FAO/GIEWS - Foodcrops & Shortages No.2, April 2000


EC (5 April)

Weather conditions for developing winter crops and for early spring crop planting are reported to have been generally satisfactory so far, with the exception of the Mediterranean areas where precipitation has been below normal in the past two months. Latest indications continue to point to an increase in the aggregate 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 17.6 million hectares and, based on the overall weather conditions for the season so far, early indications suggest that average yields may be somewhat higher than in the previous year. Yields are expected to increase especially in France, Germany and the United Kingdom, while dry conditions in Italy, Portugal and Spain could limit the potential in these countries. FAO forecasts this year's aggregate wheat output in the Community at about 105 million, 7 percent up from 1999. For coarse grains, while conditions for the winter barley crops in the northern latitudes are reported to be good so far, 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. The paddy season is getting underway among the producing countries, and the area is expected to remain at about 400 000 hectares, the level at which it has stabilized since 1996. Assuming normal weather, output is also expected to remain close to the normal for the past few years at about 2.6 million tonnes.

ALBANIA (6 April)

Generally favourable weather conditions for autumn cereal planting suggest some recovery in cereal production could be possible in 2000 after adverse weather during both the previous autumn and spring planting periods reduced overall cereal area and output in 1999. However, production potential remains limited by an absence of credit, which is the major constraint on the increased use of fertilizer and other inputs. Food assistance continues to be provided by WFP for some 60 000 persons who have been rendered vulnerable by the Balkan crisis.

BELARUS (23 March)

Despite upbeat official reports on the outlook for winter grains, the overall situation in agriculture is very problematic. Official reports indicate that the area sown to winter grains is above target at 1.155 million hectares; that sown to wheat increased by 4 percent to 240 000 hectares. Growing conditions have been favourable to date and winter grains are reported to be in a satisfactory condition. The outlook for spring grain plantings, however, is clouded by shortages of working capital, fuel, fertilizer, pesticides and operational machinery. The country's agricultural system is still largely unreformed and is being strangled by government-controlled input and output prices in an economic context of budget deficits and rapid inflation. The government hopes that increased use of fertilizer and better weather conditions will result in a grain harvest of at least 5 million tonnes in 2000.

In 1999, agricultural output fell by 10 percent and over one third of agricultural enterprises worked at a loss. Severe economic problems and adverse weather reduced the grain harvest to 3.6 million tonnes, almost 40 percent below the average of the last five years, and 25 percent less than the poor harvest of 1998. Production could be under-reported given the degree of market interference exercised by the government and the consequent shortages of most items in the official distribution chain. Output of livestock products also decreased, significantly in the case of milk. Over 80 percent of the population have salaries below the poverty line.

Following the second poor cereal harvest in succession, the country needs to import cereals for human consumption and animal feed. Food needs are likely to be met but foreign exchange constraints could limit the volume of feedgrains purchased, pointing to a further decline in livestock production in 2000. Aggregate cereal imports in 1999/2000 could double to 1.5 million tonnes.


Latest indications are that the area sown to winter crops is trending downwards, reflecting poor profitability of wheat. The early outlook for 2000 winter crops is satisfactory. By contrast, the area sown to maize continues to increase. Latest indications are that the 1999 cereal harvest, at 1.1 million tonnes, was about 4 percent less than in the preceding year, mainly due to adverse weather and low wheat prices. The economy has been negatively affected by civil unrest in the region but indications are that the crop and overall food supply situation have not been unduly disrupted. Some 800 000 people remain displaced throughout Bosnia.

BULGARIA (6 April)

Latest information points to a recovery in wheat production this year from the reduced crop in 1999. The winter wheat area (which accounts for all of the wheat crop) is estimated at 1.1 million hectares, virtually unchanged from the previous year's level, but weather during the sowing period and throughout the winter so far is reported to have been very favourable. In fact, analyses of the weather conditions so far this season indicate a strong likelihood of higher yields than in the previous year. This is reflected in the latest official forecast which puts 2000 wheat output at 3.2 million tonnes, compared to 3.1 million tonnes last year. Early indications also suggest that the quality of the 2000 wheat crop will improve compared to 1999 reflecting the better weather and increased use of inputs. Following a poor quality wheat harvest in 1999, Bulgaria is allowing unlimited duty-free imports for wheat for this year and for wheat flour for the period 1 March-30 July. Early indications for the spring sown coarse grains (mainly maize) point to a similar area and output as in the previous year.

