The region's output of coarse grains in 1998 is provisionally forecast at 212 million tons, some 8 percent above last year's reduced harvest and about 5 percent higher than the average for the preceding five years. The planting of the 1998 main coarse grain crops is underway in some parts but the bulk will be planted at the onset of the south-west monsoon in June. In China, an above average crop is forecast despite the prolonged drought in northern and south-western parts of the country. In India, coarse grains, except barley and maize, are mainly grown during the monsoon season.
In Afghanistan, the outlook for the winter crops remain uncertain due to ongoing fighting and the recent earthquake damage to irrigation infrastructure in the northern provinces, which account for some 40 percent of the country's irrigated cereal and 53 percent of its rainfed area. The outlook for the winter crops remains also uncertain in Iraq due to below-average and unevenly distributed rainfall, and shortages of essential inputs. In Saudi Arabia and Turkey, prospects for the 1998 winter crops are favourable due to good rainfall during the growing season.
With regard to rice, in China, planting of the 1998 early paddy crop, is at an advanced stage. However, some replanting might be required in the drought-affected southern provinces. At this stage with only this crop in the ground so far, it is too early to assess with any accuracy the likely total paddy production for 1998. However, it is reported that the amount of area devoted to higher-yielding hybrid rice will be increased by 160 000 hectares this year to over 400 000 hectares. FAO tentatively forecasts the total paddy rice crop in 1998 at 198.5 million tonnes, similar to the previous year's level.
In Indonesia, harvesting of the main-season rice crop, which
was delayed by several weeks, is now complete. A recent FAO/WFP Crop and
Food Supply Assessment Mission to the country forecast the 1998 paddy harvest
at 47.5 million tonnes, 3.6 percent below last year's already reduced production.
Over 90 percent of the decrease is due to lower planted area as a result
of delayed onset of rains. The decline in output combined with the financial
crisis have seriously undermined the food security situation of the population,
prompting the need for large international food assistance. In Malaysia,
the production outlook for 1998 has also been affected by the prolonged
drought. Similarly, in the Philippines lower paddy production is forecast
for the second consecutive year due to El Nino related drought. In Vietnam,
most of the winter-spring crop, which accounts for about 40 percent of
total rice production, has been harvested and early indications are that
yields have not been affected notably by the El Nino related drought. However,
dry conditions are severely affecting the summer- autumn crop, which makes
up close to one quarter of total output. Overall, the 1998 paddy production
is expected to drop slightly from last year's level to 27 million tonnes,
but the final outcome will largely depend on the performance of the 10th
month crop, which accounts for over 35 percent of the country's total rice
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In the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, prospects for the paddy
crop in 1998, depend considerably on the availability of irrigation water
and the provision of essential inputs such as quality seeds, fertilizers
and appropriate farm technology. Water levels in a large number of irrigation
reservoirs remain inadequate as a result of last year's drought and the
reduced snowfall this year. In the Republic of Korea, planting of paddy
started in April but rice is expected to lose some area to more profitable
cash crops. In anticipation of a possible area reduction, the government
has set the 1998 paddy output target at 6.7 million tonnes, 11 percent
lower than the previous year. In Japan, about 960 000 hectares will be
diverted out of rice under the area diversion programme, an increase of
176 000 hectares from the previous year. Accordingly, paddy output is projected
to decline by about 10 percent to 11.3 million tonnes. The beginning of
the 1998 paddy season in India, Pakistan and Myanmar awaits the arrival
of the monsoon rains.
WESTERN AFRICA: In western Africa, the rainy season is starting in the south of the countries of the Sahel, allowing land preparation and planting of coarse grains. In the coastal countries along the Gulf of Guinea, the first rains were received in early March in southern parts and permitted planting of the first maize crop, which is now developing satisfactorily. In the north, recently planted coarse grains are emerging. In Liberia and Sierra Leone, the agriculture sector is improving with rehabilitation programmes underway, but both countries remain heavily dependent on international food assistance.
