FAO/GIEWS - Food Outlook No.2 - April 2001 p. 5

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Current Production and Crop Prospects

Position by Region

Position by Region

· Asia

Far East: Harvesting of the 2001 wheat crop will begin from April and overall production is likely to be reduced by drought in a number of countries. In China, winter snow in January/February improved soil moisture levels and favoured the winter wheat crop in the main producing areas. The 2001 winter wheat production is now forecast at 92.5 million tonnes, over 1 million tonnes higher than the earlier forecast. Total winter and spring wheat production this year is currently forecast at 100.5 million tonnes, some 500 000 tonnes below last year. The wheat crop in India, to be harvested in the next few weeks, is expected to be considerably down, by some 5 to 7 million tonnes, on last year's record crop of 75.5 million tonnes. Extensive drought in Pakistan will also result in a significantly lower wheat crop of around 17.5 million tonnes compared to the record 21 million tonnes produced in 2000.

A significant recovery in maize production is expected in China this year, following last year's severely drought-reduced crop. Current information indicates that production will be around 120 million tonnes, up some 15 million tonnes on 2000. The increase is largely attributed to a 6 percent increase in area planted to maize this year. The area under the crop, however, is still lower than in 1999. 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, the current estimate of 2000 production is 31.5 million tonnes, some 3 percent above the previous year. Maize production in the Philippines will be around 4.1 million tonnes compared to 4.5 million tonnes last year. The decline is partly attributed to a wetter dry season than normal which led many producers to shift from maize to rice.

In China (Mainland), the world largest rice producer, early expectations for the 2001 rice season point to a drop of about 2 million tonnes over last year's 190 million tonnes. The anticipated reduction mainly reflects lower plantings in the Yangtze basin and Southern China of the early rice crop, which is not subject to minimum protective price since 2000. In Thailand, planting of the 2001 main rice crop will begin in May/June. Current forecasts put area and production in 2001 at 10 million hectares and 24 million tonnes respectively, basically unchanged from the past season. In Viet Nam, planting of the 10th month rice crop, the first crop of the 2001 season, will begin in May with the arrival of the monsoon rains. Domestic prices have continued to fall and the Government has announced it would purchase 1 million tonnes of paddy by April to sustain the market. In the Philippines, the 2001 main rice crop will begin in July. FAO's current forecast for the 2001 rice season puts production at a record 12.6 million tonnes, up from the 12.5 million tonnes achieved last year. In India, the 2001 season is scheduled to start in May with the planting of the main Kharif crop. The country's production this season is forecast to recover by about 3 million tonnes from the previous year's depressed level of 130 million tonnes, based on the assumption of a return to normal weather conditions. Japan recently launched a new policy package aimed at curbing rice surpluses, in particular, by raising the land diversion programme for rice by 100 000 hectares to over 1 million hectares. This measure, combined with a fall in yields to average levels, might reduce production by about almost 1 million tonnes, to 10.9 million tonnes.

In Indonesia, harvesting of the 2001 main rice crop has started in Java, and will soon begin in Sumatra and other islands. Based on an anticipated drop in area and yields, the 2001 overall output official estimate has been revised downward by 1.9 million tonnes to 50.1 million tonnes from the last report and 1.1 million tonnes below the level achieved in the previous season. The drop should mainly reflect a contraction in the area as domestic price prospects remain poor, notwithstanding an increase in minimum producer prices. Harvesting of the main Maha crop is underway in Sri Lanka. Good weather conditions and adequate north-east monsoon precipitation have been beneficial to the planting and maturation of the crop so far. Planting of the Yala crop, which accounts for one-third of total output, is expected to begin in April. The country's rice production in 2001 is forecast at 2.8 million tonnes, unchanged from last season.

Near East: Prospects for the winter crops in Afghanistan are unfavourable due to ongoing fighting in northern provinces which account for some 40 percent of the country's irrigated cereal and about 53 percent of its rainfed area. Also in Iraq, the outlook for the winter crops remains uncertain due to below-average rainfall and shortages of essential inputs. In Saudi Arabia, Syria and Jordan, despite late start of rains, prospects for the 2001 crop to be harvested in April/May have somewhat improved with good rains received as the season progressed. Similarly, in Turkey, recent favourable rains have improved prospects for the wheat crop, to be harvested from June, after warm and dry weather earlier in the year. Prospects for recovery in this year's wheat crop in the Islamic Republic of Iran, still remain uncertain, following two successive years of serious drought in 1999 and 2000 that saw production fall significantly. Production in Bangladesh is forecast at 2 million tonnes this year, up from last year's 1.84 million tonnes.

