FAO/GIEWS - Foodcrops & Shortages No.2, April 1999



Food production continues to be severely constrained by lack of essential agricultural inputs and continuing insecurity in parts of the country. Imports of cereals in 1998/99 are forecast at 740 000 tonnes, similar to the previous year.

In view of continuing food supply problems, a joint FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission is scheduled to visit the country in early May. In addition due to ongoing food problems, the UN is to re-establish offices in the country after several months of absence. Six international UN staff from main agencies will be posted to Kabul. Other staff will be posted to Kandahar, Herat and Jalalabad. The primary role will be administer humanitarian aid. Wheat flour for subsidized bakeries project will continue to be brought in by WFP. which currently assists some 200 bakeries in Kabul and 87 in Jalalabad. The bakeries represent the largest component of WFP's assistance programme to Afghanistan, 56 percent of the 119 000 tons of programmed food aid. Other WFP's activities include institutional feeding (hospitals, orphanages, etc.), winter emergency feeding, assistance to returnees and IDPs, food-for-work projects limited to life- saving activities with other implementing partners, and food- for-seed projects in cooperation with FAO.

Recently, due principally to poor living and nutritional conditions and lack of treatment, approximately 200 people died of an infectious disease in northern parts of the country. The WHO was requested to assist in combating the illness.


Recent reports indicate that persisting drought have affected “boro” crops in the south-western region of the country. The production target for the wheat crop is 1.98 million tonnes, against the previous year’s crop of 1.8 million tonnes. The target for the ‘boro’ rice crop is 8.4 million tonnes, against the previous year’s harvest of 8.1 million tonnes, mainly due to an expansion in area planted. 1998/99 paddy production is estimated at 26.7 million tonnes, about 2 million tonnes below the previous year, reflecting severe damage caused by the floods which affected most of the country during July to September 1998.

Planting of the 'aus' rice crop, for harvest in July/August, is underway. Overall, a slight increase in output is anticipated in the 1999/2000 crop year owing to an expected increase in the area planted. As of end-February 1999, out of total estimated food aid of 1.68 million tonnes for 1998/99, nearly one million tonnes (60 percent) have already been delivered.

CAMBODIA (1 April)

An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission, which visited the country in January, estimated the 1998/99 total paddy production at 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 (15 April)

Despite recent widespread rains, severe drought, plant disease and insects have seriously affected production of the winter wheat crop, for harvest from April 1999. The drought is reported to have affected an estimated 22.3 million hectares, mainly in northern parts.

Planting of the 1999 early rice crop is underway and preliminary reports indicate an expansion in area. Widespread rain (15-50 mm) in March boosted moisture supplies for early rice transplanting in the south-east.

CYPRUS (12 April)

The wheat and barely crops to be harvest from May are reported to be in satisfactory condition. The aggregate area sown was around 60 000 hectares, similar to the previous year. Barley production in 1998 was revised to 53 000 tonnes, which represented an appreciable increase over 1997.

INDIA (1 April)

A bumper foodgrain crop is officially forecast in 1998/99, despite heavy rains and floods late last year which damaged the "kharif" rice crop in major producing areas in the south. With a record wheat crop of about 71 million tonnes expected, total foodgrain production is forecast to be more than 200 million tonnes, compared to 192 million tonnes last year. Paddy production for the 1998/99 season is forecast at 123.5 million tonnes, similar to the previous year.

The Government forecast the purchase of more than 13 million tonnes of wheat from farmers this year compared with 12.6 million tonnes last year due to higher expected output.

INDONESIA* (1 April)

An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission which visited the country from 15-24 March found that, in addition to generalized economic problems, the food supply situation continues to be affected by political instability, poor security and escalation in civil unrest in parts. Consequently, there are indications that markets are failing, as traders are reluctant to hold stocks or transport large consignments due to security concerns. Such failures, together with the diminished role of the National Logistics Planning Agency, BULOG, have led to considerable variation in supplies and price across the country, further restricting the access of the poorest to markets. In general, despite expectations of some recovery in agriculture and the economy this year, longer-term prospects for employment and growth remain uncertain.

According to official reports from the Central Bureau of Statistics, 1999 paddy production is forecast at 48.6 million tonnes, against the Government's target of 52 million tonnes, and similar to the Bureau's 1998 final estimates of 48.5 million tonnes. Based on this forecast, the rice import requirement for the 1999/2000 marketing year (April-March), is estimated at around 3.1 million tonnes, of which approximately 1.3 million is covered by pipeline commercial and soft loan imports and food aid. This leaves a deficit of about 1.8 million tonnes of rice to be covered by commercial/concessional imports, loans, grants and targeted food aid. In addition to rice, some 3.3 million tonnes of wheat will be required in the current marketing year. There are large wheat stocks in the country, amounting to 500 000 tonnes, due to reduced demand. Taking these stocks into account and including bilateral wheat assistance in the pipeline, the uncovered import requirement for wheat in 1999/2000 is estimated at 2.2 million tonnes.


Record low autumn rainfall has resulted in water shortages and affected crops in most parts, including primary winter wheat growing regions in the north-west and north-east of the country. The country has faced several water shortages and droughts in recent years, which were blamed for reducing harvests and the increase in cereal imports.

