FAO/GIEWS - Foodcrops & Shortages No.3, June 1999

ASIA

AFGHANISTAN* (25 June)

The mildest winter in the last 40 years and an outbreak of pests have sharply reduced the 1999 cereal output. An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply assessment Mission which visited the country from 22 May to 23 June 1999 estimated the 1999 total cereal production at 3.24 million tonnes, about 16 percent below last year’s bumper output of 3.86 million tonnes. As a result, the cereal import requirement in the1999/2000 marketing year (July/June) is estimated at a record 1.1 million tonnes, of which more than 95 percent is wheat. Commercial cereal imports are estimated at 800 000 tonnes, leaving a deficit of 323 000 tonnes. The emergency food aid requirement (including food-for-work and food-for-seed), estimated at 97 000 tonnes, is already on the pipeline, leaving 226 000 tonnes to be covered by programme food aid.

Despite stable prices and well stocked food shops, access to food is severely constrained due to limited income generating activities and lack of employment opportunities outside agriculture. Further recovery in agriculture is hampered by damaged irrigation infrastructure and land mines. Of immediate concern are returnee expatriate Afghans and internally-displaced persons (IDPs) who are in need of urgent assistance. Moreover, the food supply problem is much more serious in such areas as Bamyan, Saripul, Faryab and Balkh due to the relatively higher damage to dryland foodgrain production where many are in need of emergency assistance.

International food aid is being distributed to about 8 000 vulnerable households in the central highlands and to some 21 000 people in the north-eastern province of Badakhshan. An estimated 63 000 returnees from Iran and Pakistan have also received food assistance. Vulnerable groups are being provided through urban bakeries and through institutional feeding programmes in hospitals, orphanages and health centres.

ARMENIA* (25 May)

Official reports indicate that wheat area for harvest in 1999 was reduced to 86 000 hectares. Below-normal autumn and winter precipitation adversely affected potential yields and the 1999 grain production is likely to remain low. Currently it is estimated that the 1999 grain harvest could fall below 300 000 tonnes compared to 326 000 tonnes last year.

Against an estimated cereal import requirement of nearly 345 000 tonnes in 1998/99, food aid pledges of just over 18 000 tonnes have been reported to date. The balance is expected to be imported commercially, despite the devaluation of the dram, mostly from neighbouring countries. Agricultural output is increasing but growth remains constrained by purchasing power and structural problems in the sector. These include small size of farms, infrastructure unsuited to small- scale private farming and limited credit. Positive economic growth is also expected in 1999, despite the adverse effects of the crisis in the Russian Federation on trade, employment and remittances. Remittances from abroad are a major element of household budgets.

There is little scope at present for phasing out humanitarian assistance and WFP will continue to provide food assistance for relief and recovery to refugees and the most vulnerable amongst the local population. Assistance will focus on community based food-for-work activities for vulnerable groups who are able to work, supporting economic and social development. Limited general food distribution will improve nutrition for the most vulnerable. The programme will have a duration of three years and will be reviewed annually.

AZERBAIJAN (25 May)

The early outlook for 1999 grain production is satisfactory. Recent heavy rains caused some localized damage but have improved moisture reserves after a dry winter. Ongoing land privatization and dismemberment of State farms has led to an increase in food production (notably potatoes and animal products) at the expense of cash crops. In part, this reflects increased employment in agriculture, greater emphasis on rural household food security following liberalization of grain trade, but also the lack of viable marketing channels for produce. Some increase in output of basic foodstuffs is likely to continue. Assessing food production in the current transition remain difficult. However, 1999 grain production is tentatively forecast to remain similar to last year's level of 1 million tonnes.

The bulk of 1998/99 cereal import requirement, estimated at about 500 000 tonnes, will be imported commercially. Food aid deliveries, for vulnerable groups, amount to 16 000 tonnes of grain. Despite the negative impact of the Russian crisis (one quarter of Azerbaijan exports formerly went to the Federation) and slowdown in the oil industry, GDP growth is expected to remain positive in 1999. Nevertheless, parts of the population, including 12 percent which were displaced due to the dispute over Nagorno Karabakh, remain vulnerable and continue to require humanitarian assistance. WFP will continue its current programme in support of the most vulnerable IDPs, while income generation activities will be expanded. The programme will be reviewed annually and has a tentative duration of three to five years.

