewhat reduced. Planting of this crop which normally starts in October/November was delayed due to lack of moisture affecting much of the traditional rainfed rice areas. With water reserves in wells and rivers reported to be low in some of the main producing areas, a prolonged shortfall in precipitation in the next two months could seriously reduce yields and production in 1998. As a result of the potential decline in production, rice imports are expected to increase substantially over last year’s volume of 950 000 tonnes and could exceed 2 million tonnes in 1998.

IRAN, ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF (6 February)

Harvesting of the rice crop is complete and an output of 2.4 million tonnes is forecast. At this level output is about 8 percent below last year’s well above average production but still about 2 percent higher than the average for the previous five years. Maize production in 1997 is forecast at 900 000 tonnes, some 200 000 tonnes above the previous year. Annual domestic maize consumption is estimated at around 2.5 million tonnes and about 1.1 million tonnes were imported in 1996. The country is expected to remain a major importer of wheat in the 1997/98 marketing year due to the high domestic demand for wheat. Estimated production of wheat in 1997/98 was 10 million tonnes, slightly lower than the previous year and about 5 percent below the average for the previous five years. Reported rains and floods in January, which washed away farmland under wheat and barley in southwestern Iran may adversely affect output.

IRAQ* (10 February)

Prospects for the 1998 cereal harvest in May/June remain uncertain. The rainfall has been below average and unevenly distributed, and has substantially affected sowing operations. Production is likely to be constrained again this season by serious shortages of quality seeds, fertilizer, spare parts for agricultural machinery, agro-chemicals, vaccines and the widespread incidence of pests, weeds and animal diseases. The FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission that visited the country last June/July estimated the production of the main cereals in 1997 at 2.2 million tonnes. Crop yields remain low due to poor land preparation resulting from a lack of machinery, low use of inputs, deteriorating soil quality and irrigation facilities, and increased crop infestation.

Although there has been some improvement in the overall food supply situation following the implementation of Security Council Resolution 986, malnutrition still remains a serious problem throughout Iraq. Although there has been some improvement in the overall food situation following the implementation of SCR 986, malnutrition remains a serious problem throughout Iraq. Moreover, although food rations under SCR 986 provides a significant proportion of overall energy and protein needs, the provisions are low or deficient in a number of other nutrients, particularly Vitamins A and C which are almost zero and calcium, zinc, riboflavin and Vitamin B6, which are all less than 40 percent of needs. For a more balanced diet, the quality of protein is also low which is to be expected from a ration based heavily on cereals. To supply these nutrients, the diet should be diversified, with foods like fruits, vegetables and animal products. In view of these serious shortfalls in the food rations under SCR 986, the Secretary-General has recently proposed to increase by US$ 3.26 billion to US$ 5.26 billion, from its current level of US$ 2 billion, the amount of oil Iraq is allow to sell over a period of six months, to buy food, medicine and health supplies.

ISRAEL (10 February)

The prospects for the 1998 wheat and barley crops, to be harvested in April/May, are favourable, reflecting normal weather conditions. Production of wheat in 1997, is estimated at 140 000 tonnes.

Imports of cereals in 1997/98 (July/June) are forecast at some 2.7 million tonnes, 6 percent lower than in previous year.

JAPAN (6 February)

Rice output in 1997, estimated at 13 million tonnes, is slightly higher than in 1996 and about 1 percent higher than the average for the preceding five years of 12.8 million tonnes. To cut rice production and reduce large stocks in the country, the government provides incentives to farmers to reduce land area under production. Currently about 30 percent of rice farmland in Japan is set aside and kept out of production. Official estimates indicate that rice stocks were around 3.7 million tonnes at the end of October 1997, up by 40 percent compared to 1996. Last year’s harvest is expected to further increase stocks to about 4.5 million tonnes by the end of October this year.

JORDAN (10 February)

The prospects for the 1998 wheat and barley crops are favourable so far. As a result of unfavourable weather conditions last year, aggregate output of wheat and barley declined by 18 percent in 1997 to 55 000 tonnes. Domestic cereal production generally meets about 10 percent of consumption requirements and the remaining is covered by imports, mostly on commercial terms.

Imports of wheat in 1997/98 (July/June) are forecast at 800 000 tonnes and that of rice at 90 000 tonnes. Coarse grains imports in 1997/98 are forecast at 1.3 million tonnes.

KOREA, REPUBLIC OF (6 February)

The aggregate production of cereals in 1997 is estimated at 7.8 million tonnes compared with some 7.7 million tonnes harvested in 1996. This is mainly attributed to the bumper rice crop harvested in which production is estimated at 5.4 million tonnes. The rice output in 1997 is the highest in six years, and some 28 000 tonnes higher than the previous year’s good crop and around 6 percent above the average for the preceding five years. Last year’s good rice production is attributed to favourable weather and government efforts to offset future decline in area cultivated and increase in the level of self sufficiency in rice.

KOREA, DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF* (13 February)

Reflecting a serious drought in 1997, the output of maize declined by over 50 percent from the normal level. The adverse effect of the drought on rice, however, was much less pronounced as the crop is largely irrigated. Milled rice production in 1997, taking into account losses, is estimated at approximately 1.52 million tonnes which together with maize brings aggregate production of these cereals to 2.66 million tonnes in milled rice equivalent or 3.48 million tonnes in paddy equivalent.

The Mission estimated that the import requirement of cereals for 1997/98 at around 1.95 million tonnes. Of this the commercial imports, including informal cross border trade with China are estimated to account for 700 000 tonnes whilst pledged food assistance in the pipeline are expected to bring over 241 000 tonnes. The uncovered import deficit with which the country needs assistance for 1997/98, amounts to just over 1 million tonnes.

Based on these estimates the 1998 United Nations Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal for DPR Korea was launched on 12 February 1998 for US$ 415.6 million for food and humanitarian supplies to combat the effects of severe food shortages in the country. This amount includes the FAO and WFP jointly approved emergency operation for US$ 378 million on 30 December 1997 to provide 658 000 tonnes of food to 7.47 million people for 12 months. The United States have recently pledged 200 000 tonnes of aid to the country, the first delivery of which is planned for April 1998.

LAOS* (3 February)

Despite reports of widespread flooding late last year, cereal output in 1997 is forecast at 1.7 million tonnes, 18 percent higher than in 1996 and 12 percent above the average of the preceding five years. But localized shortages are reported in some provinces due to adverse weather. Government officials in these areas were urging farmers to plant secondary crops to make up for the shortage.

LEBANON (10 February)

The prospects for the 1998 winter harvest in June/July remain favourable so far. However, domestic cereal production usually covers only about 10 percent of the consumption requirements. Aggregate production of wheat and barley in 1997 is estimated at 63 000 tonnes.

Imports of wheat in 1997/98 (July/June) are forecast at some 0.5 million tonnes, about 11 percent higher than in previous year.

MALAYSIA (6 February)

Paddy production in 1997 is estimated at around 2.1 million tonnes, around average and similar to 1996 output. Moderate to heavy showers in January 1998 are reported to have slowed fieldwork for oil palm and the planting of the main paddy crop.

MONGOLIA* (13 February)

Aggregate output of cereals in 1997 is estimated at 240 000 tonnes, some 10 percent above the output in 1996, but about 33 percent below the average of the previous five years. Reflecting this below-average harvest, the already tight food supply situation is expected to deteriorate until the next harvest in September. The tight food supply situation, coupled with the negative effects of economic reforms, is seriously affecting vulnerable groups. The cereal deficit for 1997/98 is estimated at 90 000 tonnes, including 23 000 tonnes of emergency food aid for vulnerable people. A recent report indicated that the United States has recently donated 11 000 tonnes of flour.

