AUSTRALIA (13 February)
In Australia, the recently completed 2000 winter wheat harvest is now officially estimated at 21.2 million tonnes, slightly up from the previous forecast but nevertheless still considerably below the 1999 crop of 25 million tonnes. Reduced yields in Western Australia and Queensland, due to dry weather, more than offset bumper crops in some other regions. Output of winter coarse grains (mostly barley and oats), recovered from the reduced level in 1999 due to increased plantings but remained below the average of the past five years. Aggregate coarse grains output in 2000 is estimated at 9.5 million tonnes, about 10 percent up from the previous year’s reduced crop. Early prospects for the summer 2001 coarse grain crops (mostly sorghum), which have recently been planted are somewhat unfavourable because of dry conditions and the final area sown is likely to be reduced. Planting of the 2001 season rice is progressing and Government reports indicate that the planted area could expand by 19 percent.
FIJI (5 February)
Rainfall in December was abundant and widespread, with total levels ranging from 200 to 400 percent above average levels in some areas, particularly during the first two weeks. Near normal conditions prevailed in January, with some regions recording even below-average levels of rains. Overall, conditions have been favourable for the major crops produced in the country, including sugar cane, coconut, ginger and fruits such as mangoes and papaya. The food supply situation in the country is generally good, but serious nutritional problems are reported in several areas.
PAPUA NEW GUINEA (5 February)
A series of earthquakes hit the country in December 2000, affecting mostly northern areas. Although some of the earthquakes reached 6 and 8 degrees on the Richter scale, the reported injuries and damage were relatively limited, compared to previous years’ similar disasters such as the one in 1998 which killed many people and destroyed crops and property.
SAMOA (15 February)
Dry conditions prevailed in both December and January, which is unusual for the season. More widespread rains are needed during the next four months for normal crop development.
SOLOMON ISLANDS (5 February)
The security situation remains volatile since the peace agreement was signed last October to end two years of civil strife in the Islands. In January 2001, the UN Security Council expressed its strong support for the agreement and various donors in Europe, Asia and the Pacific are now offering to assist and contribute to the process of rehabilitation, reconstruction and economic development.