BANGLADESH (2 June)

Heavy and above-average rainfall in May, brought to an end several months of extremely dry conditions. The pattern of weather is attributed to a strong La-Niña affect in the region. Continuing heavy rains over short periods has increased the risk of flooding to which the country is seriously prone.

Despite a prolonged four month drought which depleted water tables, a bumper crop of irrigated boro paddy is officially forecast this year. Harvesting is almost complete and current Government estimates indicate boro production of around 9.0 million tonnes, some 1.1 million tonnes or 14 percent higher than last year. The revised target for boro production was 8.7 million tonnes. Most of the country's boro production comes from Dhaka and Chittagong Divisions in the north east, though, Rahshahi Division in the north west produces most rice annually. Improved rice supply prospects, have eased pressure on domestic rice prices and imports. Earlier, a bumper wheat crop of some 1.7 million tonnes was harvested, the second in succession, due to favourable conditions at harvest and higher yields. Total food grain production for 1998/99 is currently estimated at around 20.4 million tonnes.

CAMBODIA (2 June)

Consistent rainfall during late-April and early-May indicated the start of the rainy season. Unconfirmed reports, however, indicate that unusually early rains in April this year, the earliest for 10 years, caused some damage to the dry-season rice crop at harvest. However, increased precipitation should benefit main, wet season, production, planting of which begins this month for harvest in November. This year's dry- season paddy production from January to April was projected at around 723 000 tonnes, before damage, compared to around 742 000 tonnes last year. Aggregate wet season paddy production in 1998 was 2.7 million tonnes. As a result of a lower dry season crop than anticipated, aggregate 1998/99 wet and dry season paddy production is now put at around 3.43 million tonnes, compared to an earlier forecast of around 3.5 million tonnes.

CHINA (2 June)

Low temperatures, approximately one degree centigrade below last year, in Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces in north east are reported to have delayed planting and development of spring crops. Both provinces are important maize producers. Improved weather conditions in the later part of May, however, favoured crops, suggesting that 1999 maize production could be higher than the 120 million tonnes, currently forecast. In main wheat growing areas, particularly in Shandong Province, rainfall in the second dekad of May eased conditions somewhat on an estimated 2.7 million hectares following a prolonged drought earlier. In view of the earlier drought, which affected the main winter wheat crop, (around 90 percent of aggregate production), prospects are less favourable and output is forecast to fall to around 105 million tonnes, some 5 million tonnes lower than last year and 5 percent below the long term average. Higher imports are anticipated to meet demand for wheat. Overall a slight increase in aggregate crop area is anticipated this year and the food grain production target is 495 million tonnes, including tubers and pulses.

CYPRUS (5 June)

The 1999 output of wheat and barley crops, now being harvested, is estimated at 106 000 tonnes, about 63 percent above last year’s reduced output but 6 percent below the average for the previous five years. Imports of wheat and barley in 1999/2000 (May/April) are forecast at 500 000 tonnes slightly above last year.

GEORGIA* (25 May)

The current production forecast is no better than the poor 800 000 tonnes last year. Winter grains, mainly wheat and barley, benefited from mostly satisfactory conditions but official reports indicate that the area sown to winter wheat has declined further by 18 000 hectares to 107 000 hectares. Even with average yields, the 1999 wheat harvest is officially forecast at about 150 000 tonnes, compared to 160 000 in 1998. However, official estimates tend to underestimate actual output. At the same time, yields are likely to remain low due to structural problems such as shortage of credit, inadequate marketing and processing facilities and poor irrigation and drainage systems. Market demand for foodstuffs and the availability of funds for inputs has been adversely affected by the depreciation of the lari, the growing budget deficit and the disruption of trade with the Russian Federation. As a result, humanitarian assistance to vulnerable groups will also remain necessary in 1999/2000.

Food aid deliveries of cereals in the 1998/99 marketing year amounted to some 90 000 tonnes, mainly wheat. The balance of the cereal import requirement is expected to be imported commercially. Indications are that registered imports of wheat and flour have fallen sharply after the 20 percent VAT on flour imports was also extended to wheat. Nevertheless, the overall food supply situation is satisfactory but in the more difficult economic climate in the wake of the Russian financial crisis, the vulnerable populations will continue to need assistance.