MYANMAR (5 February)

The output of paddy in 1997 is estimated at 17 million tonnes, similar to the previous year and around average, despite the serious flooding which affected the rice crop in various parts of the country,. About 800 000 hectares in all eleven states and divisions in the country were reported damaged, with approximately 298 000 hectares totally destroyed.

NEPAL (5 February)

Despite an increase in area planted to paddy in 1997 by about 4 percent from last year, production is forecast at 3.7 million tonnes compared to the 4.2 million tonnes harvested in 1996. However, at this level production is still about 12 percent higher than the average for the previous five years. The aggregate cereal output in 1997 is estimated at 6.3 million tonnes, some 600 000 tonnes below the previous year’s harvest but about 9 percent above the average.

PAKISTAN (5 February)

Early prospects for the wheat crop, for harvest in April/May, are uncertain, reflecting the adverse weather conditions which prompted the decline in sown area. Water accumulated on the fields in December and early January made them unfit for wheat cultivation. It is reported that the Government is likely to import around 4 million tonnes of wheat in 1997/98. The country’s wheat production in 1996/97 was around 16.9 million tonnes and the Government had to import 3 million tonnes to bridge the shortfall.

Current estimates for paddy production indicate that the country is likely to produce 4.5 million tonnes of rice in 1997/98, some 19 percent above the average for the preceding five years and about 5 percent higher than 1996/97. The increase in production is attributed to higher yields and the small increase in area cultivated.

In an attempt to stimulate the agricultural sector the Government announced in late 1997 a comprehensive package of incentives. This includes increases in support prices for various crops, relief in the prices for key agricultural inputs, improved availability of agricultural credit, better irrigation and drainage and better quality control of fertilizers and pesticides.

PHILIPPINES (5 February)

Recent reports in the country warned that drier weather conditions related to the El Niño weather anomalies, could cause moderate to severe drought over most of the country up to April 1998. Provinces considered particularly vulnerable include South Cotabato, Miasmic Oriental and parts of Zamboanga del Sur in Mindanao. As a result of the forecasted drought, rice and maize production are expected to drop in the first 6 months of 1998.

Paddy output for 1997 is officially estimated at 11.27 million tonnes, a mere 0.13 percent lower than the 1996 output. Nevertheless, the country’s paddy output from January to June this year is anticipated to drop by as much as 12.72 percent compared with the same period in 1997. The crop forecast in Maize production for the fourth quarter of 1997 remained higher than the 1996 final estimates giving a total corn production of 4.33 million tonnes. At this level, output is more than 4 percent higher than in 1996, but about 3 percent lower than the previous five years. Maize production is also expected to drop by 8.7 percent to about 1.68 million tonnes in the first 6 months of this year.

The National Food Authority (NFA) is reported to have a sufficient stock of about 2 million tonnes, enough to last until the end of April. Nevertheless, imports of rice and maize in 1998 are likely to increase due to expected weather- related declines in production and continued growth in population and consumption. The NFA has already placed orders for 650 000 tonnes of rice for delivery in the first half of 1998. In 1996 the NFA imported 893 000 tonnes of rice.

SAUDI ARABIA (10 February)

Following good rainfall during the growing season, prospects for the 1998 crop to be harvested in April/May are favourable if no serious outbreaks of pests and disease occur in the coming months. On 6 January 1997, mature swarms were reported arriving from across the Red Sea. The swarms appeared between Al-Lith and Al-Qunfidah. Most of them laid shortly after arrival. By 19 January 1997, hatching had started near Al- Qunfidah. A total of 32 723 hectares were treated. Breeding is forecast to continue along the Red Sea coastal plains from Al-Lith to Bader and perhaps extend to Al-Wejh and Jizan if conditions are favourable. Consequently, an increasing number of hopper bands is likely to appear during February and new swarms could start to form by early March. There is moderate risk of additional swarms arriving from Eastern Africa and moving south or north along the coastal plains.

Imports of barley in 1997/98 (July/June) are currently forecast at 5.5 million tonnes. However, this figure is likely to be revised downward as sufficient winter rains have produced more natural grazing pastures for livestock farmers. To make local products’ prices more competitive, the government plans to cut subsidies on imported barley and substitute it with other locally produced feeds.

SRI LANKA (5 February)

It is reported that the El Niño weather phenomenon could trigger an island-wide drought in the country in 1998 after causing widespread rains last year. Rainfall in 1997 from the north-east monsoon has been generally favourable with cumulative rainfall, in the period 1 October to 28 January, being normal to above normal in all eight provinces monitored. This accounts for 100 percent of “Maha” paddy production, the country’s main rice crop. In comparison, in the same period the previous year, cumulative rainfall was normal or above normal in none of the eight provinces.

Overall output of paddy in 1997 is estimated at 2.6 million tonnes, about 26 percent higher than in 1996 and 5 percent higher than the average for the last five years. There are concerns in the country’s rice production in the coming months due to the impact of El Niño. But the impact is expected to be limited because most irrigation tanks were reported to be full due to last year’s favourable monsoon rains.

SYRIA (10 February)

The prospects for the winter grains crops to be harvested from mid-May are favourable reflecting normal weather conditions during the growing season. Cereals production in 1997 is estimated at 5.1 million tonnes, about 15 percent lower than last year. As a result of unfavourable weather, especially winter frost, wheat output dropped to 3.5 million tonnes, whilst the output of barley was 1.3 million tonnes compared to 1.5 million tonnes in 1996. Maize output is estimated at about 300 000 tonnes, some 45 percent higher than in the previous year.

Imports of wheat flour in 1997/98 are forecast at some 400 000 tonnes, whilst maize imports are forecast at 340 000 tonnes.

THAILAND (5 February)

Harvesting of the 1997 main paddy crop, which normally accounts for 85-90 percent of the country’s annual output, is completed. The output for this crop is estimated at 17.84 million tonnes, lower than the earlier target of 18.18 million, due to the damage to crops caused by reduced rainfall in various parts of the country. The aggregate output in 1997 is provisionally estimated at 21.8 million tonnes slightly higher than the previous year and about 6 percent higher than the average for the previous five years. The 1997 maize production is estimated at 3.9 million tonnes, some 500 000 tonnes below the previous year’s crop.

Planting of the 1998 secondary rice crop has started; early prospects are unfavourable due to the lower level of water supplies in the Bhumbol and Sirket reservoirs. Officials are concerned by the number of farmers planning second paddy crops encouraged by the rising prices despite the looming water shortages. Rice output from second crop paddy this year had been officially forecast at 2.8 million tonnes from four million rai (640 000 hectares) of paddy fields, but according to official report, as of January planted area had soared to five million rai (800 000 hectares).

TURKEY (10 February)

The prospects of the 1998 winter crop are favourable so far reflecting normal weather conditions. The 1997 wheat production is estimated at 18.7 million tonnes compared to 18.5 million tonnes in 1996.

The government is planning to change its current farm subsidy system to boost farm output and rural migration. With the new system, the government will set an intervention price (base price) and a target price (ceiling price) for each subsidized product. If local prices of the crop fall below the intervention price, the government will step in the market to buy in order to cause rises in the prices. However, when local prices rise above the target price, the government will allow imports to curb price rises.