CIS in Asia: In the eight CIS countries in Asia, the overall outlook for the 2001 cereal harvests will largely be influenced by prospects in Kazakhstan, the major producer, where the bulk of cereals are not sown until May. The early outlook for winter cereals is mixed. Following the drought-reduced crops of 2000, seed shortages have limited the areas that could be sown with winter wheat in several countries, notably Armenia, Georgia and Tajikistan. The area sown to winter cereals increased further in Azerbaijan, but winter precipitation in the Caucasus region has been below normal and inadequate to replenish moisture reserves for sustained plant growth and irrigation water supplies. Good precipitation is needed in April-May and beyond, just to secure normal spring crop areas and yields, let alone compensate for reduced winter wheat areas. Elsewhere, in the Asian CIS countries, heavy snowfall this winter has helped to replenish moisture supplies. In Uzbekistan, latest reports indicate that the area sown to winter cereals has increased somewhat. In Turkmenistan, also, the area sown increased further and the production target has been raised beyond last year's record output of 1.8 million tonnes. Current preliminary forecasts point to an aggregate cereal harvest of about 22 million tonnes, roughly 1 million tonnes more than in 2000, in response to expected growth in output in Turkmenistan, a recovery in Uzbekistan, and a stable output of about 12 million tonnes in Kazakhstan. Most of the increase would be in wheat production but rice production could recover in Uzbekistan. Cereal production in Armenia, Georgia and Tajikistan could remain below average for the second year in succession.

World Cereal Production - Forecast for 2001

    Wheat Coarse grains Rice (paddy) Total
2000 2001 2000 2001 2000 2001 2000 2001
  ( . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . million tonnes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . )
Asia 251.9 242.3 193.0 211.5 543.2 988.1
Africa 14.2 15.9 78.7 76.3 17.2 110.1
Central America 3.4 3.2 28.7 28.2 2.4 34.4
South America 20.3 20.9 62.0 67.0 20.7 103.1
North America 87.3 86.9 299.2 301.6 8.7 395.2
Europe 186.4 192.0 198.1 210.9 3.1 387.7
Oceania 21.4 23.6 10.7 9.6 1.1 33.2
WORLD 585.0 584.8 870.4 905.1 596.4 596.7 2 051.8 2 086.6
  (399)1/ (399)1/ (1 854)2/ (1 889)2/
Developing countries 270.2 262.3 346.8 371.1 571.1 571.1 1 188.1 1 204.5
Developed countries 314.8 322.5 523.5 534.0 25.3 25.6 863.6 882.2

· Africa

Northern Africa: Harvest prospects are generally favourable for the 2001 wheat crops in the subregion, to be harvested from May. A strong recovery in output after last year's drought-reduced crop is anticipated, provided normal weather prevails in the coming months. In Algeria, despite delayed plantings in several areas because of insufficient precipitation at the beginning of the growing season, rainfall in January and February over growing areas has been abundant and widespread. However, more timely rains in the next two months will be crucial for a recovery in production. In Morocco, rainfall has been generally abundant this year in most growing areas, with the exception of the Sahelian and pre-Sahelian zones of the country. Crops are reported to be in good condition and water reservoirs are being replenished. The area sown to wheat and other cereals is reported to be close to the five-year average and production is expected to be more than double last year's poor result. In Tunisia, significant rains continue to benefit crop development in the northern region, the main producing area of the country, and a good harvest is in prospect. However, conditions have been less favourable in the center and the south, where crops have been adversely affected by a prolonged dry spell. In Egypt, where the wheat crop is largely irrigated, growing conditions are satisfactory. Good rainfall in February also improved conditions for cultivation of more land for wheat and barley in Lower Egypt. Aggregate output of coarse grains in 2001 in the subregion is also expected to recover from last year's severely drought-affected harvest.