WFP has planned to provide 18 000 tonnes of food aid to 180 000 vulnerable people and targeted food-for-work schemes over a one-year period commencing in July 1999 with a new phase of the protracted relief and recovery operation. The emphasis in the new phase is to increase the number of food- for-work beneficiaries to assist vulnerable people to meet their food needs under the current conditions of decreasing purchasing power.

INDIA (2 June)

High temperatures in late April/early May affected the rice and vegetable crop in parts, but greatly benefited harvesting of maturing wheat and oilseed crops. Early projections from the country's Meteorological Department forecast normal monsoon rains in 1999, which begin in the last week of May in the south and cover the entire country by September. The performance of the monsoon is essential for kharif rice and coarse grains crops. As a result of favourable weather, the 1999 estimate of wheat production has been revised up to a record 72.8 million tonnes, almost 2 million tonnes higher than earlier forecast and around 7 million tonnes or 10 percent higher than 1998. The previous record for wheat production was in 1997, when 69 million tonnes were produced. Due to improved production prospects, the wholesale price of wheat in Delhi and Bombay dropped appreciably.

Due to increased wheat and rice production, aggregate 1998/99 food grain production is estimated at over 201 million tonnes, 3 percent above an earlier projection and some 10 million tonnes higher than the previous year.

The Food Corporation of India (FCI) has already procured 12.94 million tonnes of wheat from farmers for the 1999/2000 marketing year (April-March), the highest level in 10 years. The final estimate of procurement is likely to be a record 14 million tonnes. In addition, the quality of wheat procured is reported to be exceptionally good, due to low moisture levels. The Government recently approved the export of up to one million tonnes of wheat.

INDONESIA* (2 June)

In western Java, rainfall in April/May increased moisture supplies for second-season crops, whilst mostly dry weather favoured fieldwork in eastern Java. Early weather indications and some recovery in the economy, suggest improved prospects for rice production in 1999, compared to last year, which is likely to result in some increase in the area of rice planted. In addition, reflecting investment and improvement of irrigation facilities, supported by the Government drive toward improved provision of credit and inputs, an increase in yields is also expected

The official projection for 1999 paddy production stands at 48.7 million tonnes, similar to the final estimate of 48.5 million tonnes for 1998. Based on the forecast, the rice import requirement for the 1999/2000 marketing year (April- March), is estimated at around 3.1 million tonnes. In addition to rice, some 3.3 million tonnes of wheat will be required in the current marketing year. With the downturn in the economy, the demand for relatively expensive wheat based products, especially in the fast-food sector, has fallen due to reduced incomes. Taking opening stocks and pledged bilateral wheat assistance into account, the uncovered import requirement for wheat in 1999/2000 is estimated at 2.2 million tonnes. In mid-May, the National Food Logistics Agency, BULOG, announced plans to sell some 500 000 tonnes of wheat in stock plus sugar and soybeans into the open market. Previously BULOG, was responsible for several commodities, including wheat and sugar, but now only has responsibility for rice. With increased liberalization, flour mills are now able to import wheat directly instead of purchasing through BULOG and part of the problem of large stocks with the agency were its issue price which was un-competitive. BULOG is expected to procure between 1.5 to 2 million tonnes of rice from farmers this year.

Although the economic crisis has mainly affected food security in urban areas, through job losses and declining household incomes and access to food, the problem is spreading to rural areas, with increasing migration. In some rural areas, the population has risen substantially, putting severe pressure on services, increasing competition for jobs and depressing wages. Moreover, as most migrants are landless and have few savings or assets, their susceptibility to food shortages is becoming more pronounced. Notwithstanding the rise in rural poverty, the nutritional situation of the unemployed urban poor still gives most cause for concern. In these areas, despite prospects of modest recovery this year, large segments of the population remain severely exposed to food insecurity, as their ability to cope has been heavily eroded. Studies indicate growing nutritional deficiencies, particularly amongst at-risk groups such as children and expectant and lactating mothers.

International and bilateral food assistance to the country, has undoubtedly helped reduce the impact of the economic crisis on poor household. However, the solution to long term food insecurity lies in economic recovery and support to national and international measures to stimulate agricultural and economic recovery are also viewed as being essential.

IRAN, ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF (2 June)

Drought and the worst water shortage in three decades, severely affected domestic crop production this year. The Government is urging farmers to reduce water consumption and dig wells to make up for rainfall shortage. The worst affected areas are reported to be in dry land areas around Ardebil province in the north west, which depends almost entirely on rainfall. As a result of drought, a serious water problem is also expected in the country from June. Domestic wheat production is projected to fall to around 9 million tonnes this year, some 25 percent lower than last year. As a result of the shortfall in crop output, imports are likely to be appreciably higher this year.

