FAO/GIEWS - Foodcrops & Shortages No.2, April 2001

EUROPE

EC (3 April)

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. Preparations for the Community's 2001 rice crop are underway but planting intentions are uncertain.

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)

Crops are greening in southern parts of Brest and Gomel oblasts. Growing conditions for the 2000/01 winter cereal crop have been satisfactory to date. Given good growing conditions until the completion of winter and spring harvests, the aggregate cereal output could be marginally higher than the 4.4 million tonnes produced in 2000. In 2000/01, the country will need to import cereals for human consumption as well as feed.

BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA* (23 March)

The outlook for the 2001 cereal harvest remains uncertain. The condition of winter grains is satisfactory so far, but more precipitation is needed to recharge soil moisture reserves after dry conditions last season. To meet consumption demand, wheat imports have increased steadily. In addition the country is importing maize after last year's drought reduced output.

BULGARIA (3 April)

Latest indications for the 2001 cereal crops suggest that a partial recovery from the previous season's reduced output could be possible but much will depend on the weather during the remainder of the season. The winter wheat area is officially estimated at some 1.2 million hectares, up about 12 percent from the previous season, while the barley area is also estimated up at about 250 000 hectares. The increase is largely attributed to farmers' preference to plant the relatively more drought resistant winter crops, rather than spring maize, under the current dry conditions. Preparations for the spring sowing are reported to already be delayed by persisting dry conditions and latest official forecasts point to an 8.5 percent reduction in the maize area to about 500 000 hectares. However, if rainfall returns to normal levels for the remainder of the season, maize yields could recover greatly from last years sharply reduced levels and the overall output could increase.

CROATIA (23 February)

The early outlook is uncertain. The 2000 drought persisted into the autumn, delaying winter cereal plantings, which are planned to decline. Precipitation has improved since December but crop development in early March was less than at the corresponding time last year, when the final wheat harvest reached bumper 1.08 million tonnes. The area to be sown to spring crops overall is planned to be reduced somewhat, with less sunflower, sugarbeet and barley to be sown. The maize area is targeted to increase marginally to 386 000 hectares, from 379 000 hectares in 2000 to help replenish maize supplies after the drought reduced harvest in 2000 of only 1.3 million tonnes, compared to 2.1 million tonnes in 1999. Despite the poor harvests and a tight supply situation, maize is being exported to neighbouring Bosnia Herzegovina. The country also plans to export about 200 000 tonnes of wheat in 2000/01.

CZECH REPUBLIC (3 April)

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.

ESTONIA (23 March)

The early outlook for winter grains is satisfactory. The 2000 grain harvest is estimated at a bumper 0.6 million tonnes cleaned weight from 330 000 hectares. Output is some 25 percent more than in 1999. Good pasture conditions also led to an increase in milk production in 2000.

FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA (3 April)

Latest reports indicate that exceptionally dry winter conditions, especially in eastern parts of the country, could affect the 2001 cereal crops. Winter wheat production in particular is forecast to fall by as much as 50 percent in some counties. Although there are already strong indications that the overall output will fall below average this year, calling for increased imports to meet the normal wheat requirements, the final outcome will still depend on weather conditions during the remainder of the season.

WFP continues to provide food assistance to refugees in the country. As of midMarch, the planning figures for food deliveries for the international community in March and April were for 7 600 refugees, 1 450 host families accommodating refugees and 9 500 most vulnerable social case families.

HUNGARY (3 April)

Moisture conditions are reported to have improved over the past few weeks for the winter cereal crops and spring field operations after previously dry conditions. The winter cereal area has increased from the previous year and the output in 2001 is now expected to recover significantly in 2001 to about 4.5 to 5 million tonnes, after reduced outputs in the past two years.

LATVIA (23 March)

The early outlook for the 2001 cereal harvest is satisfactory. Good precipitation this winter has provided adequate soil moisture reserves. The area sown has likely remained average.

The 2000 grain output is officially put at 924 000 tonnes, 18 percent above the poor harvest of 1999. With livestock production remaining depressed, and animal numbers continuing to shrink, imports of cereals in recent years are limited to about 50 000-70 000 tonnes per annum, mainly of bread quality wheat to admix with local production. Indications are that animal productivity is increasing.

LITHUANIA (23 February)

The early outlook for the 2001 winter cereal harvest is satisfactory but crop development in the northeastern corner of the country, bordering Latvia is less than a year ago. The 2000 grain harvest reached 2.7 million tonnes, above average and 0.6 million tonnes more than in 1999, reflecting sharply higher yields for both winter and spring crops. Livestock production declined across the board but the aggregate output of agriculture increased by 2.2 percent in 2000. Agriculture ranks as the fifth largest contributor to national GDP and accounts for about 20 percent of employment.

