FAO/GIEWS - Food Outlook No.2 - April 2000 p. 5

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Current Production and Crop Prospects

Position by Region


Far East: Harvesting of the 2000 wheat crop is due to begin from April. Output is forecast to decline somewhat from 1999 due to slightly lower production in the main producing countries. In China, this is attributed to a 7 percent decrease in area planted as farmers switched to more remunerative crops. However, following favourable weather over the winter, latest indications point to higher yields, which may partly offset the reduced area and output could be larger than earlier expectations. Winter wheat accounts for about 85 percent of aggregate wheat production in the country, the remainder coming from spring wheat planted in March/April. In India, wheat output in 2000 is also forecast to decline marginally compared to the revised 1999 estimate due also to a reduction in the planted area, by about 2 percent. In contrast favourable weather conditions in Pakistan are likely to result in a bumper wheat crop, some 11 percent higher than last year. Production in Bangladesh is likely to be similar to last year's record output of 1.9 million tonnes.

Production of coarse grains in 2000 is likely to remain close to the previous year's reduced level. Whereas adverse weather caused area and yields to decline in 1999, farmers' tendency away from cereal production in favour of other crops, especially in China, is expected to prevent any significant recovery in output in 2000. In China, 1999 maize output is officially estimated at around 124 million tonnes, some 7 percent down on 1998. In India, the bulk of coarse grains are produced during the monsoon season from June/July to November. Although there are minor crops still being harvested, latest estimates indicate 1999 production at around 28.6 million tonnes, some 10 percent lower than the previous year. This was due to erratic monsoon rains in some producing areas. Following extensive El Nino related drought two years ago, the recovery in maize production in the Philippines and Indonesia is predicted to continue into 2000, assuming favourable weather.

In some parts of Asia, the 2000/01 main paddy season is well advanced, while in others farmers are still harvesting the 1999/2000 secondary crops. In many countries of the region, the new season is not expected to start in earnest until the onset of the monsoon season and much of the final outcome will depend on the timing, extent and distribution of the monsoon rains.

In the southern hemisphere and equatorial belt, the 2000/01 paddy season is well advanced. In Indonesia, harvesting of the main season crop is underway and is expected to continue through June. Based on the latest official information, the paddy area has contracted by 3.5 percent from the previous year. However, favourable growing conditions and an improved availability and use of fertilizers during the season may lead to higher yields, which could partly offset the lower area. Thus, the overall output could eventually come close to the Government target of 51 million tonnes. In Malaysia, the 2000/01 outlook is for a relatively stable production of about 2 million tonnes, close to the average for the last five years.

In China, the world's leading rice producer, the 2000/01 rice season is underway with the planting of the early rice crop. Overall paddy output is forecast to decrease in 2000/01 as area is expected to contract by as much as 2 percent. Most of the decline is expected in the early rice crop, reflecting the current Government policy aimed at reducing the production of inferior quality grains, including early rice, the area of which could shrink by as much as 6 percent. In Thailand, the new season does not start until May, but the Government is tentatively forecasting a slight decline in paddy output as early indications suggest plantings could contract from the previous year. Planting of the 2000 rice crop in Japan is expected to start in May. The Government has announced a further cut in support prices of 2.7 percent from 1999 to about 252 yen per kilogram, though the land diversion target will be maintained at 963 000 hectares. In the Republic of Korea, the Government has set a paddy production target of about 7 million tonnes in 2000 or 3 percent lower than the actual 1999 output. In India, the 2000/01 paddy season is scheduled to start in May with the planting of the Kharif (main-season) crop. Although information regarding planting intentions is still limited, production is unlikely to rise above the 1999/2000 record and could even fall. Elsewhere in the region, the paddy season awaits the arrival of monsoon rains, which generally start around May/June.