CROATIA (23 March)

The outlook for winter wheat is satisfactory and output could recover somewhat. Indications are that the area sown to winter cereals increased following the poor harvest last year. However, economic problems, and in particular shortages of chemicals and fertilizers, will continue to hinder cereal production.

The 1999 cereal harvest fell by 10 percent to 2.9 million tonnes. Good yields for maize only partially offset the 46 percent fall in wheat production to 558 000 tonnes. Economic problems, which reduced winter grain plantings, were exacerbated by poor weather.

The country has large stocks of wheat and the government has approved the export sale of 200 000 tonnes of surplus wheat.


Winter cereal plantings in the Czech Republic are estimated up by about 15 percent from the previous year at about 1.1 million hectares, with the bulk of the increase accounted for by winter wheat. The wheat area is estimated at over 900 000 hectares. Weather conditions so far this season have been generally favourable for the winter crops and early indications suggest average yields will be similar to or slightly above those in the previous year. FAO currently forecasts wheat output in 2000 at about 4.2 million tonnes.

ESTONIA (10 April)

Winter grains have benefited from favourable growing conditions and the area sown has increased. The early outlook for a recovery cereal production in 2000 is satisfactory. Spring grain planting will start soon. Cereal production in 1999 is officially estimated to be some 15 percent less than output in 1998 in view of a reduction in the area sown. Production of livestock products fell across the board, in response to reduced import demand in the Russian Federation. In 1999/2000, cereal imports are forecast at 166 000 tonnes.


No significant change is expected in cereal production in 2000. Weather conditions for the winter crops are reported to have been generally favourable. Output of wheat is expected to remain at around 350 000-400 000 tonnes. Food assistance continues to be provided by WFP for 20 000 persons who were rendered vulnerable by the Balkan crisis.

HUNGARY (6 April)

Prospects remain favourable for the winter grains. The wheat area is estimated to have increased to about 1.1 million hectares, and although some 100 000 hectares are reported to have been lost due to floods earlier in the year, the final area harvested is likely to be well up from last year, when plantings amounted to only 700 000 hectares. Generally favourable weather during the past two months has benefited crops, and assuming normal conditions prevail for the remainder of the season, output of wheat should recover significantly from last year's reduced crop to in excess of 4 million tonnes.

LATVIA (24 March)

Good overwintering conditions and a recovery in the area sown to winter grains, given higher cereal prices in neighbouring countries, point to a recovery in the 2000 winter grain harvest. The 1999 grain harvest fell by 19 percent to 787 000 tonnes in response to an 11 percent reduction in the area sown. With livestock production remaining depressed, imports of cereals are limited to about 70 000 tonnes per annum, mainly of bread quality wheat.

LITHUANIA (24 March)

The outlook for 2000 winter grains is satisfactory. Early indications are that the area sown to winter cereals and yields could recover this year. Payment for produce procured by the Government in 1999 has been punctual this year, facilitating spring planting scheduled to start next month. The 1999 grain harvest fell by 25 percent to 2.1 million tonnes in response to a cutback in the area sown and lower yields. Despite the lower harvest, the overall food supply situation is likely to remain satisfactory in view of the substantial carry-forward stocks of cereals.

MOLDOVA (24 March)

The grain production target in 2000 is 2.8 million tonnes, including 1 million tonnes of wheat and 1.5 million tonnes of maize. The outlook for 2000 winter crops has improved. Dry conditions hampered winter crop establishment but good snowfall and the mild winter has improved crop conditions.

The aggregate 1999 grain harvest fell to 2.18 million tonnes, (from 2.5 million tonnes in 1998) in response to an 11 percent reduction in the area sown to wheat and dry conditions, which affected spring grains. In the absence of exports, this year's reduced harvest would be almost adequate to meet domestic food needs and significant commercial imports of cereals are not expected in the 1999/2000 marketing year (July/June). However, government purchases of bread grains are proceeding slowly and there are reports of substantial, but unrecorded, exports.