IRAQ* (5 June)

A drought considered to be the worst this century, severely damaged 1999 winter crops. Total precipitation in the rainfall season from October 1998 to March 1999 was about a third of average in most parts. Water levels in major rivers fell by more than 50 percent. In addition, crop production was constrained by serious shortages of essential agricultural inputs and the widespread incidence of pests, weeds and animal diseases. Recent reports indicate that more than 4.6 million donums under cereals, about 46 percent of total cultivated area, have been severely damaged. The drought is also causing serious damage to livestock, already hit by foot and mouth disease that has so far infected more than 2.5 million animals.

The UN Secretary- General has approved the distribution plan for the sixth phase of the “Oil-for-food” deal in May, allowing Iraq to sell up to US$5.26 billion of oil over six months, to buy food, medicine and health supplies, and for emergency repairs to infrastructure.

Despite some improvement in the overall food supply situation following the implementation of the “Oil for food” deal, health and nutritional problems remain widespread in many parts. The drought conditions are anticipated to exacerbate existing food supply problems in the country

ISRAEL (5 June)

The outlook for the 1999 wheat crop, being harvested, is unfavourable due to severe drought conditions that also affected several other countries in the region. In April, the Government officially declared 1999 a drought year and introduced a 40 percent cut in water allocations to farmers. Thousands of hectares under wheat were reported damaged. In 1998, wheat output was estimated at 168 000 tonnes, about 6 percent above average.

Imports of cereals in 1999/2000 (July/June) are forecast at some 2.6 million tonnes, similar to the previous year.

JAPAN (2 June)

Rice planting in underway, though has been slowed somewhat by widespread heavy rain. The rainfall, however, boosted soil moisture supplies in southern and central parts. This year's rice area adjustment has been set at 963 000 hectares, similar to last year. Total potential rice area in the country is estimated at around 2.8 million hectares. Due to weaker demand for wheat products and stagnant demand for feed caused by a decline in the livestock population, the import of wheat and feed grains is expected to decline over the next year.

JORDAN (5 June)

An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission from 28 April to 15 May, found that the severest drought in decades decimated cereal crops and sharply reduced output of horticultural produce. The livestock sector was similarly affected and many sheep farms face financial ruin as costs soar and products diminish in quality and quantity. An outbreak of foot and mouth disease has exacerbated drought- induced production losses and further outbreaks of diseases are anticipated.

The unprecedented drought could not have come at a worse time as the country’s capacity to increase imports is seriously constrained with high unemployment, reduced exports, a fall in foreign currency reserves and unsustainable debt repayment rate of US$850 million per annum.

The Mission forecast the lowest recorded domestic cereal harvest at 13 000 tonnes in 1999. At this level, only about 0.6 percent of the domestic consumption needs, instead of the normal 10 percent, will be met. The Mission estimated a total cereal import requirement of 1.94 million tonnes, comprising 742 000 tonnes of wheat, 725 000 tonnes of barley, 370 000 tonnes of maize and 99 000 tonnes of rice for the 1999/2000 marketing year (July/June). About 80 percent of the requirement is anticipated to be covered commercially, leaving a deficit of 387 000 tonnes to be covered by emergency and programme food aid, of which 100 000 tonnes are already pledged. Of particular concern are some 180 000 small scale herders and landless rural households, who need an estimated 14 400 tonnes of wheat and 1 300 tonnes of pulses in emergency food assistance for eight months. Emergency support to the agricultural sector is also urgently needed to revive production for next year.