Near East: A recovery in wheat production is in prospect in several Near East countries in 2000 after the drought-reduced output last year. Conditions have improved in Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia with the recent arrival of rains. In Turkey, recent favourable rains and good snow cover are particularly welcome for the wheat crop, to be harvested from June, after dry weather earlier in the season. Conditions are also favourable in the Islamic Republic of Iran. By contrast, in Afghanistan, in addition to the adverse effects of continued civil strife and short supply of agricultural inputs, production of winter grains in 2000 is expected to be affected by extended dry conditions in much of the southern and central parts of the country. In Iraq, despite some beneficial rains at the beginning of this year, extended drought and shortage of agricultural inputs continue to affect cereal production.

CIS in Asia: In the seven of the eight CIS countries in Asia, the 2000 winter wheat crops have been planted. The area increased somewhat in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan but remained stable or declined in most other countries. Indications are that poor profitability of wheat has led to a further reduction in the area sown in the Caucasus. In Kazakhstan, the largest producer in the area, the bulk of the wheat crop will not be planted until May. Early indications are that, even if the aggregate area sown to wheat does not decline significantly, a return to average yields in Kazakhstan, after bumper levels last year, could result in a lower aggregate harvest in these 8 countries, tentatively forecast at around 17 million tonnes, compared to 19 million tonnes in 1999. Similarly, coarse grains output could also decline. By contrast, the aggregate area under rice is planned to rise, with significantly larger plantings projected in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

World Cereal Production - Forecast for 2000

    Wheat Coarse grains Rice (paddy) Total
1999 2000 1999 2000 1999 2000 1999 2000
  ( . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . million tonnes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . )
Asia 259.7 260 213.1 215 542.8   1 015.6  
Africa 15.2 16 76.6 79 17.4   109.2  
Central America 3.2 3 28.8 28 2.3   34.3  
South America 19.0 18 58.9 61 21.3   99.2  
North America 89.5 86 290.8 293 9.5   389.8  
Europe 178.3 189 199.4 214 3.1   380.8  
Oceania 24.3 23 8.9 10 1.4   34.6  
WORLD 589.2 595 876.5 900 597.9 590 1/ 2 063.6 2 085
          (400) 2/ (395) 2/ (1 865) 3/ (1 890) 3/
Developing countries 275.8 278 364.5 369 571.7 564 1 211.9 1 212
Developed countries 313.4 317 512.0 531 26.3 26 851.7 873


Northern Africa: Prospects for the 2000 wheat crops, to be harvested from May, are unfavourable in several countries due to prolonged dry conditions from mid-January to March, which followed generally good early season rains. In Algeria, moderate showers in March, particularly in the eastern producing areas provided much needed relief from the prolonged dry spell since mid-January, which had resulted in poor crop emergence and hampered early growth. Harvest prospects are poor in central and western areas and more rains are needed to prevent further loss of yield potential. In Morocco, harvest prospects are unfavourable in spite of good early rains in November and December. A prolonged dry period since mid-January and a heat wave in February have seriously damaged crops in many producing areas. A reduced cereal harvest is likely for the second consecutive year. In Tunisia, the season has been erratic so far. A late start due to delayed rains was followed by improved conditions at the end of 1999 and early 2000 with moderate precipitation, but dry conditions set in again in February through March, except in northern areas and neighbouring areas of Libya. Harvest prospects are uncertain in these countries and good rains during the next few weeks will be crucial to avoid further reduction of yield potential and to improve the outcome of the season. In Egypt, prospects for the 2000 winter grain crop are favourable. Growing conditions are satisfactory for the mostly irrigated wheat crop to be harvested from mid-May, and production is expected to increase from the previous year as a result of incentives to cultivate new varieties and use improved practices. Coarse grains crops in 2000 in the subregion are also expected to be affected by current adverse weather conditions and aggregate output may be similar to, or below, the previous year's level, which was below average.

