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


EC (9 April)

Latest indications for the Community’s 1999 cereal crops continue to point to a downturn in production. Adverse weather conditions in some parts last autumn, weaker prices and a 5 percent increase in the compulsory set-aside requirement led to a smaller winter grain area. Most of the reduction was in wheat. In addition, excessive winter rainfall in northern parts and a long dry spell in southern Spain and Portugal is likely to reduce average yields. Spring planting is underway throughout much of the Community but the outlook is uncertain. Plantings are somewhat behind schedule in northern parts due to excessive soil moisture, while it is still unclear exactly how much of the 5 percent increase in compulsory set-aside has been accounted for by smaller winter plantings and thus how much adjustment may have to be made in spring crop areas. At this stage, FAO tentatively forecasts a reduction of about 5 percent in the Community’s wheat output in 1999 from last year’s bumper level, and a 2-3 percent reduction for coarse grains.

ALBANIA (9 April)

No significant change is expected in cereal output in 1999. Wheat production is expected to remain about 350 000 to 400 000 tonnes, leaving a deficit of about 350 000 tonnes to be imported in 1999/2000 to meet normal consumption requirements. With regard to the current 1998/99 marketing year, supplies of wheat in the major urban centres have been generally sufficient to meet demand.

The food supply situation in the rural communities in the isolated north-eastern parts of the country, which is normally difficult throughout the winter, has worsened in recent weeks due to the massive increase in the number of refugees crossing the border from the neighbouring Kosovo Province in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Relief operations for refugees and to support local families hosting refugees have been ongoing throughout the winter, but international assistance has now been stepped up to a massive scale. As of early April, UNHCR reported that Albania was hosting some 300 000 refugees.

In view of the rapidly evolving situation, which is likely to have long-term food security implications for the region, FAO has fielded a mission to Albania in early April to identify assistance likely to be necessary in the near future for refugees and the host families engaged in agriculture.


Information on the cropping situation remains scarce and unreliable. The area sown to winter wheat for harvest in 1999 has likely continued its declining trend as imports are available and other crops are more profitable. The cereal import requirement in 1998/99 is tentatively estimated at about 290 000 tonnes. Against this requirement food aid pledges amount to around 90 000 tonnes to date.

BULGARIA (9 April)

Weather conditions in March were generally favourable for crop development. The condition of winter wheat is generally satisfactory, but output is expected to fall in 1999, by about 15 to 20 percent (from the estimated 3.3 million tonnes last year), due to reduced and delayed planting and limited use of inputs. Spring planting operations are underway and some 400 000 hectares of maize are expected to be sown, similar to the previous year.

CROATIA (8 April)

The outlook for the 1999 winter grain crops remains generally satisfactory, despite a reduction in the area sown. The area sown to wheat has been cut back to about 150 000 hectares but plantings of winter barley and rye increased.


Despite generally favourable weather conditions in recent months, a reduced cereal output is in prospect in 1999. Output of wheat is tentatively forecast to fall to about 3.5 million tonnes, compared to about 3.9 million tonnes in 1998, mostly due to reduced plantings.

ESTONIA (30 March)

Growing conditions for winter grains to be harvested in the spring of 1999 have been generally satisfactory so far. Indications are that the area sown to wheat and rye remained close to the preceding year's 60 000 hectares. Winter grains are still dormant and spring coarse grains will be planted later this month. The area sown is expected to remain stable. With exports of livestock products to the Russian Federation disrupted, there is little incentive to increase fodder grain production.


Current prospects point to little change in the 1999 cereal output. The country is estimated to have produced some 600 000 tonnes of cereals in 1998, of which wheat accounted for about 300 000 tonnes.

A recent influx of refugees from the neighbouring Province of Kosovo in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, has put an unprecedented strain on local resources. As in other parts of the region, relief operations for refugees have been ongoing throughout the winter, but international assistance has now been stepped up. As of early April, UNHCR reported that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was hosting some 120 000 refugees. FAO fielded a mission to Albania in early April to identify assistance needs for refugees and host families engaged in agriculture.