Paddy output in 1998 is estimated at 2.9 million tonnes, slightly above 1997. 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* (12 April)

Low rainfall and high temperatures have adversely affected 1999 winter crops, especially rain-fed areas in the north. Agricultural production also continues to be affected by serious shortages of essential inputs such as fertilisers and replacement parts for machinery. 1998 cereal production was around 2.48 million tonnes, some 12 percent above the 2.2 million tonnes produced in 1997, which was affected by drought.

The “Oil for Food” agreement has helped ease the food supply situation in the country, but malnutrition remains widespread in many parts.

ISRAEL (12 April)

The driest winter in years is likely to seriously affect the wheat and barley harvest this year, which will commence in April. Only around 20 percent of the country’s requirement of wheat is met by local production, the rest being imported. Around 175 000 tonnes of wheat and barley were produced in 1998, which represented an increase of 19 percent over the previous year. For the 1998/99 marketing year (July/June) cereal imports are estimated at 2.6 million tonnes.

JAPAN (1 April)

Planting of the 1999-rice crop is expected to start in May. The Government has set this year's rice area adjustment at 960 000 hectares, similar to last year. Paddy output in 1998, estimated at 11.2 million tonnes, is about 10 percent below 1997 and 12 percent lower than the average for the preceding five years. This is mainly due to lower area and floods last summer.

JORDAN (12 April)

Prospects for food production in 1999 have been seriously affected by a severe drought. Government estimates indicate that rainfall by the end of February was 25-30 percent of normal, whilst temperatures were above average. Many reservoirs are reported to be less than half full due to the shortage of rainfall.

This has reduced production of the main wheat and barley crop and destroyed pastures for livestock, on which a large number of the population depend for their livelihood. Although in normal years the country imports a significant proportion of its food needs, the trade embargo on Iraq has affected the economy, as Iraq was an important market for Jordanian exports. This, therefore, has had a negative impact on foreign exchange earnings and hence the capacity of the country to import food. In addition to loss of export revenues from traditional exports, Jordan has also been affected in recent years by the decline in foreign remittances from Jordanian’s working overseas and by rising unemployment which has put additional strain on coping mechanisms. Economic problems have also affected the agriculture sector through increases in the cost of irrigation water and the abolition of subsidies on fodder. It is estimated that as a result, the contribution of agriculture to GDP has declined from 4.4 percent in 1995 to 3.2 percent in 1998.

The food supply situation, particularly among poorer sectors of the population is therefore becoming a matter of growing concern. In view of this, in May, an FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission will visit the country to make an assessment of the situation.


Harvesting of the barley crop, which normally accounts for some 5 percent of aggregate cereal production, has begun and indications are that production will be similar to last year's level of 280 000 tonnes. The target for paddy production in 1999 has been set 7 million tonnes.

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 growing season.


The food situation in the country continues to remain grim despite some recovery in domestic cereal production in 1998. Total cereals production (milled basis) in 1998 was estimated at about 3.5 million tonnes, up from 2.3 million tonnes produced in 1997 but about 9 percent below the average for the previous five years. Against this the country needs about 4.8 million tonnes for total cereal utilization, leaving an overall import requirement of over 1.35 million tonnes. Even assuming the country could import 300 000 tonnes of this commercially it would still be left with a substantial deficit of 1.05 million tonnes.

In view of the severity of the food situation, an Emergency Operation to provide food assistance to Korea DPR, worth some US$267.2 million was jointly approved by FAO and WFP on 15 April 1999. Notwithstanding emergency food assistance, the country is still left with a substantial food deficit this year that needs to be covered by programme food assistance through bilateral channels. 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. 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* (1 April)

A recent FAO/WFP 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. This is despite localized dry spells and a sharp reduction in rice planting in the upland. 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. 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 is 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 (12 April)

Like other countries in the region, agriculture production has been affected by low rainfall this year. Reports indicate that important water reservoirs like Qauaoun lake are less than one third full. Production of cereals in 1998 was an average 67 000 tonnes. Total cereal (mainly wheat) imports for the 1998/99 marketing year (July/June) are estimated at around 0.7 million tonnes.

MALAYSIA (1 April)

Light to moderate showers in March improved moisture for crops. Due to drought, the aggregate output of paddy in 1998 is estimated at 2 million tonnes, about 100 000 tonnes below the previous year and about 5 percent below average.

MONGOLIA* (15 April)

Cereal production (mainly wheat) declined further in 1998, as a consequence of snow damage and continuing problems in the sector. Wheat production in 1998 is estimated at 195 000 tonnes, about 13 percent below 1997 and 34 percent below the average for the preceding five years.

As in many economies in transition domestic food production has been declining with the break-up of state farms and reduced input use, which are no longer subsidized. Dwindling domestic cereal supplies have resulted in deterioration in the country’s ability to feed its people with the number of malnourished rising drastically. Large imports will be necessary in the 1998/99 marketing year to meet requirements, a situation further compounded by low cereal reserves, a decline in export trading and the country’s capacity to import sufficient quantities of grain commercially to meet the deficit.