Western Africa: Following the release of final production estimates by several countries, the aggregate output of cereals for the nine Sahelian countries in 1999 is estimated at a record of 11.6 million tonnes, which is 8 percent higher than in 1998 and 23 percent above the average of the last five years. This is a bumper crop for the second consecutive year. Record crops have been gathered in Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Mali, Mauritania and Senegal, while above-average output is anticipated in Chad and Niger. Output is estimated to remain below average in Guinea-Bissau due to civil strife and population displacement in 1998. The good crops should allow farmers to reconstitute their stocks. National security stocks were also replenished in several countries. Markets are well supplied and cereal prices have decreased substantially since the harvest.

In the coastal countries along the Gulf of Guinea, the rainy season has just started and planting of the first 2000 maize crop is in progress in the south. Record cereal crops have been harvested in 1999 in Benin, Guinea, Nigeria and Togo. Output remained average in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana and below pre-civil war levels in Liberia and Sierra Leone. The aggregate 1999 cereal output for the eight countries along the Gulf of Guinea is estimated at around 29.8 million tonnes compared to 29.3 million tonnes in 1998. Liberia and Sierra Leone remain heavily dependent on international food assistance.

Central Africa: Civil strife in both the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo continues to hamper agriculture and marketing activities. In the Republic of Congo, floods affected the north and the capital Brazzaville in November/December. There are concerns regarding the nutritional situation of displaced people.

Eastern Africa: Harvesting of the 2000 wheat crop has started in the Sudan. Despite favourable growing conditions with adequate temperatures and irrigation water supplies, a below-average crop is anticipated due to reduced plantings. Nevertheless, at the latest forecast level of about 288 000 tonnes, production would be well above last year's reduced level. Planting of the 2000 wheat crop is scheduled in the next two months in Kenya and Ethiopia.

The subregion's 1999 aggregate wheat crop is estimated at 1.5 million tonnes, about 24 percent below the average for the previous five years. In Sudan, production was sharply reduced at 167 000 tonnes, while in Kenya, latest estimates put output at 135 000 tonnes, substantially below the 1998 crop, due to drought. In Ethiopia, the 1999 wheat crop is estimated at 1.2 million tonnes, some 5 percent above that of the previous year.

Harvesting of the 1999/2000 secondary season coarse grains is almost completed in the subregion, except in Ethiopia. FAO's latest estimate puts the subregion's aggregate output in 1999 at about 18.5 million tonnes, 10 percent below the good output of 1998. Following extended drought during the growing season, below-average crops were harvested in most countries. In Ethiopia, the main Meher crop, accounting for some 90 percent of the annual production, was about 6 percent below the 1998 harvest. Continued drought is also jeopardizing the planting of the secondary Belg crop. In Kenya, the 1999/2000 aggregate coarse grains output is estimated at 2.3 million tonnes, about 15 percent below the average for the previous five years. In Eritrea, the 1999 coarse grains are estimated to be about one-third of the record crop of 436 000 tonnes in 1998 and about 23 percent below average. Also in Sudan, the 1999 coarse grains harvest declined by about 35 percent compared to 1998, to about 3.6 million tonnes. In Uganda, provisional estimates indicate a coarse grains output of about 1.6 million tonnes, some 3 percent and 9 percent below 1998 and the average respectively. In Tanzania, the coarse grains harvest, estimated at 3.2 million tonnes, is about 10 percent below the 1998 output and 5 percent below average. Production of coarse grains in Somalia is estimated at 242 000 tonnes, about 24 percent above 1998 but nearly 17 percent below the average for the previous five years.

Southern Africa: The aggregate wheat crop in the subregion, harvested in late 1999, is estimated at 2 million tonnes, nearly 10 percent down from the already below-average crop of the previous year. This reflects a sharp decline in South Africa, the largest producer of the subregion, where the crop is estimated at about 1.6 million tonnes, down from 1.8 million tonnes in 1998, due to diversion of land to more profitable crops. By contrast, outputs increased significantly in Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Prospects for the subregion's aggregate 2000 coarse grains crop, to be harvested from April, are favourable. Although hurricanes Eline and Gloria in February/March caused extensive damage to some parts, the major maize growing areas have not been affected by the flooding, and the abundant rains have benefited some crops that were stressed by earlier dry weather. However, the situation varies from country to country and remains uncertain pending an assessment of the impact of the heavy rains, but also of erratic and insufficient precipitation in several areas