POLAND (6 April)

A decline in cereal output is in prospect in 2000, largely reflecting reduced plantings because of poor producer price prospects. 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.

ROMANIA (6 April)

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). The milling wheat supply situation is still reported to be tight in the country after last year's reduced crop.


The early outlook for winter grains in 2000 is good. The area sown to winter crops, now officially estimated at 14.16 million hectares) includes some 13.4 million hectares sown to grains, marginally more than in the preceding year. The condition of the crop is significantly better this year. The area affected by winterkill (at 7-10 percent) is expected to be below average and about half that in the preceding year. Spring fieldwork has started in southern areas. Soil moisture reserves are good, but there is a backlog of ploughing and some seed shortages are also reported. The financial situation of the sector as a whole improved in 1999 and the government has taken measures to improve access to fertilizers and plant protection chemicals. Nevertheless, shortages of inputs (credit, operational machinery, fuel and working capital) are likely to continue to constrain yields. The spring crop planting target is 60 million hectares, including 37.5 million hectares of grain.

FAO estimates the 1999 grain harvest at 60 million tonnes, some 6 million tonnes more than the drought reduced output of 1998, but still below average. Despite the somewhat larger harvest, the overall supply situation remains tight and there is no scope to rebuild stocks drawn down in 1998/99. At the aggregate level, human consumption needs are being covered, but livestock feed is scarce, pointing to a further reduction in output. Cereal prices, which remained stable until the beginning of this year, are also rising.

Total cereal utilization in 1999/2000 is estimated to decline by 1.0 million tonnes to 72 million tonnes, including 21 million tonnes for direct food use, 0.5 million tonnes for export to neighbouring republics, and the balance for seed, feed, losses, industrial processing and (minimum) closing stocks. Against this requirement, domestic availability of cereals (production and stocks) is estimated at barely 65 million tonnes, leaving an import requirement of 7.9 million tonnes. Food aid pledges in the 1999/2000 marketing year to date have been limited to 300 000 tonnes of wheat (plus another 200 000 tonnes of wheat and processed commodities for targeted distribution). In addition, the adjusted food aid pledges carried forward from 1998/99 amount to 2.8 million tonnes, leaving a balance of 4.7 million tonnes to be covered by commercial imports. In the first eight months of the current marketing year some 5.6 million tonnes have been delivered, including 2.4 million tonnes of cereals from Kazakhstan. Some humanitarian food relief is being distributed by private voluntary organizations to public institutions catering for people in need.

Strife in Chechnya has led to destruction of whole towns, villages, essential infrastructure and agriculture. The number of Internally Displaced Persons from Chechnya in Ingushetia fluctuates in accordance with the intensity of the hostilities and some people are beginning to move back. The UN during its Mission in February 2000, estimated the number at 185 000, approximately 75 percent of whom stay with host families, whose members number 70 000. The burden of the large number of IDPs in relation to the population (320 000) has exhausted the basic services which Ingushetia, itself an economically deprived region, can provide and considerable humanitarian assistance is needed over a broad spectrum including food aid, shelter, health and nutrition, water and sanitation, education, income generation and preparatory rehabilitation activities, logistics and coordination. Both the IDPs and the host families were found to need basic food relief as well as assistance with heath and nutrition. WFP will assume responsibility for the food needs of the 150 000 IDPs in Ingushetia, while UNHCR will target the host families. Distribution is a challenge as refugees are living in 261 different locations in Ingushetia. Health remains a major problem in both Chechnya and Ingushetia, reflecting inadequate water and sanitation facilities.

In Chechnya itself, authorities are distributing food in some Russian controlled areas. Steps are being taken to provide inputs to plant some 80 000 hectares of the 190 000 hectares of land suitable for cropping. However, both the security situation and timely arrival and distribution of the necessary funds and inputs remain problematic. The outlook for food production in Chechnya in the current year is poor, due also to the extent of the damage to the existing infrastructure, livestock and grape industry and the need to first clear mines from arable land.