Preparations have started for the planting of the 2001 irrigated rice crop in Egypt. Preliminary forecasts point to a contraction in the area, mainly in light of the low prices, which may encourage a shift towards other crops. To better manage irrigation water, the Government currently imposes a ceiling on the area planted to rice and promotes planting of high yielding and short period maturity varieties, which are expected to make up a large portion of the 2001 rice crop.

Western Africa: Prospects for off-season or recession crops are less favourable than last year in Mauritania and Senegal due to the lower water level reached in the Senegal river following poorer 2000 rains. A series of joint FAO/CILSS Crop Assessment Missions in the nine CILSS member countries of the Sahel estimated the aggregate 2000 cereal production at 9.5 million tonnes, which is about 15 percent below the record production of 1999. Below-average harvests have been gathered in Burkina Faso and Chad, while production was close to average in Mali, Mauritania and Niger, and above average in Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau and Senegal. A record crop was harvested in The Gambia.

In the coastal countries along the Gulf of Guinea, the rainy season has just started in the south, allowing land preparation and planting of the first maize crop. Cereal harvests in 2000 were generally good but in Guinea and Sierra Leone, fighting in border areas affected agricultural and marketing activities and caused new population displacements. Relief programmes have also been hampered by insecurity.

Preparations for the 2001 rice season are underway, but information on planting intentions and output expectations is still lacking. Civil conflicts are expected to continue to affect rice production activities in some countries. In Cote d'Ivoire, the 2001 rice season is scheduled to start with the arrival of the rains usually in March-April. In Sierra Leone, planting of the 2001 season is expected to begin in May, but it is feared that the resurgence of civil unrest will negatively affect rice output. An FAO crop and food supply assessment mission to Liberia in December estimated the 2000 paddy production at 144 000 tonnes, compared to a pre-war (1988) output of 259 000 tonnes.

Central Africa: Good harvests have been gathered in Central African Republic and Cameroon. In the Republic of Congo, the security situation has improved following a peace agreement, but food production has not yet recovered and food assistance is being provided to refugees and internally displaced persons. The food situation remains critical in the Democratic Republic of Congo due to persistent civil war. The number of internally displaced people is currently estimated at 2 million.

Eastern Africa: Harvesting of the 2001 wheat crop has started in the Sudan. Following favourable weather conditions and increased plantings, this year's production is forecast to increase on last year's level. Planting of the 2001 wheat crop in Kenya and Ethiopia is scheduled in the next two months. The subregion's 2000 aggregate wheat output is estimated at 1.9 million tonnes, 13 percent above the previous year's production but 3 percent below average. In Ethiopia, the wheat crop harvested late in 2000 was a bumper 1.4 million tonnes. In Kenya, output remained around the poor level of the previous year, as a result of drought.

Harvesting of the 2000/2001 secondary coarse grains season is completed except in Ethiopia, where the "belg" crops are scheduled to be harvested from June. Improved rains in some areas from last October to February helped growing crops throughout the subregion. FAO's latest estimates put the subregion's aggregate 2000/2001 coarse grain output at about 18 million tonnes, a slight recovery from the previous year's reduced crop but about 8 percent below the average of the past five years. In Ethiopia, aggregate coarse grains output is estimated to have increased by 20 percent from the reduced crop of the previous year, and at 7.5 million tonnes is well above average. A bumper main "meher" crop was gathered following abundant rains and increased planting. The secondary "belg" crop is expected to be normal following adequate rains in the second half of February and first half of March. In Tanzania, the output of the recently harvested 2000/2001 secondary coarse grain season recovered after several reduced harvests in succession, despite some localized crop losses due to erratic rains. However, the main season output was reduced by dry weather and the aggregate 2000 coarse grains output is estimated at 3.1 million tonnes, well below the previous year's level and about 11 percent below average. Prospects for the 2001 main maize crop season in the uni-modal rainfall areas have improved with favourable rainfall forecast. In the Sudan, the 2000 main coarse grains crop rose by 6 percent from the reduced level in 1999 but, at 3.1 million tonnes, is 20 percent below average. In Kenya, the aggregate 2000/2001 main maize crop is provisionally estimated at 1.7 million tonnes, 24 and 27 percent below the previous year and the average respectively. This reflects a prolonged severe drought, which has adversely affected the main season coarse grains crop. In Eritrea, the 2000 coarse grains output, estimated at 63 000 tonnes is nearly 70 percent below average due to war-displacement of farmers and drought. In Somalia, a satisfactory secondary "deyr" season was preceded by a favourable main "gu" harvest. Latest estimates put the aggregate coarse grains output at 320 000 tonnes, 32 percent above the previous year and 23 percent above average. In Uganda, provisional estimates indicate a coarse grains output of about 1.5 million tonnes, some 7 percent and 13 percent below 1999 and the average respectively. In Burundi, coarse grain production of the 2001 first season increased substantially from last year, while in Rwanda it remained at the good level of the previous year's same season.