Planting of the 1998 paddy crop is underway in several countries of western Africa. In Nigeria, the most important rice producer in western Africa, planted area is expected to increase by about 200 000 hectares from 1997. However, a shortage of fertilizers, pesticides and other farm inputs is expected to lead to reduced yields and the government is tentatively forecasting a 12 percent reduction in output from the revised estimate for 1997, to 3.4 million tonnes.
CENTRAL AFRICA: Coarse grains have recently been planted in the south of Cameroon and Central African Republic. In eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, crop prospects are poor in Kivu area due to flooding, shortages of inputs and civil unrest.
EASTERN AFRICA: Harvesting of the 1998 wheat crop is well advanced in Sudan. Output is preliminarily estimated at 560 000 tonnes, 13 percent down from the bumper crop last year but still above average. A large reduction in the area planted was partially offset by higher yields. Elsewhere in the region, planting of wheat for the 1998 harvest is underway in Kenya and Ethiopia.
Early prospects for the 1998 coarse grains crops which are at different stages of growth throughout the subregion are mixed. Drier weather in March, following heavy rains and floods in the previous months, favoured planting in several countries of the sub-region. Normal to above normal rains in April and first decade of May generally benefited developing crops of the main "long rains" season in Tanzania and of the secondary season in Ethiopia, which are about to be harvested. However, abundant precipitation in Somalia and Kenya gave rise to concern of further floods after heavy rains already earlier this year. By contrast, late, erratic and insufficient precipitation in Uganda and in southern parts of Sudan, where coarse grains are planted earlier, have resulted in reduced plantings. In Rwanda and Burundi, despite good rains since the beginning of the season, prospects for the 1998 second season cereal crops are uncertain reflecting insecurity in parts and shortages of seeds. Planting of the 1998 main season coarse grain crops has started or is about to start in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan.
SOUTHERN AFRICA: With harvest of the 1998 coarse grain crop almost complete in the sub-region, a below average output of some 15.5 million tonnes is preliminarily estimated compared with 17 million tonnes in 1997. However, the negative effect of the El Niño has been smaller than earlier anticipated. The situation varies sharply between countries, as confirmed by recently completed FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions in several countries of the sub-region. In Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Swaziland, growing conditions were generally favourable, with normal to above-normal rainfall in most parts. Despite localized crop damage due to excessive rains, initial estimates point to above-average harvests in these countries. Production is estimated to be below average in Lesotho, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, as a result of irregular rainfall with prolonged dry spells, which affected yields. Plantings were also reduced in several countries as a result of the drought warning and the late onset of rains. In Zambia, output is estimated to be well below average as a result of abnormally high and incessant rainfall, which caused extensive flooding in northern areas while the southern part experienced near-drought conditions.
Early prospects are uncertain for the recently planted wheat crop in the sub-region. Rainfall has been irregular, particularly during the period of February-April, and irrigation reserves may be sharply depleted in the main producing areas of South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Wheat planting In South Africa may also be reduced due to an expected large carryover stock and a poor price outlook, following large imports earlier in the season. In Zimbabwe, concerns at rising production costs may also adversely affect wheat plantings.
In Madagascar, harvesting of the 1998 main rice crop is underway.
Production is provisionally forecast at 2.2 million tonnes of paddy, 15
percent down from 1997. However, given the persistence of large locust
swarms in several parts of the country and their reported movement towards
productive central and northern areas, serious damage to crops can not
yet be ruled out. In Mozambique, growing conditions have been generally
favourable and paddy output is expected to be around 190 000 tonnes, 6
percent above the previous year's relatively high level of 180 000 tonnes.
Harvesting of the 1998 wheat crop in Mexico, which accounts for most of the wheat output in Central America, is underway in the main growing irrigated areas of the northwest. Production is tentatively forecast to be an average 3.6 million tonnes, up slightly from last year's 3.4 million tonnes.