Wheat imports in 1997/98 are forecast at some 1.5 million tonnes, 28 percent lower than in the previous year. The 1997/98 maize imports are forecast at 600 000 tonnes compared to 484 000 tonnes last year.

VIET NAM (5 February)

Aggregate paddy production in 1997 is officially estimated at 27.5 million tonnes slightly higher than the previous year and about 9 percent higher than the average for the preceding five years. This is despite the damage of about half a million hectares of rice caused by Typhoon Linda in the first week of November.

Rice export, which is one of the country’s main export earners, reached 3.5 million tonnes in 1997 making Vietnam the world’s second largest rice exporter. Official reports indicted that Northern Vietnam exported 102 000 tonnes in 1997, marking the first time the region has achieved self- sufficiency in the staple. The export target for 1998 is 4.0 million tonnes.

YEMEN (10 February)

The output of 1997 sorghum crop recently harvested is estimated some 473 000 tonnes, some 29 percent higher than last year. Small scale breeding of locusts is probably in progress in a few places along the Red Sea coastal plains. Consequently, low numbers of hoppers and new adults are expected to be present in the coming months. There is a moderate risk that these hoppers will be supplemented by small swarms appearing on the Red Sea coastal plains from the north and west. Low numbers of adults may be present on the Aden coastal plains and could breed in areas where rains have fallen. Imports of cereals in 1997 - mainly wheat - are estimated at some 2.6 million tonnes.

CENTRAL AMERICA (including the Caribbean)

COSTA RICA (10 February)

Land is being prepared for planting of the 1998 first season maize and paddy crops. The outlook is uncertain as dry weather, combined with unusually high temperatures, associated with El Niño phenomenon, still prevail. Water rationing is being implemented in some areas.

As current 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 in September. Public works, such as construction of water tanks, reservoirs, etc. are being carried out by the Government to help cope with the impact of El Niño. Many small maize producers, mostly at subsistence level, experienced crop losses, but paddy was the most affected crop in 1997. Significant losses are reported in the large producing province of Guanacaste, but damage to crop was also incurred in the central areas along the Pacific coast and the southern province of Puntarenas. The bean output was also reduced. Pastures continue to be affected and the cattle industry is expected to suffer in the long run from these unusual conditions.

Maize imports, mostly yellow, in marketing year 1997/98 (August/July) are forecast to be close to the previous year’s receipts of 280 000 tonnes while rice imports in 1998 (January/December) are forecast at about 100 000 tonnes.

CUBA (18 February)

Storm rains and heavy winds affected most of the country throughout the early half of February, resulting in some casualties and heavy damage to housing and infrastructure. The agricultural sector was also affected, particularly in the western provinces, where damage to important sugar cane and tobacco plantations is reported. Damage is reported to minor foodcrops in some of the central provinces, as well as disruptions to the sugar cane harvest currently underway. More rains are forecast in the weeks ahead. No damage is so far reported to the 1998 rainfed (winter) paddy crop, the main cereal, presently being planted. Early forecasts put paddy production close to the 1997 average level of 270 000 tonnes, but far from meeting domestic requirements of this significant staple in the population’s diet.

Harvesting of the large foreign-exchange earner sugar cane crop started in November, rather than in January as usual, to prevent the damage of the forecasted heavy rains associated with El Niño phenomenon for the end of the year. Latest official forecasts indicate that 1997/98 production would be less than 4 million tonnes, compared to last year’s 4.25 million tonnes.

Wheat imports in the 1997/98 marketing year (July/June) are forecast to be about 900 000 tonnes close to the previous year’s receipts. Rice imports in 1998 (January/December) are expected to be between 375 000 to 400 000 tonnes to help cover a steady domestic demand of some 500 000 tonnes.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC (10 February)

Heavy rains and flooding in late December and through January have negatively affected crops, particularly in the northern and north-western areas of the country. Considerable losses are reported to paddy plantings and various food, fruit and cash crops. About 21 000 people, mostly small farmers, have been affected with damage to housing and infrastructure. More rains are forecast in the weeks ahead. The Government has made a request for international assistance and is adopting measures to avoid possible stockpiling of food items and price speculation.

Land is being prepared for planting of the 1998 maize crop to be started from March. This year, planted area is anticipated to be above last year’s below average level, when the crop was affected by drought. Planting of the 1998 paddy crop is currently underway.

Wheat imports in 1998 (January/December) are expected to be about 265 000 tonnes, compared to last year’s 250 000 tonnes. Maize imports should be about 730 000 tonnes similar to 1997 receipts. About 50 000 tonnes of rice are currently forecast to be imported in 1998.

EL SALVADOR (10 February)

Normal weather conditions have generally prevailed in the last few weeks, but were too late to reverse damage to the recently harvested 1997/98 second season maize crop, affected by drought. A below-average 500 000 tonnes have been gathered for the whole year compared with 630 000 tonnes the previous year. The bean crop, by contrast, was not seriously affected by the dry weather and an average output has been collected. Normal growing conditions are reported for the sorghum crop and some improvement in production is expected to help compensate for the losses incurred to the maize crop. Anticipated sorghum output is an average 197 000 tonnes. Despite maize production deficits, cereal prices have remained stable mainly due to the timely intervention of the Government in facilitating imports to maintain adequate stocks. Emergency food problems, as well as the need for assistance for the rehabilitation of agricultural activities, are being experienced by the affected population, of about 22 500 persons. Technical assistance and other forms of support are being provided by the Government and other public institutions, and an appeal for assistance has been made to the international community.

Wheat imports in marketing year 1997/98 (August/July) are forecast to increase only slightly from last year’s receipts of 195 000 tonnes. Maize imports, by contrast, are currently forecast to increase from 190 000 tonnes in 1996/97 to about 300 000 tonnes to help cover production deficit caused by El Niño associated drought. Rice imports in 1998 (January/December) should be close to 1997 imports of 25 000 tonnes.

GUATEMALA (10 February)

Harvesting of the 1997/98 second season cereal crops has been nearly completed. A low maize output of 900 000 tonnes, the main cereal, is tentatively estimated for the whole year due to the severe drought induced losses to first season crops and the intensive rains and flooding at planting of the second season crops. Production of sorghum is also expected to be a below-average 40 000 tonnes. The food situation is tight for the affected rural population, of about 50 000 persons. Ministries and various other institutions have adopted a wide range of emergency and protective measures, such as improvement in infrastructure, sanitary precautions, information system to rural communities, which should help mitigate the effects of El Niño. An appeal for emergency food aid and technical assistance for the rehabilitation of agricultural activities has been made to the international community.

Wheat imports in marketing year 1997/98 (November/October) are expected to decline from 320 000 tonnes in the previous year to some 275 000 tonnes, mostly as a consequence of large carryover stocks. Maize imports (July/June) should increase from 400 000 tonnes to about 610 000 tonnes to cover production losses and help meet the strong domestic demand. Rice imports in 1998 (January/December) should be about 35 000 to 40 000 tonnes.

HAITI* (10 February)

Adequate rains in November have been followed by an erratic rain pattern since December, however, this should not delay or interfere with farmers’ intentions for sowing of the 1998 first season cereal, bean and other food crops which should start from 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 is still tight and about 155 000 tonnes of food aid would be distributed in 1998 by the international community.

HONDURAS (10 February)

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 is expected, but lower than what was previously forecast. Production of sorghum should be below average as a consequence of the losses incurred by drought to first season (main) crop, particularly in the depressed areas of 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 were not so intense. Assistance in terms of emergency food distribution and rehabilitation of agricultural activities has been requested from the international community. The drought affected rural population, amounting to 25 000 persons, is mainly composed of subsistence farmers who lost most of their first season crops. The Government has adopted a series of protective measures, which include the construction of small irrigation systems, temporary reservoirs and drilling of wells to help mitigate the impact of El Niño.