So far, about 60 000 tonnes of food aid have been pledged, of which 45 000 tonnes have been delivered. A further 48 000 tonnes of wheat seed have also been provided.

MYANMAR (1 April)

Overall growing conditions have been satisfactory for the summer rice crop, for harvest from April. Total Paddy production in 1998/99 is estimated at 17.8 million tonnes, up from 16.7 million tonnes in 1997/98. This is mainly due to increased area.

NEPAL (1 April)

Harvesting of the wheat crop is underway and preliminary projections indicate an output of about 1 million tonnes, slightly above 1998. Mainly due to heavy monsoon rains and floods the aggregate cereal output in 1998 is estimated at a reduced 5.9 million tonnes, some 300 000 tonnes below 1997 and about average.

PAKISTAN (1 April)

Widespread and heavy rains from January have improved the growth of crops in main growing regions. The condition of the wheat crop, for harvest in April/May, is reported to be satisfactory throughout the country. The 1999 wheat target is 19 million tonnes, similar to last year’s crop of 18.7 million tonnes.

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.


Heavy rains and showers, mainly in eastern parts, continued to hamper second-crop grain harvesting but increased moisture supplies for the next main season crop. In February, floods and landslides due to torrential rains damaged the rice and maize crop in southern Mindanao.

The output of paddy in 1998/99 is put at 10.2 million tonnes, slightly above the previous year's drought-reduced harvest, but about 3 percent below average for the previous five years. Overall maize production is also expected to drop by about 500 000 tonnes compared with 1997/98.


The main wheat harvest will commence later this month/early May. Coarse grain imports for 1998/99 (July/June) are forecast to increase by some 400 000 tonnes to 6.2 million tonnes. Last year, the Government allowed the private sector to import barley, which was previously controlled by the state Grain and Flour Mills Organisation (GSFMO). The last barley import tender issued by GSFMO was for 1.14 million tonnes in March last year. Since then GSFMO has not imported barley, allowing private traders to buy internationally without restrictions.

SRI LANKA (1 April)

Harvesting of the 1999 "maha", main season, paddy crop is underway. Output is expected to be below last year due to lower planted area. Rainfall from the north-east monsoon in the period 1 October 1998 to 25 February 1999 has been normal to above normal in all eight monitored provinces, similar to last year.

Overall output of paddy in 1998 is estimated at 2.7 million tonnes, about 18 percent higher than the previous year due to area expansion.

SYRIA (12 April)

Poor rainfall has affected the wheat and barley crops, to be harvested from May. Reduced precipitation this year has also meant that some tributaries of the Barada River are now dry. The lack of rainfall may increase pressures later in the year, when demand for irrigation increases. The pattern of rainfall on cereal production in the country is of considerable importance as an estimated 75 percent of cropped area is rain-fed. Wheat production in 1998/99 is forecast at an above average 4.1 million tonnes.

An estimated 150 000 tonnes each of wheat flour and rice are expected to be imported in the current 1998/99 (July/June) marketing year, whilst maize imports are put at 340 000 tonnes.

THAILAND (1 April)

Unseasonable showers in February and March favoured second- season rice, however, output is expected to be below last year due to water shortages earlier. Despite Government calls to save limited water reserves by reducing the rice area, the high prices that prevailed at planting period have encouraged farmers to increase cultivated area.

Paddy production in 1998/99 is officially forecast at 21.5 million tonnes compared to 22.6 million tonnes last year.

TURKEY (12 April)

Weather conditions through February, favoured prospects for the wheat and barley crop. Overall, wheat and maize areas increased slightly at the expense of cotton, the procurement price of which remains low. Wheat production is projected to be similar to last years record crop of around 21 million tonnes, whilst maize production is also forecast to increase.

Despite the increase in domestic production, the country will still need to import large quantities of wheat to meet needs. Wheat imports in the current 1998/99 (July/June) marketing year are expected to be around 0.9 million tonnes, some 36 percent lower than in 1997/98. Maize imports are also projected to decline to 650 000 tonnes, some 200 000 tonnes lower than in the previous year. Future consumption of maize is projected to increase steadily due growth in the dairy, livestock and poultry industries.

VIET NAM (1 April)

It is officially estimated that nearly 1.5 million people have been affected by food shortages in central and northern Vietnam due to crop failure caused by prolonged drought and flooding last year. Light showers in March were beneficial to winter-spring rice transplanting in the Red River Delta, but more rain is needed. Harvesting of the crop has also started in some areas but yields may have been affected by the moisture stress caused by unusually low water levels. The Government's target for the winter-spring rice crop is 14 million tonnes.

Paddy production in 1998 is estimated at 28.4 million tonnes, slightly lower than the previous year but about 8 percent above average for the preceding five years. 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 (12 April)

Rainfall and temperatures for the main, sorghum and millet crops to be harvested at the end of the year, are reported to be normal. Total cereal output in 1998 is officially put at 833 000 tonnes, of which 474 000 tonnes was sorghum and 167 000 tonnes wheat. Last years cereal production was some 30 percent higher than 1997, which was marked by poor weather and inadequate supplies of essential agricultural inputs.

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