In the Sahelian countries of western Africa, rains started in early April in Burkina Faso and became widespread and abundant over the entire country in late May. The rainy season started in April in the extreme south of Chad, Mali and Niger. First significant rains reached the east of Guinea-Bissau in mid-May and the extreme south-east of Senegal in early June. Elsewhere, in Cape Verde, The Gambia, most parts of Senegal, Mauritania and eastern Niger. Land preparation and planting are progressing well following the onset of the rains. Crops are emerging satisfactorily in Burkina Faso and southern Chad and Mali. In the coastal countries, the rainy season started in mid-March and abundant rains fell over the region in April and May. The main maize crop is growing satisfactorily in the south, while planting of millet and sorghum is almost complete in northern parts. Crop prospects are unfavourable in Sierra Leone, following renewed insecurity in the rural areas. The food supply situation and crop prospects have improved somewhat in Liberia, due to restored peace and rehabilitation programmes.
In central Africa, recently planted coarse grains are developing satisfactorily in Cameroon and Central African Republic. Plantings are still underway in the extreme north of Cameroon. Crop prospect are mixed in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In eastern Africa, the1998 main season foodcrops are at different stages. Harvest is about to start in Burundi, Rwanda, and Tanzania. Despite generally adequate weather conditions, the recovery in production from last year's levels will be constrained by shortages of agricultural inputs in the first two countries and by reductions in the area planted in the latter. In Somalia, early prospects for this year's "Gu" season crops are unfavourable, reflecting lower plantings and dry weather. In Uganda, more rains are needed following a dry spell in May. Elsewhere in the region, planting of the main season crops has started in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan under favourable weather conditions so far.
In southern Africa, harvest of the 1998 coarse grain crop is almost complete and a below-average output of some 15.5 million tonnes is provisionally estimated, compared with 17 million tonnes in 1997. However, the negative effect of El Niño has been less than earlier anticipated. The situation varies considerably between countries, as confirmed by recently completed FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions to 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 yield losses due to excessive rains, initial estimates point to above-average cereal harvests in these countries. However, in Lesotho, Namibia and Zambia, output is estimated to be well below average as a result of abnormal weather conditions. Production is also estimated to be below average in Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe, as a result of irregular rainfall with prolonged dry spells which reduced yields. Plantings were also reduced in several countries as a result of the drought warning and the late onset of rains. In Madagascar, harvesting of the 1998 main rice crop is well advanced and production is expected to be less affected by locusts than initially anticipated. 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 cannot yet be ruled out.
In Asia, harvesting of winter crops is almost complete and planting of paddy and coarse grains has commenced. In China, output of the 1998 wheat crop is expected to decline by 2-4 percent from last year's record harvest of 124 million tonnes. In India, a wheat crop of around 66.5 million tonnes is expected this year, some 3 million tonnes below last year's level. Adequate fertilizer supplies and higher support prices in Pakistan have resulted in an estimated record wheat output of more than 18 million tonnes. In Indonesia, despite heavy showers which boosted irrigation supplies for second-season crops across Java, aggregate paddy production in 1998 is estimated to decrease to around 47.5 million tonnes, some 3.6 percent below last year. In the Philippines, drought conditions have reduced output of the recently harvested secondary paddy and maize crops and hampered planting of the main season paddy crop. Similarly, in Viet Nam drought has reduced the output of the winter-spring paddy crop, which has just been harvested, and may stress the early development of the summer-autumn crop that is being planted. In Korea DPR, planting of maize and most of the paddy is complete, with favourable early prospects. In Thailand, the main season rice is being planted. In Afghanistan, agriculture continues to recover in the peaceful areas and output could increase due to generally favourable precipitation during last winter and spring. However, the recent earthquake is likely to have adversely affected irrigation infrastructures. The output of winter crops in Iraq is expected to be constrained by below-average and unevenly distributed rainfall, and shortage of essential inputs.
In Central America and the Caribbean, planting of the 1998 first season cereal crops is delayed in most countries because of lack of rains attributed to the tail-end effects of El Niño. Some moderate rains in early June, however, could signal the arrival of the rainy season in Central American countries, where average to above-average plantings are anticipated. In the Dominican Republic and Haiti, planting has been completed and average to above-average cereal outputs are provisionally forecast, while in Cuba adverse weather has severely affected the important sugar cane crop.
In South America, harvesting of the 1998 maize crop is almost completed in the southern areas. In Argentina, a record output is officially forecast while in Brazil, production is estimated at a below-average level largely as a consequence of El Niño-associated adverse weather. In Uruguay and Paraguay, above-average outputs are estimated despite crop losses caused by heavy rains and flooding. In Chile, production is expected to be average. In the Andean countries, El Niño-related drought has severely affected the maize, barley and potato crops grown in the highland valleys of Bolivia and Peru, while in Ecuador, low cereal outputs are anticipated due to heavy rains and flooding that have affected the main growing areas for months. In Colombia and Venezuela, normal weather conditions have resumed thus benefiting planting of the maize and paddy crops currently underway.
In Europe, prospects for the 1998 cereal crops remain satisfactory, reflecting generally good weather conditions in the past two months for developing winter crops and spring planting. Total cereal production in the EC is forecast at 209 million tonnes, virtually unchanged from the previous year. An increase in wheat output is expected to be offset by smaller coarse grains production. In eastern parts, production is forecast to decline in Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania, but remain mostly unchanged from 1997 in the other countries. In the Baltic countries the outlook for the 1998 grain harvest is satisfactory and output could be close to last year's.
In the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), current indications point to a lower grain harvest than last year's 156 million tons. The aggregate area sown to grains has fallen, mainly reflecting economic problems and reduced plantings in Kazakhstan and the Ukraine but also in a number of the smaller states. In the Russian Federation plantings have been delayed well beyond the optimum sowing period and localized weather problems in the New Lands coupled with reduced use of fertilizer are also likely to result in lower yields.
In North America, prospects for the 1998 wheat crop in the United States remain favourable. Official, forecasts put 1998 wheat output at 64.1 million tonnes, 7 percent down from last year due to sharply reduced plantings. Maize planting has been virtually completed under favourable conditions and indications point to an increase of about 4 percent in this year's crop. In Canada, spring grain planting has been virtually completed. Total wheat output is forecast at 24.5 million tonnes, just below the 1997 level, while that for coarse grains is put at 27.3 million tonnes, up by about 8 percent from 1997.
In Oceania, prospects for the 1998 winter grain crops are favourable.
Wheat planting is mostly complete and good rains in the past two months
have favoured early growth. The wheat area has increased from the previous
year and output is now forecast at 19.3 million tonnes, up from 1997. By
contrast, coarse grains plantings and output are expected to fall due to
a continuing poor price outlook for these crops.