In South Africa, which accounts for over half of the subregion's coarse grains output, latest official forecast indicate a bumper maize crop of 9.5 million tonnes, compared with 7.1 million tonnes last year, despite the losses in some provinces. In Mozambique, floods have not affected the major growing areas of the north, which benefited from good rains in March. However, prospects for the harvest have deteriorated with the crop damage in southern and central parts. In Zimbabwe, this year's maize production is anticipated to decline mostly due to lower plantings, but, heavy rains in February and March may have also resulted in yield reductions. In Malawi, despite crop losses in the south, abundant rains from the second dekad of February improved prospects for the maize crop in central and northern parts, which had been affected by dry weather earlier in the season. Official forecasts indicate a 2000 maize production of about 2.3 million tonnes, 6 percent below the record harvest of last year. In Swaziland, the outlook for the harvest is poor reflecting excessive rains in December and severe flooding in early February. Maize production is forecast to decrease by 37 percent to well-below average levels. In Botswana, prospects are uncertain reflecting heavy rains over the past two months and severe flooding in late February. In Zambia, abundant rains since mid-February have benefited the main maize crop, which was affected by erratic precipitation earlier in the season. In Namibia, the outlook remains uncertain; heavy rains in mid-February in the major northern growing areas have been followed by below average precipitation until the second dekad of March. More rains are needed to avoid yield reductions. The outlook is also uncertain in Angola, reflecting below-average precipitation since February in the important central growing areas, and continuous movements of population during the growing season due to the civil war. In Lesotho, despite overall good rains since mid-February, coarse grains yields may have been affected by a prolonged dry spell at the beginning of the season and, subsequently, by floods in the lowlands.

Prospects are unfavourable for the 2000/01 paddy crop in the subregion. Madagascar and Mozambique, the two main rice producing countries, were among the worst affected by the recent torrential rains and floods. In Mozambique, the southern and central provinces, where much of the rice is produced, suffered the most. In Madagascar, the flood-related losses have worsened the outlook for the paddy season which was already sub-optimal due to drought conditions between late December and early February that depressed plantings. An assessment of crop losses is to be carried out as soon as conditions permit, but current expectations are for an appreciable fall in paddy output in both countries.

Central America and the Caribbean

Prospects have slightly improved for the 2000 wheat crop in the main producing irrigated areas in the north-west of Mexico, virtually the sole producer in the subregion. Harvesting is about to start and output is provisionally forecast to be slightly-below average, reflecting adverse weather at planting and a subsequent long dry spell.

In the Central American countries, land is being prepared for planting of the 2000/2001 first season coarse grains and bean crops, which should start with the arrival of the first rains of the season in April. Intended plantings for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua are expected to be close to 1999/2000 average or above-average levels. In Honduras, however, the outlook is uncertain for the maize crop in particular, largely because of financial constraints on producers. In the Caribbean, relatively dry weather has prevailed in the last few weeks but no negative impact is reported for the developing cereal crops in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Harvesting is due to start from April and average outturns are anticipated in these countries. In Cuba, the dry weather has benefited harvesting of the important foreign exchange earner sugar crop, as well as that of potato and other minor foodcrops.

South America

Harvesting of the 1999/2000 wheat crop is complete in the southern countries of the subregion (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay), following some delays in the major producing areas as a result of irregular adverse weather. Aggregate output is estimated at 18.5 million tonnes, which compares to the 5-year average of 17.8 million tonnes. At present, land is being prepared throughout the southern countries for planting of the 2000/2001 wheat crop and planting has recently started in Brazil. In the Andean countries, average 1999 wheat crops were collected in Ecuador, Colombia and Bolivia, although production in the latter country decreased from the previous year. In Peru, a bumper 1999 wheat crop was obtained. Planting of the 2000 wheat crop is currently underway in these countries, with the exception of Bolivia where harvesting of the first season crop for this year (planted in late 1999) is about to start.