Southern Africa: The subregion's aggregate production of wheat in 2000 is estimated at 2.5 million tonnes, some 14 percent above the previous year's level and the average. Production recovered in South Africa, where latest estimates were revised upwards to 2.1 million tonnes. By contrast, in Zimbabwe, the output declined by one-quarter from the good harvest of the previous year. This reflects a reduction in plantings following the programme of resettlement of commercial farms, which produce all of the country's wheat crop. In Zambia, the output remained at the previous year's good level of 90 000 tonnes.

Prospects for the 2001 coarse grains, to be harvested from mid-April, are poor. Production of maize, accounting for over 90 percent of the total coarse grains output, is preliminary forecast by FAO at 13.5 million tonnes. This is 27 percent, or 5 million tonnes, below the good harvest of 2000 and well below the average of the five past years. The decrease in output reflects a decline in the area planted and lower yields due to a mid-season dry spell in southern parts, followed by excessive rains and floods. In South Africa, the largest producer of the subregion, the maize output is forecast at 7.2 million tonnes, one-third below the level of 2000. The area planted is estimated 17 percent lower and yields in the main growing areas were affected by a severe dry spell during January and early February. In Zimbabwe, plantings were reduced by one-quarter, due to the on-going resettlement of commercial farms and shortages of fuel. Yields were adversely affected by dry weather in southern and western parts and by heavy rains and floods in northern areas. Maize production is forecast at 1.2 million tonnes, a decrease of 41 percent from last year's good level. In Malawi, excessive rains in February and March, which resulted in widespread floods, negatively affected yields of the developing maize crop. The output is forecast to decline 14 percent from last year's bumper crop to 2.1 million tonnes, which is still above average. In Zambia, heavy rains in late February, and earlier dry weather in southern parts, reduced yields of maize. Production is expected to decline 8 percent from last year good harvest. In Mozambique, heavy rains in central parts resulted in serious crop losses, while dry weather negatively affected crops in southern provinces. Overall, however, the general abundant rains of the season benefited coarse grains in the main growing areas. The maize output is anticipated to be around last year's level. In Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland, developing coarse grains were adversely affected by severe dry weather in January and the outputs are anticipated to decline slightly or to remain at the reduced levels of last year. In Namibia, prolonged dry weather also affected coarse grain production. The maize output is forecast to decline over one-third from the above average level of 2000. In Madagascar, dry weather in the southern maize growing areas in January negatively affected yields.

In Madagascar, good precipitation during the second half of January benefited the 2001 rice crop in general. However, more rains are needed in the northern areas where rainfalls have been erratic. Harvesting is anticipated to start in April and the overall rice prospects remain favourable. In Mozambique, torrential rains in January and late February have resulted in floods and caused damage to crops in the central provinces, while in the south, a lack of the precipitation during the crop maturation period is expected to reduce yield. However, the impact on rice crops should be limited unless the weather problems persist. Preliminary forecasts for the paddy crop indicate an almost full recovery of production, after the sharp contraction incurred last season.

· Central America and the Caribbean

Previous favorable prospects for Mexico's irrigated autumn/winter wheat crops are now somewhat uncertain as a result of the lack of sufficient rains in year 2001. Rains at the end of year 2000 over the north-west states of Sonora, Baja California and Sinaloa partially replenished water reservoirs, which was expected to ensure an adequate provision of water during February and March. However, the area cultivated has been revised downwards and is now estimated to be 7 percent lower than last year, and therefore the forecast for production now stands at slightly lower than 3.3 million tonnes.

