Generally dry conditions prevailed with little rainfall received except in isolated areas in eastern parts of the country during the last month. Conditions over the season, however, have been generally satisfactory for development of the main wheat and barley crops to be harvested later this month and in May. Crop production in 1998, increased significantly to 3 million tonnes, compared to 1.1 million tonnes in 1997, when drought reduced output. Cereal imports excluding semolina in 1998/99 is estimated at 5.5 million tonnes, around 7 percent lower than the previous year.
EGYPT (12 April)
Prospects for the wheat crop planted in October/November for harvest in April/May are favourable. Total plantings of mainly irrigated and lesser rain-fed wheat for 1998/99 are estimated at around 1.1 million hectares. The area planted represents a small decrease over the previous year, due to a shift from wheat to other crops like cotton. In recent years, yields have increased considerably, with average yield in 1998/99 forecast at around 6.3 tonnes/hectare in irrigated areas and around 3 tonnes/hectare in rain-fed areas. Production is forecast at 6.1 million tonnes, which would represent a marginal increase over the previous year. This year, to encourage farmers to sell wheat to the Ministry of Supply, the Government has set a procurement price of between US$191-US$200 per tonne equivalent depending on quality. These prices are considerably higher than prevailing international prices of around US$125/tonne. To meet needs, the country will import around 7.5 million tonnes of wheat in 1998/99.
MOROCCO (12 April)
In view of late planting due to delayed rainfall and cool temperatures earlier in the crop season a considerable reduction in winter grain yields is expected this year compared to last. Despite significant improvement in rainfall in late February, which improved moisture conditions for crop development, overall grain production is expected to be down by over 40 percent compared to the 6.6 million tonnes produced in 1998. Assuming normal weather conditions through to the end of the season, total wheat (including durum) and barley production is projected at 2.3 million tonnes and 1.2 million tonnes respectively. To meet consumption needs, therefore, the country will need to import larger quantities of wheat and durum next year to offset low domestic production.
TUNISIA (12 April)
Crop prospects for winter grains, to be harvested from May, were favoured by increased rainfall in March, following several weeks of persistent dryness. The dryness appreciably reduced soil moisture levels which may effect overall yields. In 1998/99, the area sown to cereals, mainly wheat, is estimated at 1.3 million hectares, slightly lower than the Government target. The reduction was largely due to low rainfall in main growing areas at the time of planting.