FAO/GIEWS - Foodcrops & Shortages No.1, February 1999


AFGHANISTAN* (1 February)

Production of wheat and barley, for harvest from June, is expected to be constrained by shortage of agricultural inputs and persistent insecurity in the provinces of the north, which include some 40 percent of the country’s irrigated cereal area. Despite increased output in recent years, domestic availability of cereals still lag well behind demand. Due to favourable weather, production of cereals in 1998 is estimated at 3.9 million tonnes, 5 percent higher than the previous year and the highest since 1978.

Imports of cereals in 1998/99 are forecast at 740 000 tonnes, some 6 percent higher than the previous year.

BANGLADESH (10 February)

The 1998/99 paddy production is estimated at 26.3 million tonnes, about 2 million tonnes below last year, reflecting the severe damage caused by the floods that affected most of the country during July to September. The production forecast for the ‘boro’ rice crop, to be harvested in May/June has been set at 8.4 million tonnes, against the previous year’s harvest of 8.1 million tonnes.

The outlook for the wheat crop, to be harvested in March- April is favourable; the production forecast is set at 1.98 million tonnes, against the previous year’s crop of 1.8 million tonnes. As of end-December 1998, the government-held cereal stocks were estimated at 361 000 tonnes. Current projections indicate that the country will import some 1.1 million tonnes of rice and 2.4 million tonnes of wheat.

CAMBODIA (10 February)

An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission, which visited the country in January, estimated the 1998/99 main, wet season paddy, at 2.88 million tonnes. The output for the second, dry season irrigated crop, to be harvested in March, is put at 0.64 million tonnes, giving a total paddy production of 3.52 million tonnes. At this level, despite the drought during May to September, scattered pest infestation and some flooding, aggregate output would be about 3 percent above 1997/98 production and 19 percent higher than the average for the previous five years. Maize output is also expected to increase due to increase in planted area.

CHINA (8 February)

1998/99 grain output is officially expected to reach 490 million tonnes, despite devastating floods last summer. Paddy output is estimated at 191 million tonnes, 9 million tonnes below last year's record largely due to the floods in key producing areas.

Production of the 1998 winter wheat crop, to be harvested from April, is reported to have been affected by drought, plant disease and insects, but the final outcome is uncertain.

CYPRUS (1 February)

Sowing of the 1998/99 wheat and barley crops for harvest from May has been completed under generally favourable weather. The aggregate area sown is reported unchanged from previous year, at about 60 000 hectares. Production of barley in 1998 has been revised to 53 000 tonnes, an increase of 47 percent compared to the markedly below-average harvest in previous year.

Imports of cereals in 1998/99 (May/April), mainly wheat and barley are forecast at the previous years’ level of some 600 000 tonnes.

INDIA (10 February)

The overall outlook for the "rabi" grains (mainly wheat), to be harvested in April/May 1999, remains favourable. For the 1998/99 "rabi" season starting 1 October 1999, cumulative rainfall as of 27 January 1999 was below normal in one (out of 35) sub-divisions, accounting for less than one percent of the "rabi" grain production. This compares with 10 sub-divisions accounting for 10 percent of "rabi" grain production with below-normal rainfall at the same time in 1997/98.

Heavy rains and floods late last year damaged the "kharif" rice crop in a number of major southern parts of the country. Accordingly, paddy production in 1998/99 is estimated at about 121.6 million tonnes, nearly 2 percent below the 1997/98 record output.

According to latest official reports, the Government wheat and rice stocks as of beginning-October 1998, were estimated at 15.2 million and 8.9 million tonnes, compared to a buffer requirement of 11.6 million and 6.5 million tonnes respectively.

INDONESIA* (10 February)

The prospect for the 1999 main rice crop, for harvest in March/April, is favourable reflecting increased area and adequate moisture. The Government's target for paddy production in 1999 is set at 52 million tonnes, about 7 percent above the average for the last five years.

The 1998 total paddy output is officially estimated at 46.4 million tonnes, about 3 million tonnes below the 1997 estimate. The decline is due to a combination of El Niño- related drought, lower planted area, and a shortage of inputs, including fertilizers and pesticides. However, a record maize harvest of 9.8 million tonnes, about 24 percent above average, is reported.