Land is being prepared for the 2001 first season coarse grain crops in most Central American countries, which in the last months have seen a general recovery in white maize prices. In El Salvador, recent earthquakes have raised concern about the availability of inputs for the forthcoming first season coarse grain crops, and the government is distributing seeds and fertilizer packages to the affected farmers to prevent a drop in planted area. In Cuba, abundant rains at the end of last year marked the end of what has been described as the worst drought of the decade. The rains receded in February and March of this year, and the drier weather is helping to keep the April harvest of the second season crop on schedule. In the Dominican Republic, planting of first season coarse grain crops has started under normal weather conditions, while third season crops, currently in reproductive state, are developing normally. In Costa Rica, the harvest of maize (mostly white) is completed and, as in previous years, production will not be sufficient to satisfy domestic demand. In Mexico, sorghum production is expected to increase, reflecting the strong demand from the livestock sector, although dry conditions are not favoring Tamaulipas' non-irrigated crop.

A bumper 2001 paddy crop is expected in the Dominican Republic, were harvest is due to start in May. In Cuba, output is provisionally forecast to decrease slightly from the previous year.

· South America

Land preparation has started for the autumn planting of wheat crops in Argentina. Latest information on planting intentions for 2001 points to a slight increase in area, in anticipation of some recovery of world wheat prices during the year.

Harvesting of coarse grains has started on schedule in Brazil and Argentina. Moderate rains throughout the summer helped the development of the crop and harvest prospects are favorable. Output in Argentina is forecast to fall slightly, mostly due to reduced plantings. However, in Brazil, a record output is now forecast for 2001. According to Brazil's National Food Supply Agency (CONAB), domestic demand this year will be met completely with domestic production for the first time since the early 1980s. In Peru, rains have kept water reservoirs at adequate levels all over the country. Harvest of white maize has started and will continue until August with a forecasted 10 percent decrease in output due to a fall in area planted. Yellow maize is harvested all year round, with peaks in June/July and February/March. In 2000, yellow maize production increased by 15 percent, and a similar increase is forecast for this year due to an expansion in the area planted. Torrential rains and floods were reported in parts of Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador, with localized damage to coarse grain and paddy crops.

Harvesting of the 2001 paddy crops has started in some parts of the region. Low paddy prices have led to a reduction in the area for this year's harvest in some of the major producing countries. In Brazil, production in 2001 is forecast to decrease by 5.5 percent to 10.8 million tonnes. In Argentina, following a 9 percent drop in area production is now forecast to fall to 640 000 tonnes, from some 900 000 tonnes in 2000. Plantings also fell in Uruguay, where output is forecast down at about 900 000 tonnes compared to over 1 million tonnes in 2000. In Peru, abundant rains have improved prospects after earlier dry conditions, and the 2001 rain-fed paddy crops are provisionally estimated to produce some 1.9 million tonnes, similar to the previous year's crop.

· North America

Wheat output in the United States could decline further in 2001. Winter wheat plantings fell to their lowest level since 1971 and harsh weather in some areas in late 2000 delayed crop emergence while a reduction in the spring wheat area is also in prospect. Latest official estimates put the winter wheat areas at 16.7 million hectares, some 800 000 hectares or 5 percent less than in the previous year. Early indications for spring wheat plantings in the USDA Prospective Planting Report point to a 1.2 percent reduction in area to about 7.7 million hectares. A sharp decline in durum plantings is expected to more than offset a marginal increase in the area sown to other spring wheat. Based on the estimate of the winter wheat area and the spring wheat planting intentions, and assuming normal weather conditions prevail for the rest of the season, FAO currently forecasts the aggregate 2001 wheat output in the United States at about 60 million tonnes, slightly down from the previous year's below-average crop. In Canada, the bulk of the 2001 wheat crop is due to be sown from May to June. The area planted is expected to expand marginally from the previous year and overall output of wheat is tentatively forecast at almost 27 million tonnes, compared to 26.8 million tonnes in 2000.

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 4 percent reduction in maize plantings but a 2 percent increase for sorghum. In Canada, the bulk of the coarse grains crops will be sown in May-June. Latest indications point to a likely increase in the area and production of the major coarse grains.

