The famine situation in Southern Sudan has eased with improved food aid distribution. However, the health and nutritional situation of a large section of the population, particularly displaced people, remains extremely poor. Assistance will be needed until next year. While overall prospects for this years harvest have improved with abundant rains in recent months, production is anticipated to be sharply reduced in areas affected by insecurity, dry weather earlier in the season and recent floods. Elsewhere in the eastern Africa sub-region, the food supply situation gives cause for serious concern in Somalia, where this years recently harvested "Gu" season crop was the fifth consecutive reduced harvest.
The food supply situation in southern Africa is generally stable despite reduced cereal production in several countries. As a result of abnormal weather conditions attributed to El Niño, cereal production was significantly reduced in Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Consequently, the sub-regional cereal import requirements are forecast to rise significantly during the 1998/99 marketing year. However, a maize surplus will be available in South Africa due to large carryover stocks.
Harvest prospects are generally favourable so far in the Sahelian countries, except in Guinea Bissau where civil strife has disrupted agricultural activities and will lead to a significant decrease in cereal production in 1998.
Resurgence of civil strife in the Democratic Republic of Congo is likely to affect the A season crop, particularly in the Kivu region, where planting is about to start. New population movements and food supply difficulties will aggravate the already precarious food situation of large sections of the population.
In Asia, heavy rains and floods have inflicted severe damage on several countries, especially China, Bangladesh, Republic of Korea and Korea DPR. Thousands of people have been killed while crops and infrastructure have been extensively damaged. The floods in Korea DPR are likely to aggravate the acute food supply problems the country has been facing for the past three years. In Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam drought has affected crop production.
In Central America and the Caribbean, the tail-end effects of El Niño have resulted in severe damage to foodcrops in Cuba and affected the development of the 1998 maize crop in Mexico. Prospects for the 1998/99 first season cereal crops are favourable for most of the other countries in the sub-region.
In South America, planting of the 1998 wheat crop has been completed in the southern areas with a reduced area planted relative to 1997, due to unattractive prices and the fear of possibly adverse weather. In Ecuador, substantial damage has been caused by El Niño to the 1998 first season crops.
A reduced grain crop is being harvested in the CIS, following dry spells and reductions in farm input utilisation. There are mounting fears that the grain trade will be disrupted by the rouble crisis.
In Europe another good crop is being harvested in the EC but reduced outputs are forecast in some eastern European countries, mostly due to adverse weather and farmers financial difficulties.
In the United States another good wheat crop has been harvested in 1998 and prospects remain favourable for the coarse grains harvest. Prospects are also satisfactory for the harvest in Canada which is now well underway and one of the earliest on record.
In Australia, the prospects for the winter wheat crop have improved following continued rains over the past two months. Output of wheat for 1998 is now forecast at 23.5 million tonnes, close to the 1993 record, and sharply up on the previous year.