Harvesting of the 2000 coarse grain crops, principally maize, has started in the southern areas of the subregion. In Argentina, recent favourable weather conditions have benefited the developing crop and preliminary forecasts point to an above-average output between 15 and 15.5 million tonnes. This mainly reflects increased plantings in anticipation of expanding exports. In Brazil, harvesting of the maize crop started in February and production is presently forecast at some 32.2 million tonnes, which is about average but below earlier estimates. A prolonged period of dry weather, particularly in the main southern growing areas, affected plantings. In Uruguay, the area planted has also been affected by the dry weather and production is likely to be below average. In Chile, heavy rains and winds in January have been reported but with no serious damage so far to the maize crop, which is expected to recover from last year's drought reduced level. In the Andean countries, in Bolivia, harvesting of the 2000 first (main) maize crop has started under generally dry weather principally in the eastern department of Santa Cruz. By contrast, in the southern department of Tarija, the crops have been affected by heavy rains. In Ecuador, normal rains in February benefited the developing maize crops. The harvest of the 2000 first maize (yellow) crop is about to start and early forecasts point to an average output. In Colombia, heavy rains in early March in the western parts of the country have delayed planting of the 2000 main maize crop. Early forecasts indicate that average plantings are intended. In Venezuela, rehabilitation and reconstruction programmes continue to be implemented in the states affected by mudslides and floodings in December. Normal weather conditions have resumed and planting of the main maize crop is due from April.

Harvesting of the 2000 paddy crop has started in South America, but unfavourable growing conditions in some countries have affected rice crops to varying degrees. In addition, there are indications that lower prices during the previous season triggered an area shift out of rice cultivation in the subregion. In Brazil, the subregion's largest rice producer, plantings are estimated to have declined by 3 percent to about 3.6 million hectares. However, paddy output, may fall only slightly as higher yields are expected. In Argentina, the Government has estimated a 31 percent fall in rice area for the 2000 crop to about 200 000 hectares following a switch of land from rice to soybeans. Inadequate soil moisture at planting time resulting in uneven crop germination could also contribute to a reduction in yields, so, overall paddy output is forecast to drop by about 37 percent. Rice area in Peru is estimated to have declined by 9 percent and output is forecast to fall by 12 percent. By contrast, rice cultivation in Chile increased by 35 percent from 1999 to about 20 000 hectares, in response to an improvement in water supplies and higher producer prices.

North America

In the United States, wheat output could fall somewhat further in 2000 after a sharp decline already in 1999. Latest official estimates put winter wheat plantings at about 17.5 million hectares, virtually unchanged from the previous year's reduced area. Conditions for crops improved significantly in late March following widespread rains in the U.S. Plains, where moisture had generally been greatly lacking since planting time. Nevertheless, in some of the worst hit areas, damaged wheat crops will likely be replaced with other cereals this spring. Early indications for spring wheat plantings in the USDA Prospective Planting Report point to a 5 percent reduction in area to about 7.5 million hectares. Assuming the forecast spring wheat area materializes, and normal weather conditions prevail for the rest of the season, FAO currently forecasts the aggregate 2000 wheat output in the United States at about 60 million tonnes. In Canada, the bulk of the 2000 wheat crop is due to be sown from May to June. The area planted is expected to increase somewhat as producers shift land out of oilseeds in response higher returns expected for wheat. However, a return to average yields after the bumper levels in 1999, is expected to offset the area increase, and overall output of wheat is tentatively forecast at about 26 million tonnes, compared to 26.8 million tonnes in 1999.

In the United States some early coarse grains crops are already in the ground in southern parts, but the bulk of the maize planting in the Corn Belt states takes place from late April. Early indications in the USDA Prospective Planting Report point to a slight increase of 1 percent in maize plantings but a 3 percent decline for sorghum. Despite some widespread rains in late March across the Corn Belt States, more precipitation is still needed to ensure conditions are satisfactory for planting. In Canada, the bulk of the coarse grains crops will be sown in May-June. Early indications point to a marginal increase in barley area.

