In northern Africa, recent rains have prompted early planting of winter grains in central and eastern Algeria, and some areas of Tunisia. In contrast, major producing areas of Morocco have experienced a dry spell, which delayed planting of winter crops. Planting of the mainly irrigated wheat crop is underway. Production of wheat in 1998 in the sub-region has increased by 3.8 million tonnes from the reduced 1997 level to 13.8 million tonnes, reflecting generally favourable growing conditions. The subregions coarse grain crop in 1998 also benefited from favourable weather and production of coarse grains increased in the sub-region by some 19 percent to 11 million tonnes.
In western Africa, a bumper crop is anticipated in the Sahel with record harvests in Chad, Mali and Niger, and well above average harvests in Gambia and Mauritania. However, production remains below average in Cape Verde and about average in Burkina Faso and Senegal. In Guinea-Bissau, civil strife has hampered agricultural production and cereal production is likely to decreased significantly. In the coastal countries along the Gulf of Guinea, harvest prospects are generally good in Benin, Nigeria and Togo but less favourable in Cote dIvoire and Ghana. Liberia and Sierra Leone remain heavily dependent on international food assistance despite some improvement in food production.
In central Africa, crop prospects are favourable in Central African Republic but poor in northern Cameroon. Civil strife in the Democratic Republic of Congo since early August is hampering agricultural and marketing activities in the Kivu region in the east, where increasing population displacement is reported.
In eastern Africa, harvesting of the 1998 cereal crops is underway in northern countries of the sub-region, while it has been completed in the southern countries. Generally normal to above-normal rains during the growing season are expected to result in a significant increase in this year's aggregate regional cereal production. While higher outputs are forecast for most countries, in Somalia, the harvest was sharply reduced by dry weather and pests.
In southern Africa, the irrigated wheat crop is being harvested while the coarse grain and paddy crops, due for harvest from April 1999, are being sown following adequate rains in several countries. Cereal output in 1998, estimated at some 19 million tonnes, was below average and 16 percent less than last years above-average outturn. Only four countries - Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Swaziland - gathered crops higher than last year. As a result of lower plantings and adverse weather, production was reduced in all other countries of the sub-region. Particularly reduced were the crops in Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The sharply reduced maize crop in South Africa, at 1.4 million tonnes less than in 1997, is unlikely to seriously limit the exportable surpluses to the deficit countries in the sub-region, given the large carryover stocks.
In Asia, severe weather anomalies related to La Niña continue to affect several countries. In China, heavy rains and floods last summer caused extensive damage mainly to the rice crop. In Bangladesh, floods that covered most of the country for more than two months reduced the monsoon rice production (Aus and Aman) by about 14 percent compared to last year's already low output. Despite an improved harvest, DPR Korea faces a large food deficit in the 1998/99 marketing year. In Indonesia, the food security situation remains precarious as rice production is forecast to fall by about 8 percent in 1998 compared to the previous year and the economic crisis is still serious. In the Philippines, the effects of El Niño and La Niña are reported to have severely damaged the country's rice and maize crops. Drought conditions have affected crops in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. In Afghanistan, despite a recovery in cereal production, the food situation remains precarious in the areas affected by civil strife.
In Central America and the Caribbean, chances of a recovery in 1998/99 from the 1997/98 El Niño affected crops have been thwarted in several countries by the recent hurricane rains, widespread flooding and sustained high-force winds. The affected countries include Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts/Nevis, as well as Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and parts of El Salvador. By contrast, Mexico is expected to have an average to above-average coarse grains output.
In South America, harvesting of the 1998 wheat crop has started in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and is about to start in Chile. Lower than average outputs are provisionally forecast as a consequence of reduced plantings relative to 1997 and the anticipated La Niña-related adverse weather. In Bolivia, generally dry weather continues to prevail, affecting yields of the 1998 second season (winter) wheat crop. In Ecuador, the aggregate 1998 cereal output is expected to be below average as a consequence of El Niño related crop damage. In Colombia and Venezuela, a recovery in maize production is expected in 1998 compared to last year.
In Europe, persisting showers in the past weeks throughout the northern countries hampered the last of the summer harvesting and winter planting. Aggregate cereal output in the region in 1998 is estimated at 308 million tonnes, just below the 1997 level. Increased production in the EC partially offset reduced crops in some eastern European countries. Early indications for the winter grains for harvest in 1999 point to a reduced area reflecting adverse weather in some parts but also due to an increase in the land set-aside requirement in the EC and continuing problems in the agricultural sectors of some eastern European countries. In the Baltic countries, the 1998 grain harvests, forecast at 0 .7 million tons in Estonia, 1 million tons in Latvia and 3 million tons in Lithuania are marginally less than last year due to excessive rains in August, which lowered yields.
In the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the aggregate 1998 cereal and pulse harvest is estimated to have fallen to 102 million tonnes, 30 percent less than in 1997. In the major states, persistent dry conditions from mid-June to August were exacerbated by the deterioration of the economic situation and managerial problems on farm and in the service industry. In the Russian Federation, the 1998 grain and pulse harvest has fallen to about 50 million tonnes from 88 million tonnes in the preceding year. In the Ukraine output is estimated at about 28 million tonnes, some 20 percent less than last year's while in Kazakhstan grain production reached only 7.5 million tonnes compared to 12 million tonnes in 1997. Elsewhere, preliminary estimates indicate that harvests were less than last year also in Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, and Tajikistan but larger in Armenia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The early outlook for the 1998 winter wheat and rye crops to be harvested in 1999 is uncertain. The areas sown were similar to last year but some plantings occurred well beyond the optimum dates and poorly established plants have probably suffered from extremely cold weather conditions. In addition, with the financial crisis in the Russian Federation, the outlook for agricultural credit for 1999 is poor.
In North America, winter wheat planting in the United States for 1999 harvest is complete under generally favourable conditions and early indications point to some reduction in area. Latest official estimates put the 1998 aggregate wheat output at 69.6 million tonnes, some 1 percent up from 1997, and that of coarse grains at about 250 million tonnes, 3 percent up from 1997. In Canada, the bulk of the 1998 harvest is complete, reflecting favourable weather conditions. While wheat output fell due to reduced plantings, that of coarse grains is estimated to have increased.
In Oceania, prospects for the 1997 winter grain crops in Australia have deteriorated somewhat following adverse weather in some parts over the past two months. Output nevertheless is expected to increase somewhat from the previous year. Early indications for the summer coarse grains to be harvested in 1999 point to an increase in area as some flood damaged winter grain areas will probably be resown to summer crops.