CENTRAL AMERICA (including the Caribbean)

COSTA RICA (3 September)

Planting of the 1998/99 first (main) season cereal crops has been completed with some delay due to the late arrival of the rainy season, the result of the tail-end effects of El Niño. Maize plantings are provisionally estimated to be about average. The area planted to paddy, the main cereal, is close to 1997/98 average level. Production is not enough to meet domestic demand of this important food staple. Domestic prices are low and efforts to promote increased plantings are hindered by farmers' fear of strong import competition. Rice imports in marketing year 1998 (January/December) are expected to be about 100 000 tonnes, some 10 percent above the 1997 level of imports and high above the volume of imports in the early nineties. The 1997/98 bean production, another important staple in the population's diet, is estimated at about 13 000 tonnes, far from meeting a domestic demand of some 36 000 tonnes. The crop greatly suffered the effects of El Niño particularly in the northern large producing province of Huerta.

CUBA (3 September)

The country has been affected by a severe prolonged El Niño induced drought, particularly in the eastern parts of the country. Serious damage to foodcrops and livestock pastures in the provinces of Las Tunas, Holguín, Santiago de Cuba, Guantánamo and Granma is reported. Water supply has been rationed to the population. The drought has aggravated the problems in the agricultural sector, affected by the continuing shortage of agricultural inputs. The Government has made a request for emergency food aid for some 615 000 people and technical assistance for the rehabilitation of agricultural activities in the affected areas.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC (3 September)

Normal weather conditions are benefiting planting of the 1998/99 second season cereal and other foodcrops. Dry conditions, however, are reported in localized zones of the south, east and north-east of the country with slight damage to rainfed crops. Aggregate maize output for the year is forecast to be about average, a recovery from last year's drought affected crop. Paddy production should increase significantly from 485 000 tonnes to about 520 000 tonnes. Rice imports in 1998 marketing year (January/December) have been estimated at about 50 000 tonnes. No need for imports of this important staple in 1999 marketing year (January/December) is anticipated.

EL SALVADOR (3 September)

Normal weather conditions have resumed, benefiting planting of the 1998/99 first season cereal and bean crops. Harvesting has just started and a significant recovery in maize production, the main cereal, is expected from last year's El Niño affected crop. Maize imports in 1998/99 marketing year are forecast to decline considerably from the relatively high volume of 330 000 tonnes imported in 1997/98 (August/July).

GUATEMALA (3 September)

Harvesting of the 1998/99 first season cereal crops is about to start, following some delay in plantings because of the late arrival of the rainy season, the result of the tail-end effects of El Niño. The area planted to maize, the main cereal, in some parts is being affected by pests and some losses are anticipated. Improved yields relative to last year's drought-affected crops are affected elsewhere. Imports in marketing year 1998/99 (July/June) are forecast to decline from the previous year, but should still be relative highly reflecting the consistent domestic demand for this item particularly from the poultry feeding industry.

HAITI* (3 September)

Normal weather conditions have benefited the recently harvested 1998/99 first season maize and irrigated paddy crops, as well as that of the rainfed paddy and other food crops currently being harvested. Maize production and other rainfed foodcrops are expected to recover from last year's drought affected crops and average outputs are anticipated. The output of the irrigated paddy crop is provisionally estimated at an average 80 000 tonnes. Food assistance is still being provided by the international community. About 27 000 tonnes of food aid have been pledged in 1998/99 which compares to 128 000 tonnes in 1997/98 when crops were severely affected by drought.

HONDURAS (3 September)

Normal rains have resumed, benefiting the development of the 1998/99 first season cereal crops, currently being harvested, and planting of the 1998/99 second (main)season cereal crops, recently started. Intended plantings of maize, the main cereal, should be similar to last year's average level. The crops were affected last year by El Niño associated drought but only localized losses of a serious nature were reported and compensated by production increases elsewhere. Maize imports in marketing year 1998/99 (July/June) are expected to increase nevertheless from last year's relatively high level, mostly reflecting the expanding demand from the poultry feeding industry.

MEXICO (3 September)

Normal weather conditions have resumed in some parts, favouring planting of the important 1998 spring/summer maize crop, to be harvested from October. Planting had been delayed because of the late arrival of the rainy season in some of the main central growing areas, such as the states of Puebla and Mexico. The long-awaited arrival of the rains helped accelerate sowing in other important producing states such as Jalisco, Hidalgo, Chiapas, Michoacan and Oaxaca, in the south and south-west of Mexico, and compensate for possibly reduced plantings in the central plateau. Prospects are nevertheless uncertain with respect to the final outcome. Earlier estimates pointed out to a summer/spring maize crop of 16.5 million tonnes, but sources have recently indicated that output could be lower. Much will depend upon the intensity and regularity of the rains in the weeks ahead. Aggregate maize output for the 1998 spring/summer crop and the 1998/99 fall/winter crop is provisionally forecast at an average 18.6 million tonnes (1997/98: 18.5 million tonnes). Sorghum output from the 1998 spring/summer crop has been provisionally estimated at 2.2 million tonnes, better than expected, despite the dry weather that has affected for months the main producing state of Tamaulipas. Planting of the 1998 second season sorghum crop, the main crop, has started.

Land is being prepared for planting of the 1998/99 irrigated wheat crop, to be started from October in the main producing north-western states of Sonora, Sinaloa, Guanajato and Baja California. Recent storm rains, following precipitation in August, have helped replenish water reservoirs, which are reported at considerably low levels.

NICARAGUA (3 September)

Harvesting of the 1998/99 first season cereal and bean crops is due to start from September. Planting was delayed because of the late arrival of the rainy season, but normal rains since July have been favouring planting and the development of the crops. Production of maize should improve significantly from last year's El Niño affected crop. An above-average 320 000 tonnes output for the whole 1998/99 season is tentatively forecast. Production of sorghum is also expected to increase to an average 95 000 tonnes. Maize imports in marketing year 1998/99 (June/July) should decline from the previous year's high 175 000 tonnes to some 110 000 tonnes. Technical assistance for the rehabilitation of agricultural activities is still being provided to last year's drought affected population.