In the aftermath of the financial crisis in Asia, Indonesia has experienced a succession of economic shocks, which have resulted in a sharp depreciation in the currency, rapid inflation and a dramatic increase in the number of people unemployed. This, together with drought in 1997/98 had serious impact on domestic food production and food security. The dramatic pace at which events evolved, also meant that there were limited opportunities for adequate coping mechanisms to develop, at both the national and household levels. Although the anticipated recovery in rice production in 1998/99 will help improve the overall food situation considerably, large numbers of people continue to need assistance to help cushion the effects of economic slowdown. This includes continued food to families hardest hit by unemployment and assistance with the provision of essential agricultural inputs (seeds, fertilizers and pesticides) to farmers to maintain production. Following reduced food production last year and the economic problems, some 1.27 million tonnes of food assistance were pledged to the country mostly through bilateral channels. So far an estimated 460 000 tonnes has been delivered.


Despite recent beneficial rainfall, record low autumn rainfall have affected crops in most of the country including primary winter wheat growing regions in the north-west and north-east of the country. The 1998 paddy output is estimated at 2.9 million tonnes, slightly above the 1997 output. Maize production in 1998 is forecast at 807 000 tonnes, some 93 000 tonnes below the previous year's record, but about 41 percent above average.

IRAQ* (17 January)

Reflecting below-average rainfall and higher than normal temperature, the prospects for the 1999 winter grain crops are unfavourable, particularly in the northern areas where most of the crops are not irrigated. Moreover, cereal production may be affected by serious shortages of fertilizers, spare parts for agricultural machinery and other agricultural inputs. Production of cereals (mainly wheat and barley) in 1998 is estimated at 2.5 million tonnes, some 12 percent higher than the drought-affected harvest of previous year but 10 percent below average. Shortage of essential inputs in the last several years is also reflected in the poor output of milk and milk products and in the virtual collapse of the poultry industry.

Despite some improvement in the overall food supply position, following the implementation of the “oil for food” deal, malnutrition still remains a serious problem throughout the country and will persist unless the requirements for the economic rehabilitation and development of the whole country are met.

ISRAEL (8 February)

The early prospects for the 1999 wheat and barley crops, to be harvested from April are favourable so far, reflecting overall normal weather conditions. Domestic production of wheat in normal years covers less than one-fifth of total requirement, the rest being imported by private mill owners under import licenses. Aggregate production of wheat and barley in 1998 is estimated at 175 000 tonnes, an increase of some 19 percent compared with the below-average crop harvested in the previous year and above average. Imports of cereals in 1998/99 (July/June) are forecast to increase by about 10 percent to 2.7 million tonnes.

JAPAN (10 February)

Paddy output in 1998, estimated at 11.2 million tonnes, is about 10 percent and 12 percent below 1997 and the average for the preceding five years. Main reasons for the decline are a combination of lower area and floods last summer.

JORDAN (8 February)

The prospects for the 1999 wheat and barley crops are poor due to drought. Pasture conditions were also affected.

Aggregate production of wheat and barley in 1998 is estimated at 75 000 tonnes, slightly higher than the previous year. Domestic cereal production normally meets only a small proportion of consumption requirements the rest being covered by imports. Imports of wheat in 1998/99 (July/June) are forecast at 800 000 tonnes, about 100 000 tonnes higher than last year. Rice imports are forecast at 90 000 tonnes, unchanged from the previous year. Coarse grain imports are forecast at 1.2 million tonnes, same as in 1997/98.

In view of the unfavourable outlook for the 1999 crop production, the food supply situation needs to be closely monitored.

KOREA, REPUBLIC OF (10 February)

The aggregate production of cereals in 1998 is estimated at 7.4 million tonnes compared with some 7.9 million tonnes harvested in 1997. This decline is mainly attributed to the decline paddy output to 7 million tonnes from last year's 7.5 million tonnes, mainly due heavy rains and floods in the summer.


Total paddy output in 1998 is estimated at about 2.1 million tonnes, up 23 percent on 1.7 million tonnes in 1997 but about 18 percent below the average for the previous five years. Maize output in 1998 is estimated at 1.8 million tonnes, a recovery from the 1997 record low output, but still about 11 percent below average. Despite the improved harvest, import of some 1.35 million tonnes of food grain will be needed in the current marketing year, including 1.05 million tonnes as food assistance.