KAZAKHSTAN (25 June)

The 1999 crop year is expected to be difficult in spite of some recovery expected in the 1999 grain and pulse harvest compared to last year's 7.3 million tonnes. Good precipitation this winter increased soil moisture reserves after last year's drought, but economic problems intensified. Planting of major spring grain crop is well underway but heavy rains hindered progress in some areas. In contrast, May has been relatively dry in the northwest and newly planted crops urgently need more rain. The shortage of working capital on farm for essential inputs has been exacerbated by the depreciation of the tenge following flotation. Farm credit is even scarcer than last year. For the 80 percent of farms which are in debt, - and whose bank earnings are impounded - barter is the only means of obtaining necessary inputs. However, farmers' ability to barter inputs has been affected by the poor harvest last year. The debt overhang, the shortage of working capital and shortages of fertilizer, machinery and agricultural chemicals are expected to result in a further reduction in area sown and crop yields. The area sown to winter grains declined by 12 percent to 0.7 million hectares. Latest official forecasts indicate that the aggregate area to be sown to grains for harvest in 1999 is likely to fall to about 11 million hectares, including 9 million hectares of wheat. Given normal weather, however, average yields could recover from last year's poor level and the 1999 grain harvest is tentatively forecast to recover to 9.5 million tonnes.

Low oil prices and the impact of the Russian economic crisis have led to a contraction of the economy in 1998 and in 1999. In the first nine months of the current marketing year, 1.8 million tonnes of grains including wheat was exported. Following the devaluation of the tenge, exports have become more competitive and imports less attractive. Indications are that recently imposed duties of 200 percent on food imports from neighbouring countries will be removed.

KOREA, REPUBLIC OF (2 June)

Improved economic prospects this year, especially in the later half, suggest some recovery in the demand for basic food and meat products which has remained depressed in recent years, due to the financial crisis. Demand for milled wheat products remains steady, whilst demand for maize feed remains more constrained due to sluggish growth in the poultry and livestock industries.

Milled rice production in 1999/2000 is forecast at around 5 million tonnes.

KOREA, DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF* (29June)

A recent FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Mission to the country reiterated concerns raised by earlier assessments, particularly regarding declining nutritional standards. Large- scale food shortages have resulted in chronic nutritional problems in the population at large, which may have long term irreversible consequences. A nutrition survey last year, indicated that moderate and severe stunting, affected approximately 62 percent of children surveyed, while the incidence of moderate and severe underweight, or low weight for age was approximately 61 percent. The incidence of stunting is likely to remain high, irrespective of remedial nutritional actions now, though nutritional supplements could reduce wasting which is also widely observed. Although the 1998 nutrition survey provided valuable insight, there is still need to further verify the extent and depth of the nutrition problem, to pinpoint specific remedial actions. In view of this, the Mission underlines the need for a more comprehensive nutrition survey.

As food problems become chronic, it is becoming increasingly important that, in addition to cereals which have been the main component of food aid so far, foods providing essential amino and fatty acids and micronutrients be included to counter nutritional deficiencies. Therefore, it is imperative that international food assistance be further diversified to include a higher provision of oils and proteins.

The Mission also observed significant differences in food consumption. Some population groups, such as families receiving international food assistance and/or agricultural support, are in a better position to cope with food shortages than people in mountainous areas and in families of industrial workers, especially in non-agricultural areas. The income of these groups from productive activities has dropped in recent years and they have little recourse to meaningful coping strategies. Such families have hitherto depended almost entirely on Public Distribution System (PDS) rations. As food distributions ceased in April 1999, they have had to rely on alternative foods which have limited nutritional value. Moreover, the capacity of these groups to procure food in farmers’ markets is highly limited, either because they are in non-agricultural areas and/or have limited resources to procure sufficient quantities. In view of these differences, the Mission expresses serious concern for the nutritional wellbeing of the population in areas in the North East of the country which are industrial and have limited agriculture. Although WFP is responding to these concerns by targeting more beneficiaries in the north-east and increasing rations, beneficiary cover and food for work programmes in these areas, future targeting needs to be refined further to reflect geographical and demographic factors.

Based on estimates of rice and maize production in 1998 made by the last mission in October, and taking into account barley, wheat and potato production from this year’s double crop, 1998/99 cereal availability has been revised to 3.78 million tonnes, about 9 percent above the initial estimate. Against this, utilisation needs, including food, feed and other uses (seed and waste) are assessed at 4.823 million tonnes, which leaves an import requirement of 1.04 million tonnes for the year. Of this requirement, it is estimated that commercial imports over the marketing year will remain unchanged at 300 000 tonnes. Food aid imports, already delivered and in the pipeline, amount to a further 642 000 tonnes. This leaves an uncovered import requirement of approximately 98 000 tonnes.

KYRGYZ REPUBLIC (26 May)

Agricultural policy is focussed on introducing private land ownership and increasing output of sugarbeet, maize, cotton and tobacco while keeping wheat production stable. The target for grain production in 1999 is 1.7 million tonnes. The harvest in 1998 is officially estimated at 1.6 million tonnes.