HUNGARY (9 April)

Dry weather in the second half of March helped dry soils after severe flooding earlier in the month caused by rapid snow melt. Worst affected areas were in the east and northeast where some wheat crops are expected to have been completely destroyed. Prospects for winter wheat were already poor due excessive moisture and early frost last autumn. Although the full extent of the damage is not yet known, wheat output is now likely to fall somewhat short of the 5 million tonnes anticipated earlier. Wet soils earlier in March, also delayed spring sowing operations significantly. The area planted to maize could increase to counter the reduction in wheat and earlier sown spring crops.

LATVIA (28 March)

The outlook for 1999 grain production remains satisfactory. Given better weather, aggregate output is forecast to recover from last year's poor level of 970 000 tonnes. The area sown to winter grains (mainly wheat and rye) is estimated at about 180 000 hectares, similar to the preceding year.

LITHUANIA (29 March)

Growing conditions for the winter-planted wheat and rye crop have been satisfactory to date. Spring coarse grains are still to be planted. Given difficulties in the livestock industry, the area sown to grains in 1999 is not expected to increase substantially from the 1.2 million hectares last year. Normal weather could result in somewhat better yields and output is tentatively projected at 2.9 million tonnes compared to 2.8 million tonnes in 1998.

POLAND (9 April)

Current indications are that 1999 cereal production will be reduced. Although the winter grain area for the 1999 harvest is estimated to have remained similar to the previous year’s, and the final outcome of the spring planting season is still far from certain, yields are projected to be lower as many farmers are facing financial problems which will reduce input use. Output of wheat is tentatively forecast at below 9 million tonnes compared to the bumper 9.5 million tonnes in 1998.

ROMANIA (9 April)

Prospects for 1999 cereal production remain generally satisfactory despite flooding on more than 45 000 hectares in March. Official reports in late March indicated that the outlook for wheat was unaffected by the flooding which was concentrated in the northern counties near the border with Hungary. However, in view of the reduced area sown last August, even if yields improve considerably from the previous year’s reduced level, it is unlikely that 1999 wheat output could match the 5.2 million tonnes produced in 1998. In late March, land preparation for spring cereal planting was reported to be well advanced although actual sowing was just getting underway.


Prospects for 1999 cereal production are uncertain. Winter wheat planting is reported to have been limited to about 250 000 hectares due to adverse weather last autumn. The target area was 400 000 hectares. The Slovak Agrarian and Food Chamber will promote increased spring planting to compensate for the reduction in winter grain area. SLOVENIA (9 April)

Winter wheat plantings for the 1999 harvest are estimated to have fallen by about 10 percent, but weather conditions have been optimal so far and good yields are expected. Assuming normal weather conditions for the rest of the season wheat output is expected to be similar to the 190 000 tonnes last year.


The early outlook for the 1999 wheat harvest is unfavourable. Reports indicate that winter plantings have fallen well short of the target of 810 000 hectares. Persistent and heavy rains delayed planting and only 30 percent of the crop was sown in the optimum period. Unofficial reports indicate that the area sown to wheat fell to about 638 000 hectares from 795 000 in 1998. In addition, reduced domestic fertilizer production and high price vis-à-vis the price for wheat are expected to reduce use.

In Kosovo Province, recent escalation of the unrest, which has affected the area since March 1998, has led to a serious deterioration in food security. With regard to the current 1998/99 cropping season, prospects are grim. Almost no wheat planting was undertaken last autumn due to insecurity and/or the lack of basic equipment and seeds. The situation has deteriorated further for spring grain and vegetable planting and the output of all crops is expected to be very low in 1999. Moreover, huge losses of livestock due to violence, disease and abandonment are also reported, exacerbating the problems of food supply for those who still remain in the province. The situation gives rise for great concern as many of the population were already dependent on relief aid in late 1998, while the intensified violence in recent weeks has brought to a halt all relief operations in the Province. Without significant improvements in the security situation in Kosovo relief operations can only be directed at the refugees who have already left the Province. The food supply situation for IDPs and the remainder of the population is expected to deteriorate sharply and the crisis will have profound long- term food security implications.

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