Planting of the 2001 rice crop in the United States is expected to start in March/April. Output is forecast to reach 8.9 million tonnes, 200 000 tonnes more than last year. This forecast is based on expectations of a 4.2 percent expansion in area but a return to normal yields from the exceptionally high levels achieved last year. Paddy producers have benefited since 1999 from high government support that has boosted their incomes, notwithstanding low international prices. As a result, rice remains an attractive crop.

· Europe

In the EC, latest indications continue point to an overall reduction in cereal area for the 2001 harvest, largely reflecting a significant contraction in the winter sown soft wheat area. The main reductions in the soft wheat area are reported in France and the United Kingdom. In Italy, while the soft wheat area is expected to fall sharply, the area dedicated to the more important durum wheat is forecast to remain relatively unchanged from the previous year. In Spain, although final data is not yet available, the wheat area is tentatively estimated to be down by about 5 percent from the previous year due to heavy rains during the main planting period. Also in Portugal, heavy rains have caused a significant drop in the wheat area. Assuming normal weather conditions prevail for the remainder of the season, aggregate wheat output in the EC in 2001 is tentatively forecast at 101 million tonnes, down by about 4 percent from the bumper crop in 2000 but still above the average of the past five years. For coarse grains, much will depend on the outcome of spring/summer planting, which is only just starting. Early indications suggest that the area dedicated to the main feed grains such as barley and maize may expand in anticipation of increased demand from the feed industry following the ban on the use of meat and bone meal. However, assuming a return to normal yields after last year's bumper levels, the EC's overall output of coarse grains in 2001 is tentatively forecast at about 107 million tonnes, 2 percent down from 2000. In the EC, preparations of the 2001 rice crop are underway but planting intentions are uncertain.

Elsewhere in Europe, prospects for the winter cereal crops remain unfavourable throughout the Balkan countries where soil moisture deficit continues to be the main concern. Romania, Bulgaria and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia remain the countries most affected with their cumulative rainfalls for the December-February period reported to be, respectively, 60 percent, 50 percent and 20 percent below normal. The dry conditions have been exacerbated by generally warmer than normal temperatures. Further north, rainfall has been more frequent and regular in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. Although snowcover has been limited in many areas mild temperatures have meant little risk of frost kill among the winter grains

In Bulgaria, the winter wheat area is officially estimated at some 1.2 million hectares, up about 12 percent from 2000. The barley area is also estimated up at about 250 000 hectares. However, there is considerable uncertainty over the likely effect of continuing dry conditions on crop yields this year. If rainfall returns to normal levels for the remainder of the season, cereal output could recover somewhat from last year's below-average level. In the Czech Republic, the 2001 cereal area is forecast to remain similar to the previous year's level at about 1.6 million hectares, of which wheat accounts for about 900 000 hectares. Based on conditions so far, an average output is expected.

In the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), the outlook for the 2001 cereal harvests is clouded by the effects of the prolonged drought last year. Financial constraints on farm are also likely to limit the use of inputs and undermine yields. Output could recover somewhat from last year's poor 5.4 million tonnes but could remain below average. The outlook for the 2001 winter grain harvest is uncertain. Reports indicate that the area sown to wheat may have recovered to about normal levels, but much of the planting was late due to dry conditions in October/November and the availability of inputs, notably fertilizer, remains problematic.

In Hungary, the winter cereal area has increased and moisture conditions have improved over the past few weeks. The wheat crop is expected to recover significantly and could exceed 4 million tonnes after reduced outputs in the past two years. In Poland, conditions have also remained satisfactory over the past few weeks. The winter grain area is tentatively estimated to be about average. If normal conditions prevail for the remainder of the season, output of wheat and coarse grains will likely recover significantly from last year's reduced level. In Romania, the outlook for the 2001 cereal crops is unfavourable in view of continuing drought that has afflicted the country for over a year. Although the area sown to winter cereals is estimated to be similar to that of the previous year, yield prospects are poor and unlikely to improve unless significant precipitation arrives soon. If the drought continues, spring grain planting is also likely to be severely affected. In the Slovak Republic, prospects for the winter grain crops are satisfactory and output is expected to recover after last year's reduced crop.