The outlook for the 1999 winter wheat crop remains satisfactory. Indications are that the shift from grain to industrial and other foodcrops will continue this year. The envisaged yield increases may prove difficult to achieve in view of the shortage of money on farm with which to purchase inputs, the devaluation of the som and intensified economic problems this year as a result of the Russian financial crisis. The 1999 grain harvest is tentatively estimated to remain at 1.6 million tonnes and to include 1.2 million tonnes of wheat.

Cereal imports in 1998/99 are forecast at about 120 000 tonnes. Food aid deliveries amounted to 4 000 tonnes and the balance was imported commercially. The country also exports an estimated 150 000 tonnes of wheat per year to neighbouring Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

LAOS* (2 June)

In the second dekad of May, scattered moderate to heavy rain was received, benefiting second (dry) season crops. 1998/99 paddy production is estimated at 1.77 million tonnes, some 21 percent above average for the previous five years and moderately higher than the previous year. Production remained satisfactory, despite dry spells in parts and sharp reduction in planting in upland areas. Favourable production is attributed to unusually low levels of flood damage and major expansion in the irrigated area under off-season paddy.

Commercial imports are expected to be negligible. Amongst vulnerable sectors of the population, however, project food aid continues to be needed to support well-targeted project interventions in areas affected by reduced rice production in 1998/99. 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. The State Planning Committee and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry planned to undertake its first agricultural census in February/March with donor assistance. A broad range of data is to be collected in all 141 districts, including type of crops, inputs, farm size, use of labour and livestock.

LEBANON (5 June)

The output of 1999 wheat and barley, now being harvested, is expected to be about 62 000 tonnes, about the same as last year. Imports of wheat in 1998/99 (July/June) are forecast at some 0.5 million tonnes.

MALAYSIA (2 June)

Based on reports from the Meteorological Department, higher than average rainfall was received during the current inter- monsoon period. This is largely attributed to an ongoing La Niña affect, which is expected to gradually weaken from now until August. Although the southwest monsoon, which begins in June, is normally associated with a relatively dry period, this year higher than normal rains are expected. Paddy production in 1998, was estimated at slightly below average 2 million tonnes.

In recent months, almost one million pigs have had to be destroyed due to the spread of Japanese encephalitis, for which the animals are a carrier, which has killed around 100 people. The latest incidence of disease was in the state of Malacca.

MONGOLIA* (2 June)

Planting of the main wheat crop is underway in main producing areas for harvest in October/November. A combination of poor weather and continuing problems in the agricultural sector resulted in a further decline in cereal production in 1998. Wheat production in 1998 was around 195 000 tonnes, the lowest level in 3 decades, some 18 percent below 1997 and 34 percent below the average for the preceding five years. The Ministry of Agriculture and Industry has earmarked 253 000 hectares for cultivation in 1999. However, due to a shortage of seed, this target may not be attained. FAO is assisting the Government in agricultural production and reforestation programmes.

Dwindling domestic cereal supplies have resulted in deterioration in the country’s ability to feed its people with the number of malnourished people rising sharply. Large imports continue to be necessary 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.

In view of food supply problems in the country, around 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 (2 June)

Unusually heavy rains in April, resulted in slight damage to dry season rice in parts, particularly in the reclaimed areas of Nyaungdone. Main wet season rice planting is underway and will be completed by the end of June in most parts of the country. The rice will be harvested from October onwards. The main rice crop accounts for around 85 percent of aggregate production. Assuming normal weather conditions, an increase in production is tentatively forecast this year due to increased planting. Yields, however, continue to be constrained by a shortage of critical inputs. To encourage rice exports, the Government has introduced a number of policy initiatives, such as allowing entrepreneurs, who reclaim fallow and wet lands for paddy, to export 50 percent of production. Generally favourable conditions last year, resulted in some increase in paddy production, to 17.8 million tonnes some 7 percent above the previous year.

Rice exports for 1999 are projected at 100 000 tonnes, compared to around 94 000 tonnes in the previous year.

NEPAL (2 June)

Wheat production this year is estimated at around 967 000 tonnes from an area of 650 000 hectares. This is around 4 percent above 1998 and slightly above average. Due to flood damage last year, the paddy crop was some 200 000 tonnes lower than 1997. Aggregate cereal production for 1998/99 is estimated at 5.9 million tonnes (paddy equivalent), some 5 percent lower than the previous year.