In spite of some recovery in domestic food production last year, the overall food situation in the country continues to remain fragile. Much will depend on the run-up to the next agricultural season beginning in May. In the short term, food assistance to the most vulnerable sectors of the population will continue to be important. In this regard, since November 1998, some 80 000 tonnes of food aid has been pledged to the country of which around 73 000 tonnes have been delivered. In the longer term the country has to find ways of increasing agricultural production sustainably. For the current year, further donor pledges are requested for the Double Cropping and Crop Diversification Programme, outlined in the UN Consolidated Appeal for 1999. As part of this appeal FAO has so far received US $2.1 million, which will be used to purchase 3 000 tonnes of barley seed and fertilizer. In the longer term, donor assistance is encouraged for the UNDP sponsored Agricultural Recovery and Environmental Protection Programme, which aims to increase domestic food production to 6 million tonnes by the year 2003.

LAOS* (23 February)

Following reports of unfavourable food prospects, an FAO/WFP Mission visited the country in January/February to review the crop and food supply situation. Despite localized dry spells and a sharp reduction in rice planting in the upland, the mission estimated 1998/99 rice production at 1.77 million tonnes, some 21 percent above average for the previous five years and moderately higher than last year. Increased production is mainly attributed to unusually low levels of flood damage and major expansion in the irrigated area under off-season paddy.

In view of favourable domestic production, commercial imports are expected to be negligible. Notwithstanding late season damage to the off-season crop, average food prices are unlikely to stable. Amongst vulnerable sectors of the population, however, the mission noted that project food aid is needed to support well targeted project interventions in areas affected by reduced rice production in 1998/99. Such interventions would help to avert asset depletion. Based on available data, the number of people affected are tentatively estimated at 251 000 who will need assistance for an average duration of 4 months. This implies food aid requirement of 12 000 tonnes, part of which may be procured locally.

LEBANON (4 February)

The sowing of the wheat and barley crops, due for harvest from June, was completed under generally favourable weather. Production of cereals in 1998 is estimated at 67 000 tonnes which is about average.

Imports of cereals, mainly wheat, in 1998/99 (July/June) are forecast at some 0.7 million tonnes, similar to previous year.

MALAYSIA (10 February)

Paddy production in 1998 is estimated at 2 million tonnes, about 100 000 tonnes below the previous year and about 5 percent below average. Drought is reported to have affected rice yields in 15 percent of the country's eight provinces in 1998.

MONGOLIA* (10 February)

Wheat production in 1998 is estimated at 192 000 tonnes, about 19 percent below 1997 and 34 percent below the average for the preceding five years due to reduced planting and snow damage.

In the aftermath of the break-up of state farms and the transition of the economy from one which was centrally planned to one which has been liberalized, domestic food production has declined (as input use has fallen), whilst the number of people (especially children) with nutritional problems has increased. In view of this, the country needs assistance in agricultural rehabilitation and in feeding vulnerable sectors of society. In response, donors this year have provided 48 000 tonnes of wheat seed, whilst a further 60 000 tonnes of food aid have been pledged, of which an estimated 21 400 tonnes have been delivered.

MYANMAR (10 February)

The output of paddy in 1998 is estimated at 17 million tonnes, similar to the previous year and around average.

NEPAL (10 February)

The aggregate cereal output in 1998 is estimated at a reduced 5.9 million tonnes, some 300 000 tonnes below the previous year’s harvest and about average, mainly due to heavy monsoon rains and floods.

PAKISTAN (10 February)

Early prospects for the wheat crop, for harvest in April/May, have improved with the arrival of rains in January after earlier dry conditions. Official reports indicate that the 1999 wheat output target of 19 million tonnes, which is just above the previous year's crop of 18.7 million tonnes could still be achieved.

Current estimates for paddy production indicate a record 7 million tonnes, 500 000 tonnes above 1997, and 16 percent above average. The increase is attributed to favourable growing conditions and a slight increase in planted area.