In the Baltic countries, (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) the 2001 aggregate cereal output could be somewhat higher than last year's 4 million tonnes reflecting generally favourable winter weather conditions.

In the CIS countries west of the Ural Mountains (Belarus, Moldova, the Russian Federation and Ukraine), FAO's early forecast points to an increase in the 2001 cereal production, reflecting good growing conditions and soil moisture reserves to date in the major producing areas (mainly in the Russian Federation and Ukraine) and an expected increase in the aggregate cereal area. The aggregate area sown to winter crops has increased by over 1 million hectares and the bulk of crops are reported to be in good to satisfactory condition.

At this early stage, the outlook is for aggregate 2001 cereal output to increase by 10 million tonnes to some 209 million tonnes, provided growing conditions remain normal until the completion of the harvests. Aggregate wheat production could increase by 8 million tonnes to 58 million tonnes, while coarse grains output is tentatively forecast to rise more modestly (by 2 million tonnes) to 50.6 million tonnes. Output of paddy is forecast to remain stable at 0.7 million tonnes.

In Belarus, the 2001 cereal harvest could increase somewhat beyond the 4.4 million tonnes harvested in 2000 despite persistent economic problems. In Moldova also, some recovery from the 2000 drought reduced level of 2 million tonnes is likely, given better weather. In the Russian Federation, the area sown to winter crops increased by 600 000 tonnes to 14.7 million hectares. Over 90 percent of the crop is in good to satisfactory condition, and heavy snowfall this winter has provided good soil moisture reserves in most areas except limited parts of the North Caucasus and adjoining areas. Good demand for cereals coupled with adequate moisture supplies are expected to lead to an increase in the area of spring cereals. Given normal conditions until the harvest, the 2001 wheat output could increase to 40 million tonnes (1999: 38 million tonnes) mostly in response to increased plantings. Similarly, some increase in the area sown to barley could result in an aggregate coarse grains output of 13 million tonnes, somewhat higher than last year's good harvest. Output of paddy is forecast to remain stable at 0.6 million tonnes. FAO's production estimates for the Russian Federation are about 10 percent higher than the official estimates, in view of systematic underestimation.

In contrast to the past two year's, the early outlook for cereal crops in the Ukraine is favourable. The area sown to winter crops has increased, for cereals by at least 0.8 million hectares - and this estimate could be higher when data on the area sown by the private sector is incorporated - to 8.4 million hectares. The bulk of the winter cereal crop remains in good to satisfactory condition. Soil moisture reserves have been replenished in all areas except the south where they are nevertheless 70-80 percent of normal. The availability of inputs is better than last year. In addition, spring plantings are expected to increase. Demand for contractual harvest services later this year is also greater than at the same time last year. The extent of the recent flood damage in Zarkapatia is likely to be limited but could delay spring planting in that area. Although indications are that the harvest could be larger, the mild wet winter has led to increased weed infestation and disease and could affect crop quality. FAO's preliminary forecast is for the 2001 cereal harvest to increase by 7 million tonnes to nearly 30 million tonnes. Output of wheat could recover to 16.6 million tonnes, from last year's drought reduced level of 11 million tonnes, while that of coarse grains could increase more modestly (+1.2 million tonnes) to 13 million tonnes.

· Oceania

In Australia, planting of the main 2001 wheat and coarse grains crops is due to start in May. Early official forecasts indicate an increase in wheat production to some 23 million tonnes from a below average output of 21.2 million tonnes in 2000. The forecast is based on an expected increase in plantings to about 12 million hectares, and an assumption of average seasonal weather conditions, giving an average yield of about 1.9 tonnes/hectare. The winter barley crop is also forecast to increase, by about 5 percent, to reach almost 6 million tonnes. Harvest of the minor 2001 summer coarse grains crop, mainly sorghum and maize, is underway. Output is sorghum is forecast to fall significantly to about 1.5 million tonnes reflecting dry conditions at planting time.

The 2001 rice harvest has started sooner than expected due to good weather during the maturation period. The 2001 rice output is forecast to reach 1.75 million tonnes, more than 60 percent above last year, following a 40 percent expansion in the area to 186 000 hectares and good yield prospects.

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