In the United States, planting of this season's rice crop is scheduled to commence in April. Given the low prices and high level of stocks, the area under rice is anticipated to decline by some 5-7 percent from the previous season.


In the EC, latest indications continue to point to an increase in cereal area for the 2000 harvest, largely at the expense of oilseeds. The overall wheat area is forecast to increase by about 4 percent to some 17.5 million hectares. Weather conditions are reported to have been generally favourable throughout the Community so far, and assuming normal conditions prevail, aggregate wheat output is forecast to increase by about 7 percent to nearly 105 million tonnes. For coarse grains, much will depend still on the outcome of spring/summer planting, which is only just starting. At this early stage, FAO tentatively forecasts the Community's aggregate coarse grains crop in 2000 at about 104 million tonnes, marginally up from 1999. In the EC, the paddy season is getting underway. Since 1996, rice area in the EC has stabilized at about 400 000 hectares with production averaging approximately 2.6 million tonnes. Both paddy area and output for the current season are not expected to be much different.
Among the main producing countries, in the EC the wheat area is forecast to increase by some 2 percent in France, by 11 percent in Germany, and by about 14 percent in the United Kingdom. In Italy, soft wheat plantings are reported to have decreased by about 6.6 percent due to adverse autumn weather in the northern producing areas, while later plantings of durum wheat in the central and southern parts have increased. In Spain, official reports indicate that the overall wheat area has declined only marginally from that in the previous year. However, prospects have deteriorated in recent weeks following persisting dry conditions throughout the winter.

Elsewhere in Europe, prospects for the 2000 cereal crops are mixed. In Albania, generally better weather conditions for the autumn cereal planting suggest some recovery in cereal production could be possible after adverse weather affected the cereal area and output in 1999. In Bosnia Herzegovina, the area sown to wheat is expected to decline further in response to unremunerative support prices but the area sown to coarse grains (mainly maize) could increase further. In Bulgaria, the winter wheat area is estimated at 1.1 million hectares and output is forecasts at 3.2 million tonnes, slightly up from the previous year. Early indications for the spring sown coarse grains (mainly maize) point to a similar area and output as in the previous year. In Croatia, despite persistent shortages of fertilizer, the outlook is for the 2000 wheat harvest to recover somewhat from the poor level of 1999 (0.6 million tonnes). Winter cereal plantings in the Czech Republic are estimated up by about 15 percent from the previous year, with the bulk of the increase accounted for by winter wheat. The wheat area is estimated at over 900 000 hectares which, assuming normal weather, should ensure a crop in excess of 4 million tonnes for the second year in succession. In the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, no significant change is expected in cereal production in 2000. Wheat output is tentatively forecast at about 380 000 tonnes.

In Hungary, the winter wheat area is estimated at about 1 million hectares, some 35 percent up from the previous year's reduced level. Assuming normal weather conditions wheat output could reach about 4 million tonnes in 2000. In Poland, early indications point to a decline in cereal output in 2000 because of poor producer price prospects, largely due to a sharp decline in demand for feed grains. Overall winter cereal sowings are officially reported to be down by 4 percent to 5.1 million hectares; the winter wheat area is estimated at about 1.8 million hectares, and that of rye at 2.2 million hectares. In Romania, latest reports indicate that the winter wheat area has increased from the previous year's reduced level to about 1.8 million hectares. Assuming normal weather, output could increase to about 5 million tonnes (1999: 4.7 million tonnes). In the Slovak Republic, favourable weather conditions for the winter cereal planting season point to a recovery in winter cereal plantings and output in 2000 after 1999's reduced crop. Likewise, in Slovenia, a recovery in cereal output is expected this year after adverse weather reduced last year's harvest.