PHILIPPINES (10 February)

Since early February floods and landslides due to torrential rains damaged rice and maize in southern Mindanao. Many people have been killed and more than 110 000 households were displaced. The forecast for paddy production in 1998/99 is put at 10.2 million tonnes, slightly above the previous year's drought-reduced harvest, but about 3 percent below the average for the previous five years. Overall maize production is also expected to drop by about 500 000 tonnes compared with 1997/98.

SAUDI ARABIA (8 February)

Growing conditions for the wheat and barley crops due for harvest from April are favourable. Imports of coarse grains (mainly barley and maize) in 1998/99 (July/June) are forecast to increase by some 300 000 tonnes to 6.2 million tonnes.

In 1998, for the first time in twenty years private importers were allowed to import barley. Previously barley imports could be made exclusively by the state Grain and Flour Mills Organization (GSFMO).

SRI LANKA (10 February)

Planting of the 1999 "Maha", main season, paddy crop is complete, but planted area is reported to be lower than the Government target due to inadequate rainfall in planting period. Rainfall from the north-east monsoon in the period 1 October to 28 January, has been normal to above normal in all eight monitored provinces, similar to last year.

Overall output of paddy in 1998 is estimated at 2.6 million tonnes, about 18 percent higher than the previous year due to area expansion.

SYRIA (8 February)

Reflecting normal weather conditions and adequate availability of agricultural inputs, the prospects for the wheat and barley crops to be harvested from May are favourable. Production of wheat in 1998 is estimated to have increased by about 1 million tonnes to the above-average level of 4.1 million tonnes. Barley output rose by some 8 percent to 0.98 million tonnes but remained sharply below average for the second consecutive year.

Imports of wheat flour and rice in 1998/99 (July/June) are forecast both at 150 000 tonnes, those of maize at 340 000 tonnes, virtually unchanged from previous year.

THAILAND (10 February)

Harvesting of the 1998/99 main paddy crop, which normally accounts for 85-90 percent of the country’s annual output, is completed. The output for this crop is expected to increase as strong price incentives motivated producers to expand the rice area. The 1998 maize production is estimated at 4.5 million tonnes, some 700 000 tonnes above the previous year’s crop.

Planting of the 1998 irrigation-dependent secondary rice crop has started and early prospects are unfavourable due to expected water shortages. Recent unusual rains were welcomed by farmers in northern provinces. Officials have advised farmers to reduce the second-season rice area.

TURKEY (2 February)

Following normal weather conditions, the early prospects for the 1999 wheat and barley crops are favourable. Production of wheat in 1998, estimated at 21 million tonnes, the best in five years, was 12 percent higher than in 1997 and allowed the country to become again a net wheat exporter. Output of coarse grains (mostly barley and maize) increased by about 170 000 tonnes to 10.9 million tonnes. Paddy production rose by 27 percent to 330 000 tonnes. Wheat imports in 1998/99 (July/June) are forecast at 0.8 million tonnes compared with 1.4 million tonnes estimated for the previous year. Maize imports are forecast to decline by 200 000 tonnes to 650 000 tonnes. Exports of wheat and barley in the year ending June 1999, expected to reach 2.5 million tonnes and 1.2 million tonnes respectively, would be the highest in the last several years.

VIET NAM (10 February)

Aggregate paddy production in 1998 is estimated at 28.4 million tonnes, slightly lower than the previous year but about 8 percent above the average for the preceding five years. Planting of the winter-spring crop is in progress and the Government has targeted a paddy output of 14 million tonnes.

Rice export, which is one of the country’s main export earners, reached 3.8 million tonnes in 1998. The export target for 1998 is 3.9 million tonnes.

YEMEN (2 February)

Land preparation for the sowing of the main sorghum and millet crops to be harvested towards the end of the year is about to start. The output from the 1998 sorghum crop is estimated at some 474 000 tonnes, about 32 percent higher than last year as a result of favourable weather and adequate availability of agricultural inputs. Output from the wheat crop increased by about one-third to 167 000 tonnes. Maize production estimated at 62 000 tonnes was 9 000 tonnes more than in 1977. Imports of cereals in 1998 - mainly wheat - are forecast at 2.87 million tonnes, about 6 percent higher than previous year.

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