Agricultural productivity in the country remains poor and any growth in aggregate output in the past has largely been attributed to area expansion and not yield increase. Other factors that hamper growth in the sector, include poor infrastructure (irrigation systems and roads) and irregular supply of essential inputs. To improve input supply and efficiency and stimulate growth, the government has deregulated fertilizer marketing and is planning to eliminate the fertilizer subsidy by July 1999

PAKISTAN (2 June)

In the third dekad of May a Tropical Cyclone "2A" devastated a number of towns and fishing villages along the southern coast near the city of Karachi. The worst affected districts were Thatta, Badin and Tharparkar. An estimated 700 people were killed and a further 2000 are missing. In addition to casualties, an estimated 18 000 hectares of crop land were damaged.

The recently harvested wheat crop is estimated at 18 million tonnes some 4 percent below last year. The decline is largely attributed to lower yields, due to reduced use of fertilizers, prolonged dry weather in rain-fed areas, which produce around 16 percent of total output, and late planting. Wheat production in the country is expected to remain stable around current levels in future due to competition from alternative crops and problems with salination, input supply and seed quality. Assuming normal weather, 1999 rice production is forecast at 5 million tonnes, similar to last year and around 18 percent the five year average between 1993 and 1997.

Wheat imports for the 1998/99 marketing year are estimated at 2.9 million tonnes and are forecast to increase in 1999/00, due to lower domestic production this year.

PHILIPPINES (2 June)

Drier weather in May reduced wet conditions and favoured second-crop grain harvesting. Earlier, above-normal showers persisted into April across eastern parts, slowing second- crop grain harvesting. Overall, abundant rains in the first quarter boosted paddy and maize production. 1999 first- quarter rice and maize output is the highest in the last five years and signals considerable recovery from El Niño reduced crops last year. Official reports indicate that first quarter paddy production was around 3 million tonnes compared to 2.2 million tonnes in the same period a last year, whilst maize production is estimated at 1.265 million tonnes some 60 percent higher compared to last year.

As a result of favourable first quarter production, grain stocks are high. Rice stocks were at 2.43 million tonnes at the beginning of April , up 11.6 percent from the previous year, while some 448 800 tonnes of maize were held in stock, up 31.4 percent from the previous year.

SAUDI ARABIA (5 June)

Production of wheat in 1999 is forecast at 1.8 million, about the same as last year. The Saudi Grain Silos and Flour Milling Organization (GSFMO) has decided in May to sell off its current stocks of barley, estimated at 890 000 tonnes. The sell-off is anticipated to cause a decline in Saudi imports in the next few months. Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest importer of barley, accounting for nearly one-third of the world barley trade.

SRI LANKA (2 June)

In the later half of April torrential rains and floods, in Western and Southern districts of Colombo resulted in a number of casualties. Planting of the second Yala rice crop, which constitutes about a third of aggregate production, is near completion for harvest commencing August. Heavy rains earlier in the season which replenished irrigation tanks, together with attractive rice prices at the time of planting should favour overall Yala planting and production.

Aggregate 1998/99 paddy production is estimated at 2.7 million tonnes (1.87 million tonnes milled basis). The 1998 Maha crop was affected somewhat by heavy rains at ripening stage.

Official reports indicate that the country imported around 150 000 tonnes of rice last year and around 0.9 million tonnes of wheat. In recent years the per caput consumption of rice has declined as consumers switch to wheat based products.

SYRIA (5 June)

The worst drought in recent years severely damaged the wheat and barley crops being harvested. Rainfall this year is reported to have been less than fifty percent of average. Several rivers were reported to have dried up affecting irrigated summer crops. Wheat production in 1999 is forecast at 2.8 million tonnes, well below last year’s 4.1 million tonnes and about 30 percent below average. The barley crop is estimated at 700 000 tonnes, about 48 percent below average.

Wheat stocks are reported to be adequate but barley imports are anticipated to increase to meet feed demand as a result of the loss of pasture.