Wheat imports in marketing year 1997/98 (July/June) are forecast at about 195 000 tonnes, compared to 175 000 tonnes in the previous year. Maize imports should be close to last year’s receipts of 145 000 tonnes. Rice imports in 1998 (January/December) should also be similar to 1997.

MEXICO (10 February)

Despite extensive damage to rainfed crops, particularly in the south-western parts of the country, caused by drought and followed by hurricane weather, a bumper 1997 maize crop of 18.3 million tonnes has been collected. Production of sorghum has been a record 6.3 million tonnes. Water reservoirs in the irrigated areas of the north-west are reported at adequate levels for the 1998 wheat crop to be harvested from April, and a near-average output is tentatively forecast; however, weather forecasts point to storms and heavy rains, attributed to El Niño in the northern parts of the country for the next two months which could affect plantings in the large producing states of Sonora and Sinaloa.

NICARAGUA (10 February)

Irregular and ill-distributed rains in December have negatively affected the 1997/98 second season (“postrera”) crops, currently being harvested, while delaying planting of the third season (“apante”) crop. A low maize output of some 260 000 tonnes, the main cereal, for the whole year is expected, mostly the result of the severe damage incurred by El Niño related drought to the first season crops. This compares with last year’s above-average 333 000 tonnes output. Production of sorghum is also anticipated to decline significantly. Assistance to a seriously affected population of about 145 500 people has been requested to the international community. Assistance would principally consist of emergency food distribution and technical support for the rehabilitation of agricultural activities.

Wheat imports in marketing year 1997/98 (July/June) are forecast to increase from the previous year’s receipts of 110 000 tonnes to some 120 000 tonnes. Maize imports should increase from some 30 000 tonnes to about 175 000 tonnes to help cover the deficit in production. Rice imports in 1998 (January/December) should be close to 1996 level.

PANAMA (2 February)

Unusually high temperatures and prolonged 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 planting of the 1998 paddy and maize crops to be started from April, as latest forecasts point out to drier than normal weather in the weeks ahead. About 100 000 tonnes of rice, the main cereal, are intended to be imported in 1998 to help meet the deficit in last year’s production. Maize output gathered in 1997 was also a below- average 90 000 tonnes. The livestock sector was severely affected in 1997 and is likely to continue being affected in 1998 because of the accumulated soil moisture deficits. Only irrigated crops, such as bananas, were spared the enormous damage caused by drought. Assistance in terms of emergency food distribution to the affected population, amounting to about 80 000 persons, and the rehabilitation of agricultural activities have been requested from the international community. Several emergency measures have also been adopted by the Government to help mitigate the impact of El Niño.

SOUTH AMERICA

ARGENTINA (18 February)

Harvesting of the 1997 wheat crop has been recently completed following some disruption caused by the intensive rains. The crop is reported in good conditions in the southern parts of the key producing province of Buenos Aires, while crop quality problems and diseases are reported in the western parts of this province and northern and central La Pampa. In the northern sections of the wheat producing belt, in the provinces of Cordoba, Santa Fe and Entre Rios, where precipitation has been heaviest, possible lower yields are expected. Production is tentatively estimated at 13.9 million tonnes, compared to last year’s record 16 million tonnes, but nevertheless well above the last 5-year average. The abundant rains, by contrast, have largely benefited the development of the 1998 maize crop, to be harvested from late February, and latest official forecasts point out to a record 16.5 million tonnes. A bumper sorghum crop of about 3.6 million tonnes is also expected.

BOLIVIA (15 February)

Generally dry conditions prevail in the highlands and valleys, thus 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 and in various other parts during January. 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 which should reach their peak in the first months of 1998. Adopted 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.

Wheat imports in marketing year 1997/98 are provisionally forecast to increase from last year’s receipts of 330 000 tonnes to about 375 000 tonnes.

BRAZIL (16 February)

Output of the recently harvested 1997 wheat crop is tentatively estimated at 2.7 million tonnes, 19 percent below the 1996 level but still above average. The decline has been mainly due to the torrential rains which for continuing weeks fell on 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 key producing areas. Production is forecast to decline considerably from 1997 high production level, mainly as a consequence of reduced plantings. This is principally the result of farmers’ decision to switch to alternative crops attracted by the higher prices relative to maize. In the north-east of the country, where sowing of the 1998 maize crop should start from March, the outlook is poor as dry conditions associated with El Niño have resumed following some rains in January which helped partly restore much needed moisture to the soil. Farmers feel uncertain in their planting intentions, as drier than normal conditions are forecast to remain until April. The majority are subsistence farmers living off their small crops of maize, beans and cassava. Pastures are also being affected by the significant moisture deficit.

CHILE (2 February)

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 tentatively forecast at 1.3 million tonnes, compared to 1.6 million tonnes in 1997, but still near the last 5-year average. In December, below-normal rains were registered practically all over the country, with considerably higher temperatures relative to the previous months, raising the concern for forest fires hazard in certain areas. Generally normal weather conditions are reported in January, thus improving the outlook for the 1998 maize crop to be harvested from March. A recovery from last year’s drought affected crop is expected.

Wheat imports in 1997/98 marketing year (December/November) are forecast to decrease from last year’s receipts of 750 000 tonnes to cover production losses.

COLOMBIA (3 February)

Abnormally warm and dry conditions persist in the north- western parts of the country, where about nine weeks of moisture deficit have accumulated. 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 low and water and electric power rationing measures have been adopted 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 all over the country. Plantings of rainfed crops were significantly reduced principally because of farmers’ fears of losing their crops. Prospects are uncertain for the planting of the 1998 first season cereal crops which should start from April as present conditions are expected to persist for the next few weeks.

ECUADOR (18 February)

Planting of the 1998 wheat crop, mostly grown in the highlands, has started under wetter than normal conditions, while sowing of maize (yellow) and paddy is being disrupted due to adverse weather in the coastal provinces of Manabi and Las Guayas, as well as in the central and southern provinces of Los Rios and Loja respectively. Torrential rains and flooding, and isolated landslides, are reported since November in all the coastal provinces, and since late December in the interior provinces of Bolivar, Cotopaxi and Los Rios, resulting in a high number of casualties and severe damage to housing and infrastructure and to the agricultural sector. In some parts, cereal as well as other food and important cash crops, such as coffee, cacao, bananas and sugar cane are reported to be seriously damaged. A detailed assessment of the situation has not yet been made, but it is reported that about 105 000 hectares of foodcrops grown along the coast have been severely affected, while heavy losses have been inflicted to the maize crop grown in the highlands. The livestock sector and several shrimp farms have also suffered from the intensity of the phenomenon. In some sections it is reported that no water purifying chemicals was available, posing a serious threat to public health. A state of emergency has been declared by the Government and a request for assistance to the international community has been launched. Wheat imports in the 1998 marketing year (January/December) are expected to be about 485 000 tonnes, similar to 1997.

PARAGUAY (2 February)

Abnormal heavy rains in December have 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. Previous abundant rains in October/November had been beneficial to the developing wheat and planting of the maize crops, and satisfactory outputs were expected. An appeal for international assistance has been made by the Government.