Planting of the 1998/99 first season coarse grain crops is delayed
in some Central American countries as a result of the late arrival of the
rainy season caused by the tail-end effects of El Niño. Some precipitation
has been registered, mostly on the Atlantic coastal areas, but the rains
have been mostly irregular and ill-distributed. Average to above-average
maize plantings are planned, provided normal rains resume, in Costa Rica,
Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, in an effort to recover from
El Niño induced losses to 1997/98 crops. In Mexico, maize plantings
of the important spring/summer crop in the central producing states are
likely to be significantly reduced relative to last year's near-record
level if normal rains do not resume by late May. Increased plantings in
other large producing states, where sowing operations extend into July,
are planned to make up for potential crop losses in the central belt. In
the Caribbean, in the Dominican Republic, normal rains have benefited planting
of maize, sorghum and other foodcrops, while in Haiti, planting of rainfed
maize and bean crops have been completed under normal weather conditions.
In Cuba, planting of the 1998 maize crop is about to start, following intensive
rains and flooding in early April which seriously affected the important
sugar cane crop. In Jamaica, heavy rains and flooding in April resulted
in significant damage to crops and fruit trees, while other parts of the
country were affected by drought.
Planting of the 1998 wheat crop is about to start in the southern areas of the sub-region. In Argentina, despite wetter-than-normal conditions, plantings are tentatively forecast to be close to 1997's above-average level. In Brazil, sowing operations are being delayed in the main producing southern states of Parana and Rio Grande do Sul because of the intensive rains related to El Niño. The area planted is expected to decline from last year's average level, mainly reflecting farmers' decision to change to more profitable crops relative to wheat. In Uruguay and Paraguay, sowing activities have been also disrupted because of the abundant rains in April. The area planted should be nevertheless about average. In Chile, an average area is anticipated. In the Andean countries, in Bolivia, planting of the 1998 (winter) crop has begun in the main producing eastern department under generally dry weather. In Peru and Ecuador, early production forecasts point out to a slightly below-average wheat crop due to El Niño-associated adverse weather.
Harvesting of the 1998 coarse grain crop (mainly maize) is underway in the southern areas of the sub-region under wetter-than-normal conditions. In Argentina, harvesting operations have been delayed in many of the large producing areas, particularly in the north-east, because of the excessive rains and flooding since late April. No damage is so far reported to the crop and output is forecast at a record 18.5 million tonnes. In Brazil, excessive rains have disrupted harvesting operations in the main producing southern states, while in the north-east, a prolonged drought has inflicted severe damage to the crop. Prospects are uncertain and total production is expected to decline considerably from the 1997 near record level. In Guyana, a severe drought is affecting the crops, including the small maize crop. Prospects are uncertain for Paraguay and Uruguay, as crops are being affected by El Niño induced floods. In Chile, growing conditions are good and an average production is forecast. In the Andean countries, in Bolivia, production is expected to fall considerably to 416 000 tonnes due to reduced plantings and below-average yields caused by El Niño-associated drought. In Ecuador, serious damage is reported to the maize crop and a considerably below-average output is expected. In Peru, maize production is forecast to decrease from 1997 record level but should still remain slightly above-average. In Colombia, average plantings are anticipated, while in Venezuela they are expected to be above average in response to possibly expanding exports.
Adverse weather conditions during planting and harvesting in several
countries in South America have had a negative impact on the region's 1998
paddy crop season. In particular, output in Brazil is currently
projected to fall to 9 million tonnes, the lowest in eight years, as a
result of abnormally wet conditions at planting and harvest time. Floods
have also adversely affected the rice crop in Argentina, where the crop
forecast has been reduced from 1.2 million tonnes to 1.1 million tonnes,
and in Uruguay, where output in 1998 is expected to fall by about 10 percent
to 900 000 tonnes. Flood related problems are also behind Ecuador's expected
contraction in output to 800 000 tonnes, or 20 percent less than the already
low 1997 crop. In Guyana, drought has persisted for the past few months
and paddy output is forecast to fall to about 340 000 tonnes in 1998, compared
to the 538 000 tonnes produced in 1997. By contrast, in Bolivia, a 31 percent
increase in the 1998 production to 318 400 tonnes is forecast, reflecting
both an expansion in area and improvement in yields.