TAJIKISTAN* (27 May)

The latest indications are that the 1999 grain and pulse harvest could be sharply lower than last year's officially estimated 500 000 tonnes. Preliminary official estimates indicate that the area sown to grains in 1999 fell by up to 90 000 hectares due to shortages of inputs (mainly seeds) and salinization. Up to 80 000 hectares of land has not been planted and about 10 000 hectares of irrigated land have been diverted back to cotton. In addition, a short, mild winter and wet spring favoured development of rust and smut and yields could be lower than last year's. At this early stage the 1999 cereal and pulse harvest is tentatively forecast to fall by 14 percent to 430 000 tonnes. In December 1998 a law was passed allocating another 28 000 hectares of land for private use. This was too late to effectively plant winter grains.

The shortfall in production will have to be met by food aid and commercial imports, mainly from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

An appeal was launched in December 1998 for US$24.8 million, to meet the humanitarian and rehabilitation needs of over half a million vulnerable people in 1999. The appeal includes projects to enhance basic food production and food security as well as food for the populations at risk.

THAILAND (2 June)

Early and widespread heavy showers over most parts of the country during April and May, significantly increased irrigation supplies for main-season rice and maize, though slowed harvesting of the second-season rice crop. Heavier showers in western parts caused some flooding. Overall, higher than normal rainfall during the dry season favoured the second season rice crop, now being harvested. Official reports indicate that production from the second rice crop will be around 4.5 million tonnes, compared to 3.8 million tonnes estimated earlier.

In anticipation of a better second season crop, the rice export target for 1999 was recently increased to 5.5 million tonnes from an earlier target of 5.3 million tonnes. In the first four months of the year, however, rice exports were 23 percent lower than in the same period last year. Around 1.83 million tonnes of rice was exported between January-April, compared to 2.37 million tonnes in the corresponding period in 1998.

TURKEY (5 June)

Output of the 1999 wheat crop is forecast at 20 million tonnes similar to last year while maize production is forecast to increase. However, these figures may be revised downwards as a result of the drought conditions in south- eastern and central parts of the country. 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.

TURKMENISTAN (28 May)

Harvesting of the 570 000 hectares sown to winter grains is underway. Growing conditions have been favourable this winter. Indications are that the 1999 winter grain production target of 1.3 million tonnes may be reached. In addition, the country produces some maize and rice. The cotton harvest target is 1.3 million tonnes. Actual production reached 700 000 tonnes in 1998.

UZBEKISTAN (28 May)

Harvesting of the 1999 winter grains has started in some areas. The outlook remains satisfactory but without essential inputs production is likely to be well short of the revised production target of 5.3 million tonnes. Indications are that the area has remained stable. On large farms, wheat and barley were sown on 1.3 million hectares, including 1 million hectares of irrigated land. In addition, the rural population has to plant additional area on private plots, where yields are increasing at a faster rate than on large farms. The target for winter grain production in 1999 had previously been set at 4.6 million tonnes, including 4.0 million tonnes (3.8 million tonnes of wheat) from large farms and the balance from private plots. This compares with an estimated output of 3.8 million tonnes of wheat and barley in 1998. In addition, the country produced roughly 0.5 million tonnes of maize and rice, bringing total 1998 grain production to 4.3 million tonnes. Imports of grain are being reduced to maintain a positive trade balance, despite reduced cotton fibre exports and lower prices as well as disruption of trade with the Russian Federation and neighbouring states. The 1998/99 cereal deficit is expected to be imported commercially.

VIET NAM (2 June)

The rainy season began in the middle of April in main crop areas along the Mekong River Delta and central highlands. This signaled the earliest start to the wet season in three decades and brought to an end extreme dry weather in the Delta region. In normal years the wet season begins at the end of April or early May. Due to the dry weather earlier, 1998/99 winter-spring yields are expected to be somewhat lower than last year. The country's target for rice exports in 1999 is 3.9 million tonnes, slightly above the 3.8 million last year. So far this year, some 1.3 million tonnes of rice have been reported, which is appreciably lower than the 2.3 million tonnes exported in the same period last year, when Indonesia and the Philippines were more active in the market. Earlier in the year, official reports indicated that some 2.3 million people were suffering food shortages caused by dry weather in northern and central provinces.

YEMEN (5 June)

Total cereal output in 1999 is forecast at 748 000 tonnes, about 10 percent below last year’s bumper crop but about average.

Isolated adults of Desert Locusts may persist on the northern Red Sea coastal plains near the Saudi Arabian border and breed if additional rains fall.

Imports of cereals in 1999 - mainly wheat - are estimated at some 2.7 million tonnes.


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