PERU (12 February)

The outlook is uncertain for planting of the 1998 cereal and potato crops currently underway. Heavy rains are 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 have become even more intensive in late January and are particularly affecting the large rice producing areas of the northern coastal province of Piura. Important banana plantations and other food and cash crops, like cotton, are also grown in this area. Further north, in the province of Tumbes, heavy rains are also reported and could affect the important banana plantations also grown in this province. Serious damage has been incurred to 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. Landslides are reported with heavy casualties. 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 in these altitudes.

URUGUAY (5 February)

Harvesting of the 1997 wheat crop has been completed and a satisfactory output, close to the 1996 record, has been collected. Harvesting of the 1997/98 maize crop is about to start and an above-average output is tentatively forecast as the crop has benefited from adequate humidity at planting and during the last few weeks. Harvesting of the important 1998 irrigated paddy drop is due to start from March and an above- average production, near to 1997 record, is tentatively forecast. Farmers have been attracted by the expanding exports to neighbouring countries.

VENEZUELA (5 February)

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 April.

EUROPE

COMMONWEALTH OF INDEPENDENT STATES

ARMENIA* (2 February)

The early outlook for the winter grains, which form the bulk of the foodgrain harvest, is satisfactory. The area sown to winter wheat has likely remained around 100 000 hectares, close to last year's level. Domestic grain production in 1997 was around 330 000 tonnes, about half of the domestic cereal requirement estimated at 672 000 tonnes. Against the cereal import requirement, estimated at 340 000 tonnes, some 147 000 tonnes of food aid have been pledged to date and most of the balance is expected to be imported commercially. However, economic recovery slowed in 1997 and some 400 000 vulnerable people continue to be in need of humanitarian assistance. Food relief needs for targeted distribution have not yet been covered. WFP, which is targeting 220 000 people with take- home rations or food-for- work projects, urges donors to confirm and make further contributions against its 1998 shortfall of 17,600 tonnes of food. NGOs are also providing targeted food assistance.

AZERBAIJAN (3 February)

Early indications are that the area sown to winter grains, for harvest in 1998 has declined by up to 12 percent from last year’s peak, partly in response to localized shortages of seed after last year’s floods. Indications are that the shift out of barley into wheat has continued. Official data indicate that the area sown to barley has halved to about 60 000 hectares while the decline in the wheat area (to 536 000 hectares) is less pronounced. The decline in the area sown to grain may not be as steep as initially indicated. With the farm privatization process now underway it is more difficult to obtain representative information over both the public and private sectors. Following the 1997 grain harvest, estimated by FAO at about 1.2 million tonnes, the cereal import requirement is estimated at over 400 000 tonnes of cereals in the 1997/98 marketing year. Against this requirement, food aid pledges amount to 53 000 tonnes, and most of the balance is expected to be made commercially. Food aid pledges include 35 000 tonnes of wheat to provide a revolving fund for imports from the Strategic Cereals Reserve. Relief food aid for targeted distribution continues to be needed by the vulnerable population, including the internally displaced. GDP has grown by about 5 percent in 1997 but the unresolved issue of the status of Nagorno Karabakh and surrounding areas means that a large number of people continue to be internally displaced. WFP plans to reach some 245 000 beneficiaries during the winter months and reduce the caseload to 200 000 in the spring. Beneficiaries include IDPs, social institution inmates, hospital patients, children living in boarding schools and Chernobyl victims. WFP needs for 1998 amount to 13 000 tonnes, of which 7 000 tonnes are still not covered.

BELARUS (4 February)

The bulk of grains are not planted until the spring. The official target is to expand agricultural production by 4-5 percent in 1998 and to increase grain yields substantially. To this end, the government has announced a new programme under which agriculture will receive some 13.2 trillion Belarussian roubles (US$ 2.2 million) in subsidies, credits and advances to finance machinery repairs, spring fieldwork and input applications. The extension of soft credits in previous years has not had a significant effect on grain yields, which have remained fairly stable at a level some 20 percent below the 1986-90 average. The final official estimate for the 1997 grain harvest is 5.8 million tonnes, cleaned weight, below target (6.3 million tonnes) but very close to last year’s level, despite some 25 percent increase in fertilizer application and better weather conditions. Wheat output is estimated at 650 000 tonnes, about 8 percent higher compared to last year, reflecting a 5 percent growth in sown area and better yields, while coarse grain output declined. In 1997/98 imports are estimated to increase marginally to nearly 0.9 million tonnes as the country is expected to take advantage of cheap feedgrain supplies in the neighbouring countries. Imports are likely to be sourced mainly from the Russian Federation, the Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

GEORGIA* (4 February)

The outlook for the 1998 winter grains, mainly wheat and some barley, is uncertain as dry conditions in the autumn and a short spell of extreme cold in December may have caused crop damage. Agricultural production is recovering strongly, but processing capacity remains a major bottleneck. Despite mixed growing conditions, the 1997 grain harvest reached a record 820 000 tonnes and included some 300 000 tonnes of wheat, still less than half of the annual requirement. Against the 1997/98 cereal import requirement of some 400 000 tonnes, the country has received food aid allocations amounting to 127 000 tonnes and the balance is expected to be imported commercially. However, there are still some 300 000 vulnerable people needing targeted assistance and the food aid requirement for humanitarian relief has not yet been fully covered. The WFP target population was scaled down to 170 000, including IDPs and vulnerable families involved in food-for-work projects. The remaining beneficiaries are covered by NGOs. WFP food aid needs for 1998 are 15 000 tonnes, of which 7 000 tonnes have not yet been mobilized.

KAZAKHSTAN (4 February)

The bulk of grains are sown in the spring. Of the 14 million hectares sown to grain in 1997 only some 600 000 were sown in the autumn. Poor profitability of grains in marginal areas coupled with a continued recession in the livestock industry has led to a sharp reduction in the areas sown and this trend could continue in 1998. However, provided growing conditions are satisfactory, better average grain yields could offset the area reduction, as in 1997. The 1997 grain harvest is officially put at 12.4 million tonnes, nearly 11 percent more than in the preceding year, despite a reduction of 2.5 million hectares in the areas sown. Production of wheat increased by 17 percent to 9 million tonnes, despite an 11 percent reduction in area, while that of coarse grains fell by 5 percent to 3.1 million tonnes, reflecting an area reduction of 26 percent.

In 1997/98, cereal exports in 1997/98 are tentatively forecast at 3.2 million tonnes (compared to 4.6 million tonnes in 1996/97), mainly wheat, to other CIS countries. Relatively low cereal opening stocks, low import demand for barley in neighbouring countries and little progress in opening markets beyond the CIS are expected to reduce coarse grain exports to 0.3 million tonnes.

In the absence of an adequate social safety net, enterprise privatizations, increasing unemployment and erratic power supplies have increased hardship for many people, particularly those in regional industrial towns. Despite the exportable surplus of grains, the country has over 600 000 people who are so poor as to need targeted assistance to survive the winter months.

KYRGYZ REPUBLIC (4 February)

Early indications are that the area sown to winter grains (mainly wheat) for harvest in 1998 could remain near last year’s level, as crops other than wheat (e.g. tobacco) become more remunerative. In an effort to achieve greater domestic self sufficiency, the wheat area has doubled in recent years to reach 553 000 hectares. As a result the 1997 grain harvest is officially estimated at 1.7 million tonnes, 21 percent more than last year and above target. Output of wheat is put at 1.4 million tonnes and the country has an exportable surplus of up to 300 000 tonnes of wheat. At the same time, the country also imports wheat for the grain deficit areas in the south-west, partly as a result of the mountainous terrain and poorly developed domestic transport and marketing infrastructure.