In the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, (Serbia and Montenegro), rapid inflation and shortages of funds, diesel fuel, fertilizers and operational machinery could keep both the area sown and yields low. Indications are that the area sown for the 2000 wheat crop has increased somewhat but remained below average. The official estimate of the 1999 cereal harvest has been revised downward to 8.6 million tonnes, only marginally less than output in 1998.

In the Baltics, indications are that the area sown to winter cereals (mainly wheat and rye) for harvest in 2000 recovered sharply and grain output could recover to about 4 million tonnes, including 1.3 million tonnes of wheat. Official estimates of the 1999 cereal harvest indicate that output fell to only 3.4 million tonnes, 21 percent less than in 1998. Aggregate output of wheat was reduced by 23 percent to 1.2 million tonnes (1998: 1.6 million tonnes) while coarse grain harvests contracted by 20 percent to 3.4 million tonnes. All three countries have lower output, but the reduction is most marked in Lithuania where the 1999 grain harvest reached only 2.1 million tonnes (1998: 2.7 million tonnes). In Latvia, the aggregate harvest was reduced by nearly 20 percent to 787 000 tonnes.

In the CIS countries west of the Ural Mountains, governments are trying to come to grips with the need to increase the 2000 grain harvest (cereals and pulses) after disappointing harvests in 1999 in Belarus, Moldova and the Ukraine and a tight grain supply situation also in the Russian Federation. Early, tentative indications are that the aggregate grain harvest in 2000 in these four countries could be somewhat higher mainly due to some recovery in the Russian Federation, provided normal weather conditions prevail. Elsewhere, in the absence of exceptionally favourable weather conditions, chronic economic problems in the sector could continue to keep the harvests low.

The outlook for winter grains (mainly wheat and rye but also some barley) to be harvested in the summer of 2000 has improved somewhat and spring fieldwork is just getting underway. In the Russian Federation, winter grains have benefited from good growing conditions to date; nearly 13 million hectares of grain are reported to be in good or satisfactory condition with winterkill limited to 1 million hectares. High prices for grains following last year's second below-average harvest in succession (estimated by FAO at 60 million tonnes of cereals and pulses) coupled with somewhat more effective implementation of central government directives to ensure inputs for the 2000 grain harvest, could lead to an increase in the area sown to spring grains and, given normal weather, a further recovery in production, perhaps to 70 million tonnes. In the Ukraine, the outlook for the 2000 grain harvest remains uncertain. Unusually mild weather this winter has enabled some late planted winter grains to develop; the extent of winterkill could be less than 1 million hectares but inadequate use of inputs could still keep yields low. High fuel prices, ongoing farm reorganization and uncertain sources of credit for inputs could depress the area sown this spring and result in another poor harvest, not significantly larger than the estimated 27 million tonnes harvested in 1999. In Belarus and Moldova, even if the weather proves more favourable this crop year, the economic difficulties, which beset the sector in 1999, could also keep the 2000 grain harvests below average.


In Australia, planting of the main 2000 wheat and coarse grains crops is due to start in May. Early official forecasts indicate a decline in wheat production to about 22.7 million tonnes after the 1999 record crop, now estimated at just over 24 million tonnes. The forecast is based on expected plantings of 11.8 million hectares, just marginally down from 11.95 million hectares in the previous year, and an assumption of average seasonal weather conditions, giving an average yield of about 1.9 tonnes/hectare (2.01 tonnes/hectare in 1999). Regarding barley, the major winter coarse grain crop, early forecasts point to a sharp increase in production from 4.3 million tonnes in 1999 to 5.3 million tonnes in response to relatively better price prospects compared to other crops. Harvest of the minor 1999 summer coarse grains crop, mainly sorghum and maize, is underway. Output of sorghum is forecast at about 1.3 million tonnes compared to 1.7 million tonnes in 1999, reflecting reduced plantings. Harvesting of the 2000 paddy crop is in progress. Output is officially forecast to contract by over 20 percent from the previous season to about 1.1 million tonnes. This is largely attributed to a decline in area planted as concerns about the availability of irrigation water induced a shift out of rice cultivation.

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