With regard to coarse grains, in the United States, early indications pointed to a marginal increase in the area sown to maize (see table A.11). Planting conditions have been generally favourable this spring and, as of late May, about 80 percent of the intended crop had been sown, somewhat ahead of the average pace of the past five years. Assuming yields are on trend, the 1998 maize output is expected to increase by about 4 percent (see table A.10). Aggregate 1998 coarse grains output in the United States is forecast at 270 million tonnes, compared to 265.6 million tonnes in 1997. In Canada, as of late May, planting of the main 1998 coarse grain crops was still proceeding. Aggregate area sown to the major coarse grains is expected to increase by about 5 percent (see table A.12). However, as for wheat, the final outcome of the planting season will still depend greatly on the weather in the next few weeks. Assuming a satisfactory completion of planting, and normal weather conditions throughout the growing season, aggregate 1998 coarse grain output in Canada is forecast to reach 27.5 million tonnes, compared to just over 25 million tonnes in 1997.
In the United States, planting of the 1998 paddy crop is underway
and a modest increase in area of about 1 percent from the previous year
to 1.24 million hectares is forecast. Farmers in California, Louisiana
and Missouri intend to plant more than in 1997, reflecting favourable rice
prices relative to other crops, while the rice area in Mississippi and
Arkansas is likely to remain unchanged. By contrast, area planted to rice
in Texas is expected to continue its downward trend, reflecting the relatively
high production costs in the state. Total output in the United States is
forecast to increase by about 2 percent from 1997 to 8.3 million tonnes.
Elsewhere in Europe, latest indications continue to point to a reduced 1998 cereal crop in Bulgaria. Wheat output is forecast at 3.3 million tonnes compared to about 3.5 million tonnes in 1997 and outputs of the main coarse grains are also forecast to slip back somewhat. By contrast, a larger cereal crop is in prospect in the Czech Republic where winter wheat and barley plantings increased. Rains in April in Hungary brought some relief to developing crops after predominantly dry conditions throughout the winter. However, reflecting smaller areas sown to most cereal crops, even if weather conditions improve for the remainder of the season, reduced wheat and coarse grains outputs are forecast in 1998. In Poland, the 1998 cereal output is expected to be similar to the previous year's at around 25 million tonnes. In Romania, a significant reduction in cereal output is in prospect this year. In the Slovak Republic the winter cereal area is estimated to have decreased but overwinter conditions were generally favourable. Conditions were also good for spring sowing and yield prospects for the 1998 cereal crops are favourable.
In Bosnia-Herzegovina, reflecting ample availability of imported wheat
and domestically produced potatoes, and the poor profitability of winter
wheat in upland areas, the area sown to winter grains (mostly wheat) has
fallen. By contrast, spring maize plantings are likely to increase. In
Croatia, the outlook for 1998 cereal harvest is satisfactory. The winter
cereal area increased by 11 percent and the spring maize plantings are
also expected to have increased. In the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia,
the winter grain area declined by about 2 percent from the previous year
and was well below target. However, overall growing conditions have been
satisfactory and given normal weather, output could be close to last year's
2.9 million tonnes. The outlook for spring cereals is unfavourable due
to a severe shortage of credit this year coupled with low prices for maize
and reduced fertilizer applications to this crop.
In the Russian Federation, the 1998 grain harvest is expected to be
about 10 percent less than last year's crop of 88.5 million tonnes reflecting
some 10 million tonnes surplus of feedgrains in the market from the previous
year and reductions in both the area sown and the yield of spring grains.
In the Ukraine, the smaller winter grain area and winterkill on 12 percent
of the grain area are expected to reduce the wheat output. Spring grain
and sunflower plantings have increased but shortages of inputs will limit
yield potential. In Kazakhstan, a further reduction in the area sown to
grains could limit output to 11 million tonnes (1997: 12.5 million tonnes).
Adverse weather has damaged winter wheat in Georgia and Tajikistan. Elsewhere,
the outlook is for the 1998 grain harvest to exceed or remain close to
last year's levels.
In Australia, paddy harvesting is nearing completion, with output in 1998 forecast at 1.2 million tonnes, down by 14 percent from the previous year. The area planted to rice declined by 16 percent to about 140 000 hectares, largely due to a substantial reduction in water allocations in New South Wales.