In 1997/98 the domestic cereal utilization is estimated at 1.7 million tonnes including 0.7 million tonnes for human consumption, 0.7 million tonnes for feed and the balance for other uses, mainly seed. Imports are estimated at 120 000 tonnes, and include 83 000 tonnes of food aid already pledged to assist Tajik refugees and other vulnerable people in the country.

MOLDOVA (4 February)

The early outlook for the 1998 winter grains (mainly wheat and barley) remain satisfactory, although a very cold spell in December 1997 has caused some winterkill. The 1997 grain harvest recovered sharply to 3.0 million tonnes, in response to good precipitation and an 11 percent increase in the areas sown. Pending final official estimates, wheat production continues to be put at 1.2 million tonnes and output of coarse grains at 1.75 million tonnes in response to a sharp increase in both the areas sown and yields.

The country has an exportable surplus in 1997/98, but official restrictions on the export of grain other than through official channels, coupled with low purchasing prices paid by the official bodies, could limit exports. As a result, registered exports are expected to remain small, around 0.3 million tonnes at most and feed use of grains and stocks are likely to increase. In addition the country is likely to continue to import some high quality wheat to mix with domestic produce for bread-making. To date the country has received food aid pledges amounting to 60 000 tonnes.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION (4 February)

The early outlook for winter grains remains (cautiously) satisfactory. However the final harvest outcome will depend crucially on the extent of spring grain plantings and weather until the completion of the harvest in September/October. Final data of the area sown to winter grains by all grain producers is not yet available but early indications are that it could remain close to last year’s level of about 14 million hectares. On the (reorganized) state farms, 13.5 million hectares have been sown, only 2 percent less than in the preceding year, despite the difficult and drawn-out 1997 harvest campaign. However, in the high-yielding North Caucasus region the area sown declined by almost one fifth. Growing conditions have been somewhat mixed but satisfactory overall. A short but very cold spell in December 1998 caused some crop damage and the subsequent thaw has left grain at risk in the more southern producing areas but to date snow cover may have been just adequate in the major areas to prevent major damage. Nevertheless, winterkill could be more than last year’s very low level (about 1 million hectares). The final outcome will depend crucially on the extent of spring grain plantings. These could decline in response to a surplus availability of feedgrains from the large, but poor- quality crop of 1997 and the sharp reduction in the area ploughed in the autumn after the late harvest.

The final official estimate of the 1997 grain harvest is 88.5 million tonnes, including 44.2 million tonnes of wheat, 42.2 million tonnes of coarse grains, 328 000 tonnes of paddy (despite earlier more optimistic forecasts) and 1.8 million tonnes of pulses. Export opportunities of feed grain are limited by ample supplies and low prices on the international markets and by the high domestic costs associated with grain assembling, handling and transportation and also by the limited facilities at the ports. Cereal exports (including intra-CIS trade) in 1997/98 are tentatively estimated at 3.4 million tonnes, mainly barley and some feed wheat. Extra-CIS trade is tentatively forecast at over 2 million tonnes of wheat and 0.4 million tonnes of coarse grains (barley).

Cereal imports are forecast at 3.4 million tonnes, including 2.6 million tonnes of wheat, 0.3 million tonnes of rice and 0.5 million tonnes of coarse grains. Imports from abroad are, again tentatively, forecast at 1 million tonnes, including 0.6 million tonnes of food quality wheat, 0.3 million tonnes of rice and a small quantity of maize.

TAJIKISTAN* (4 February)

The early outlook for 1997 winter grains for harvest in 1998 is satisfactory. Early indications are that the area sown has expanded further but that yield potential will continue to be constrained by a shortage of funds for inputs and machinery. The 1997 grain harvest is estimated by FAO and the EC-TACIS in-country staff at about 0.6 million tonnes, even higher than the good 1996 harvest now officially estimated at 543 000 tonnes. Official estimates indicate that the output of cotton, the major cash crop, increased by 15 percent to 358 000 tonnes.

Even with the higher cereal production in 1997, the country could face a foodgrain deficit of nearly 300 000 tonnes, given a resident population of 5.5 million. The commercial import capacity is unlikely to exceed last year’s level, estimated at some 160 000 tonnes, leaving a food aid requirement of 137 000 tonnes under this population scenario. The food supply situation remains difficult in view of the fragile security situation, widespread unemployment or under- employment and increasingly ineffective social security provisions. Over 16 percent of the population are food insecure and cannot afford an adequate diet without targeted assistance. The humanitarian relief needs for the vulnerable populations remain large. It has been estimated that during 1998 about 900 000 people, equal to the 1997 level, will require food assistance. WFP plans to provide assistance to 500 000 people while the remaining 400 000 people will receive food from various NGOs. Against the food aid requirement, estimated at 137 000 tonnes in 1997/98 some 100 000 tonnes have been pledged to date.

TURKMENISTAN (5 February)

Current indications are that the areas sown to winter grains (mainly wheat) has increased slightly to about 500 000 hectares. The early outlook is satisfactory. Reforms introduced in 1996/97 - including land privatization and the availability of production credit - led to a sharp recovery in grain production in 1997 (730 000 tonnes) and could result in better yields also in 1998. However, even if, as planned, the availability of nitrogenous fertilizer improves, the target output, 1.2 million tonnes of grains is unlikely to be achieved. Even with favourable weather conditions, average yields are likely to remain low, due to the use of poor quality seed, inadequate use of inputs, equipment shortages and the poor state of the irrigation system.

The food supply situation remains mixed and precarious in disadvantaged areas. People in depressed industrial areas and infertile rural areas are experiencing difficulties. Returns for farmers remain low and for a large part of the population, lack of purchasing power limits access to a varied diet and higher priced foods.

Annual domestic cereal utilization has decreased to about 1.2 million tonnes. Cereal stocks were drawn down in 1996/97 and are to be replenished this year. Against the total requirement of 1.42 million tonnes, domestic availability (stocks and production of cereals) are estimated at 852 000 tonnes. Allowing for some stock replenishment this leaves an import requirement of nearly 560 000 tonnes for 1997/98. This is expected to be covered commercially, mainly in Kazakhstan and the Ukraine but about 100 000 tonnes could be imported from outside the CIS.

UKRAINE (5 February)

Early indications point to a reduced grain harvest in 1998. The area sown to winter grains (mainly wheat and rye) is about 1 million hectares lower than in the preceding year in response to adverse weather during the 1997 grain harvest as well as shortages of working capital, fuel and machinery. In addition, winterkill, already anticipated to be about 10 percent of the area sown, is expected to be higher than last year. The area ploughed in the autumn ready for spring sowing also fell adding to the burden of spring fieldwork. Finally the large, but low-quality grain harvest of 1997 has resulted in a surplus of feedgrains and lower prices for producers, further reducing credit viability and the availability of working capital.

The 1997 grain harvest is officially estimated at 35.4 million tonnes, but is probably closer to 37 million tonnes, given the ample motivation to increase earnings and working capital (barter) by under-reporting production. At 37 million tonnes, output is about 40 percent higher than FAO’s estimate for output in 1996 in response to a sharp increase in the areas sown, better weather and increased use of inputs. Output of wheat is estimated by FAO at 19 million tonnes, some 4 million tonnes more than FAO’s estimate for the preceding year. Production of coarse grains increased by almost two-thirds to 16.7 million in response to an increase in the sown area, better yields and a sharp increase in maize production, officially estimated at 5.3 million tonnes (1.8 tonnes in 1997). Output of rice declined to 65 000 tonnes (1997: 82 000 tonnes) while that of pulses increased somewhat to 1.2 million tonnes, remaining well below average owing to poor growing conditions at planting.