When the security situation improves, returning populations, without immediate prospects of harvest and employment, will need considerable help.


Cereal output in 2000 is expected to recover somewhat after drought reduced production in 1999. The wheat area is tentatively estimated at about 400 000 hectares and output should recover to in excess of 1.5 million tonnes. SLOVENIA (6 April)

A recovery in cereal output is expected in 2000 after last year's drought-reduced harvest. This season's winter grain planting was completed within the optimal time period and weather conditions for crop establishment were favourable.

THE UKRAINE (27 March)

The area sown to winter crops reached 7.9 million hectares. Although crop establishment was hindered by late sowing and dry soils, good overwintering conditions have improved crop conditions and less than the earlier envisaged 1.1 million hectares may need to be resown. Heavy snowfalls have replenished soil moisture reserves.

The outlook for spring grain plantings, just underway in some southern areas, is uncertain. Reorganization of the former state farms in the wake of a government decree of 3 December 1999, without proper resolution of the problem of debts to private input providers, has left between one quarter and one half of farms with little sound basis for negotiating credit for inputs. The Government has allocated funds for up to 50 percent interest compensation but due to the proven high risks, banks and many input providers are wary of lending to producers. Shortages and the high price of fuel have recently been relieved by imports, without duty or taxes, but even so fuel dealers want up to 4.7 tonnes of wheat in exchange for 1 tonne of diesel on credit. Overall, the high risks/costs associated with credit and the poor solvency of farms could compromise this year's harvest.

The aggregate 1999 grain harvest is estimated by FAO at 27 million tonnes, some 2 million tonnes less than the preceding year's 29 million tonnes. Current indications are that poor solvency of farms may not result in a 2000 grain harvest which is significantly higher. Following the second poor harvest in succession and large exports (5.8 million tonnes in 1998/99 and 2.5 million tonnes up to January 2000), FAO tentatively forecasts 1999/2000 cereal exports at 3.1 million tonnes, including 2.1 million tonnes of wheat, and cereal imports at less than 0.5 million tonnes, mainly wheat and rice.


Poor returns for 1999 crops, shortages of inputs, working capital and delays in harvesting the 1999 crop have kept winter crop planting below target. Latest reports indicate that only 730 000 hectares, 3 percent more than last year, have been sown to wheat, the major winter grain. Growing conditions to date have been mostly satisfactory but the high prices and shortage of inputs are likely to keep yields low. Finance and input problems could also prevent the spring sowing target of 1.55 million hectares (including 1.37 million hectares of maize) being met.

In 1999, a record maize harvest of 6.1 million tonnes offset the poor wheat harvest of only 2 million tonnes, and aggregate output is officially estimated at an about average 8.6 million tonnes. Early indications are that the 2000 grain harvest may remain close to this level. The country has exported 150 000 tonnes of wheat as well as maize in 1999/2000.

The country is in a state of acute economic crisis in the wake of the conflict over Kosovo and several successive years of economic sanctions. WFP currently continues to provide food assistance for nearly 1 million beneficiaries in Serbia (excluding Kosovo Province) and Montenegro, including refugees and economically and socially deprived people. Other organizations are providing assistance for a further 200 000 IDPs in Serbia.

In the Kosovo Province, latest information on the developing wheat crop generally confirms earlier estimates made by an FAO Crop Assessment Mission in January. The wheat area is estimated to be about 80 000 hectares, well up from the previous year but still somewhat below the normal level before the civil disturbances. Weather conditions so far this season are reported to have been generally favourable with good soil water reserves now available for crop development, but there remains considerable uncertainty over farmers access to nitrogenous fertilizer and herbicides for spring applications, especially in the southern and western parts of the Province. Land preparation for the summer crops is reported to be well under way and availability of seeds and fertilizer for the maize crop is reported to be good.

The total beneficiary caseload in the Province, included in the UN Consolidated Appeal for South East Europe, is currently being phased down from 900 000 to 600 000, as anticipated in the Appeal, reflecting improvements in economic conditions in the Province.

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