The recovery in agricultural production and export competitiveness remain limited by the lack of significant progress in genuinely privatizing agricultural production and marketing. Despite the ongoing privatization of about 50 grain elevators, the state remains heavily involved in production, trade and marketing. Numerous and costly barriers to the free flow of grains, limited demand for feed-quality grain in the CIS and keen competition for export markets from the Russian Federation and other countries, could limit the country’s exports this year to about 1.7 million tonnes compared to 1.8 million tonnes in 1996/97 and 3.6 million tonnes in 1995/96.

UZBEKISTAN (5 February)

The early outlook for winter crops, to be harvested in the summer of 1998 is satisfactory. On the state farms, winter grains, (mainly wheat) have been planted on just over 1.3 million hectares (of which 1 million hectares irrigated). As at least a further 100 000 hectares of winter grains have to sown on household plots, the winter grain area is 1.4 million hectares, of which about 1.3 is likely to be wheat. As planned, this is about 100 000 hectares less than last year as rainfed land is taken out of wheat production in an effort to improve average yields. Latest reports indicate that crops germinated and developed satisfactorily on at least 75 percent of the area sown on the collective farms. The latest official estimates put the 1997 grain harvest at 3.8 million tonnes, including 3.1 million tonnes of wheat, and 0.4 million tonnes of paddy. This is 7 percent more than output in the preceding year, due to better growing conditions and yields, as the area sown remained stable at 1.7 million hectares of which nearly 1 million were irrigated.

Aggregate direct food consumption of cereals and other foodstuffs is limited by low purchasing power. In rural areas grain supplies remain very tight as the cereal delivery quotas have to be met irrespective of whether the production target is achieved. In 1997/98, domestic utilization of cereals is now estimated at 4.6 million tonnes, including 3.5 million tonnes for human consumption. Given the 1997 grain harvest of 3.65 million tonnes (rice in milled equivalent) and no change in stocks, cereal imports in 1997/98 are estimated at almost 1 million tonnes, mainly wheat for human consumption. Some 0.5 million tonnes are expected to be sourced in Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation (to complete a 1996/97 barter contract for cotton), and the balance to come from outside the CIS.

EC (20 February)

The aggregate 1997 cereal output is estimated at 207 million tonnes virtually unchanged from the previous year's crop. Although wheat production fell by 5 million tonnes to 95 million tonnes, this was mostly offset by a larger coarse grains crop. Early prospects for the 1998 cereal crops are generally 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.

ALBANIA (12 February)

Cereal production in 1997 recovered somewhat, compared to the previous year, to about 600 000 tonnes. Of the total wheat is estimated to account for 350 000 tonnes. However, with total domestic utilization of wheat estimated at about 700 000 tonnes in 1997/98, imports of about 350 000 tonnes of wheat or the equivalent in wheat flour are expected to be necessary until the end of the marketing year in June. Most of this shortfall is expected to be covered as food aid from the EC. As of February reports indicate that the market continues to be adequately supplied with flour.

As regards the winter grain crops for the 1998 harvest, indications are that farmers had sufficient incentive and adequate access to inputs to ensure an area at least similar to the previous year’s has been sown.

BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA* (1 February)

The area sown to the 1998 winter grains (wheat) has declined sharply. In BiH, only 60 percent of the area to be planted to winter crops had been sown by mid November; even with favourable conditions plantings are expected to remain about 10 percent below target (71 000 hectares). In the Republika Srpska the area also fell. In 1997 the area sown to wheat area fell by about 15 percent while, by contrast, both the area sown and average yields of maize and potatoes increased sharply. This is mainly due to ample availability of imported wheat and flour in the market and the poor profitability of wheat vis-à-vis other crops, notably maize and potatoes, which are also easier to grow by smallholders experiencing shortages of machinery and working capital. Wheat remains an important staple but in view of the gradual but steady improvement in the agricultural situation and in particular the increase in the output of potatoes, the dependence on this commodity is diminishing gradually. In 1997/98 the aggregate cereal import requirement is now tentatively estimated at around 275 000 tonnes, mostly for the BiH Federation. In the Republika Srpska, the wheat harvest is reported to be adequate to cover human consumption needs. The World Food Programme is expected to provide 60 000 tonnes of food aid in Bosnia & Herzegovina in 1998, for which the outstanding needs are 19 000 tonnes. Most of this food will be used in targeted distributions, providing monthly rations to some 600 000 vulnerable people currently, though the target population is expected to decrease to some 200 000 by the end of 1998. Some 6 700 tonnes of food will be utilized for a variety of small-scale income-generating rehabilitation activities in an effort to help people in the transition from dependence back to self-sufficiency.

BULGARIA (12 February)

Aggregate cereal output in 1997 is estimated at 6.2 million tonnes, well up from the reduced crop of just 3.4 million tonnes in 1996. Wheat output recovered sharply to 3.8 million tonnes (1996: 1.8 million tonnes) but the crop was reported to be generally of poorer quality than normal because of exceptionally wet weather during the harvest.

With regard to the winter grains for the 1998 harvest, latest official reports indicate a marginal increase in the area sown to wheat and a similar area of barley compared to the previous year. However, adverse weather last autumn delayed planting and a significant proportion of the crop was likely sown after the optimum date in late October. Winter weather conditions have been satisfactory so far and snowfalls in late January ensured some replenishment of soil moisture after earlier dry and mild conditions which depleted reserves.

CROATIA (5 February)

The outlook is for a lower wheat harvest than last year’s 936 000 tonnes. The winter crop area target of 344 000 hectares was not achieved, in part as floods, high winds and cold weather in mid-November put a stop to plantings. Of the 282 000 hectares sown to winter crops, 260 000 were sown to cereals including 230 000 hectares of wheat. The aggregate area sown to wheat appears higher than last year (206 000 hectares) but this is misleading as the boundaries of the country have changed following the reintegration of eastern Slavonia. Growing conditions have been very mixed and last year’s bumper yield of 4.5 tonnes per hectare may not be repeated.

The 1997 cereal harvest is estimated at a bumper 3.2 million tonnes, some 17 percent above 1996. This is attributed to an 8 percent increase in the areas sown and better yields. Production of coarse grains is estimated at 2.2 million tonnes, some 7 percent above the previous year.

CZECH REPUBLIC (12 February)

Based on latest official information, the estimate of the 1997 aggregate cereal harvest remains at 7 million tonnes. This is about 5 percent up from 1996 and above the average of recent years, despite summer flooding which hampered the harvest. The winter grain area for harvest in 1998 is reported to be similar to that of the previous year, and weather conditions have been satisfactory this winter so far.

ESTONIA (5 February)

The early outlook for winter grains remains satisfactory. The area sown has remained fairly stable. The 1997 grain harvest reached 700 000 tonnes, some 9 percent more than the previous year’s output now officially put at 642 000 tonnes. In 1997/98 cereal imports are estimated at 170 000 tonnes, including 45 000 tonnes of food quality wheat and rye. The country appears to be importing a substantial volume of grains from the Russian Federation, but this could be transit trade through the port of Novotallin.

FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA (12 February)

Output of the 1997 cereal harvest is estimated at 600 000 tonnes, about 15 percent up from 1996. Output of wheat is estimated at 320 000 tonnes, that of barley at 125 000 tonnes and maize at 130 000 tonnes.

HUNGARY (12 February)

Cereal output in 1997 is estimated at nearly 14 million tonnes, some 20 percent up from the 1996 reduced level. Output of wheat is officially estimated at 5.3 million tonnes, compared to 3.9 million tonnes in 1996, but the quality of the crop is generally poorer than normal due to heavy rainfall in the early summer, and a surplus of feed wheat is expected. With regard to maize, a bumper crop of some 6.5 million tonnes is estimated, adding to this year’s large surplus of feed grains.

Prospects for the 1998 winter grains are uncertain. Exceptionally mild temperatures throughout late December and most of January allowed most grains to recoup the growth delays suffered during a very dry autumn. However, temperatures returned to freezing levels at the end of January and a prolonged cold spell could damage crops, especially as protective snowcover is limited. With the area sown to winter grains already limited by the earlier dry conditions, additionally a significant amount of winterkill could result in a substantial overall reduction in harvested area compared to the previous year. Furthermore, yield prospects are not favourable. Depressed grain markets cut farm revenues in 1997 and farmers resources for the 1998 crops are limited. Less certified seeds have been planted and fertilizer applications and pest control measures are expected to be reduced.

LATVIA (4 February)

Winter grains for harvest in 1998 have benefited from mostly satisfactory growing conditions and the outlook remains positive. The 1997 grain harvest is estimated at 1.05 million tonnes, 8 percent more than last year in response to better weather and an increase of 9 percent in the area sown to 492 000 hectares. Nevertheless, output is not adequate to cover the domestic requirements for foodgrains and imports of some 25 000 tonnes of wheat and rye are officially reported to be necessary. In addition some 75 000 tonnes of feedgrains are likely to be imported.

LITHUANIA (4 February)

Planting and growing conditions for winter grains for harvest in 1998 were satisfactory but plantings have likely declined in response to last year’s bumper harvest, domestic surpluses from 1996 which are proving difficult to market and lower prices for sales to the government agencies. All restrictions on grain exports have been lifted but there is keen competition for available markets.

The 1997 grain harvest reached a post-independence record of 3.05 million tonnes, nearly 0.3 million tonnes (or 11 percent) more than the previous year, in response to an 8 percent increase in the area sown to grains (1.2 million hectares) and good growing conditions.

POLAND (12 February)

Cereal output in 1997 is estimated at 25 million tonnes, virtually unchanged from the previous year, despite heavy rains and flooding in July which led to significant crop losses in some parts. Reduced wheat and rye output was mostly offset by a larger barley crop.

Latest official reports indicate that winter grains for the 1998 harvest have been sown on nearly 5 million hectares, just marginally less than the estimated area sown in the previous year. The winter wheat area is estimated at around 1.9 million hectares, that for rye at 2.3 million and barley at 200 000 hectares.

ROMANIA (12 February)

The 1997 cereal output is now estimated at 21.5 million tonnes, some 7 million tonnes up from the previous year’s drought-reduced level and well above the average of the past few years. Of the total, wheat is estimated to account for 7 million tonnes and the maize crop is estimated at a bumper 12 million tonnes.

The early outlook for the 1998 winter crops points to decline in output. Due to adverse weather and shortages of machinery last autumn, winter grain planting was delayed and the area reduced somewhat compared to the previous year. Moreover, although the development of the winter crops is reported to be satisfactory so far, there are concerns that fertilizer use may be limited having an adverse affect on yields. Farmers are being urged to make use of the government voucher scheme which should be available from February, to purchase fertilizer for winter crop areas.

SLOVAK REPUBLIC (12 February)

The 1997 cereal output is estimated at 3.8 million tonnes, 500 000 tonnes up from 1996 and the largest crop of the last 5 years, despite damage to some crops due to heavy rains and flooding during the summer. The area of winter grains sown last autumn for the 1998 harvest is expected to have remained close to the previous year’s level and weather conditions have been generally satisfactory so far.

SLOVENIA (12 February)

Cereal output in 1997 increased by some 10 percent to about 600 000 tonnes. The winter grain area for the 1998 harvest is expected to have changed little from the previous year and weather conditions have been generally satisfactory so far.

YUGOSLAVIA, FED. REP. OF (SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO)* (1 February)

Winter crops were sown on only 891 000 hectares, some 2 percent less than last year and well below the target of 1.05 million hectares. This was due in part to inclement weather which delayed autumn harvesting activities and unseasonable cold in November. However it also reflects chronic shortages of working capital, quality seed, inputs and operational machinery. After a difficult start, crops initially benefited from mild winter but cold, wet weather led to frosts in January and likely caused damage. Macro-economic imbalances and the need to control inflation could limit the amount of funding available for spring plantings.

Following a bumper grain harvest in excess of 10 million tonnes in 1997 (almost 3 million tonnes of wheat and 7 million maize), the country has a large exportable surplus in excess of 2 million tonnes, including 400 000 tonnes of wheat. However, high domestic prices and handling costs could limit exports.

NORTH AMERICA

CANADA (20 February)

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. Early indications point to the likelihood of a further reduction in wheat area in 1998 as relatively poor returns expected for wheat are likely to encourage farmers to switch to higher prices oilseed crops. In addition, farmers may be forced to leave more land fallow as below normal precipitation this winter is expected to result in unfavourable planting conditions in parts. 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.

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.

OCEANIA

AUSTRALIA (20 February)

The latest official estimate of the 1997 winter wheat crop, in late November, put output at nearly 18 million tonnes compared to last year’s record 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. Sorghum production is forecast to rise by about 15 percent from 1997 to about 1.6 million tonnes.

The 1997 paddy crop in Australia 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 Australia’s 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 availability in New South Wales and accordingly, output is expected to fall.

COOK ISLANDS (10 February)

Cook Islands was hit by Tropical Cyclone Martin on 1 November 1997. Reports indicate that food crops have been destroyed in the three islands of the Northern Cooks (Pukpuka, Manihiki et Rakahanga), Manihiki being the worst affected. The degradation of the lagoon in Manihiki not only threatens fishing but also black pearl cultivation, the main income generating activity and a major export of the Islands.

PAPUA NEW GUINEA (10 February)

Prospects for the 1998 crops are generally unfavourable, due to the prolonged drought which has seriously affected many parts of the country. Several areas have had no significant rainfall since May/June and some have had none the whole year. Food production in 1997 is conservatively estimated to decline by 50 percent from the previous year level as a result of unfavourable weather conditions. The food situation remains very tight in the country where about 1.2 million people are critically affected. Relief assistance is urgently required.

On 11 December 1997, the United Nations launched an Appeal for international assistance in the amount of US$4.186 million to cover emergency relief needs in the sectors of emergency management, rural water supply, health, nutrition and agriculture, during a period of up to 12 months. In addition to the Appeal, the government has estimated that US$4.12 million per month will be required for food relief and logistics to assist the affected population.

SOLOMON ISLANDS (10 February)

Rainfall has been below average since June. As a result, most areas of the Islands are experiencing serious drought. Unofficial reports from rural areas, especially in Western, Choiseul, Central and Isabel provinces indicate that crops have seriously been affected. The effects on crops have become apparent with crops showing signs of wilting and stunt as a result of insufficient water. Soil has become very dry and has started to crack in some places.

Bellona Island (Rendel province) is reported to be suffering from food and water shortage. A National Disaster Council (NDC) is monitoring the situation through Provincial Disaster Committees, Provincial Governments and line ministries.


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