MOLDOVA (23 March)

The early outlook for the 2001 cereal harvest is satisfactory. Autumn weather favoured winter cereal planting and overwintering conditions have been more satisfactory. The area sown to winter wheat and barley has increased. Satellite imagery indicates markedly better crop development than at the corresponding time last year throughout the country. After two poor years, current indications are that the 2001 cereal harvest could return to an about average 2.4 million tonnes, given normal growing conditions until the completion of the harvests.

The 2000 grain harvest is officially reported to have reached 2.1 million tonnes, significantly higher than earlier estimates and only marginally less than the equally drought affected harvest in 1999. However, independent analysts question the official estimate, evaluating the yield of wheat at 75-50 percent of the official estimate of over 2 tonnes/hectare. Equally, the 2000 maize harvest, officially forecast at 1.091 million tonnes, could also be less.

The low quality of the 2000 wheat harvest will necessitate imports of high gluten wheat for bread making but purchasing power could keep such imports low. Following the second poor harvest in succession, the availability of feedgrains for livestock is very tight, necessitating destocking. Despite official bans on wheat exports, some 30 000 tonnes are likely to be exported in 2000/01.

POLAND (3 April)

Weather conditions are reported to have been generally satisfactory over the past few weeks. The winter grain area for this year's crop is 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.

ROMANIA (3 April)

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.

Following a reduced wheat crop in 2000, the Government has begun to release state reserves of wheat to supply mills throughout the country, which have already exhausted their supplies. It is expected that imports of about 500 000 tonnes of wheat will be necessary to maintain wheat supply to consumers before this year's harvest.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION (23 March)

The early outlook for the 2001 winter cereals is good. The area sown to winter crops for harvest in the spring/summer of this year increased to 14.7 million hectares, mainly due to larger plantings in the North Caucasus. Overwintering conditions have been good overall and over 90 percent of the winter wheat, barley and rye crop is in good to satisfactory condition. Heavy snowfall this winter has provided good soil moisture reserves in most areas except limited parts of the North Caucasus and adjoining areas. Satellite imagery shows better crop development in most areas where winter cereals have emerged from dormancy.

Spring grain planting has started in the most southerly areas. Good demand for cereals coupled with adequate moisture supplies are expected to lead to an increase in the area of spring cereals, notably in the North Caucasus and Volga regions. The aggregate area to be sown to grains is officially estimated to reach up to 48.6 million hectares, up to 3 million hectares more than in the past year. Given normal conditions until the harvest, the 2001 grain harvest could exceed last year's 71 million tonnes, including 38 million tonnes of wheat and 31 million tonnes of coarse grains. FAO's production estimates are about 10 percent higher than the official estimates, in view of systematic underestimation.

In the 2000/01 marketing year, cereal imports are forecast to fall to about half of last year's level (8.4 million tonnes) and to be partially offset by exports amounting to around 2 million tonnes. Cereal imports up to December amount to 1.6 million tonnes while exports total nearly 1 million tonnes.

Food insecurity is primarily a problem of access rather than availability. Income distribution is very uneven. Some 50 percent of the population live below the poverty line of US$4.30/person/day. Specific causes of poverty include arrears in the payment of pensions, salaries and wages.

In Chechnya, the outlook for the 2001 grain harvest remains bleak due to lack of financial resources and fuel. The 2000 agricultural production was greatly compromised by the security situation as well as the shortages of machinery, fuel and inputs.

The conflict in Chechnya continues to cause severe hardship for the local and displaced population within the country and in surrounding areas. An estimated 170 000 persons remain displaced inside Chechnya and 155 000 are registered in Ingushetia. Relief operations are seriously hindered by problems of security and a severe shortage of resources. In March, WFP distributed partial rations to 33 600 Chechen IDPs in Ingushetia (only wheat flour) and to 6 000 school children in Chechnya (high-energy biscuits).

SLOVAK REPUBLIC (3 April)

In the Slovak Republic, prospects for the winter grain crops are satisfactory and output is expected to recover after last year's reduced harvest.

UKRAINE (23 March)

Unlike the preceding two years, the early outlook for the 2001 winter cereals is good. The latest estimates indicate that the area sown to winter crops may have increased by up to 1.4 million hectares to 8.9 million hectares, some 0.5 million hectares more than previously estimated. The bulk of this is sown to winter cereals. Overwintering conditions have been mostly good in the 2000/01 season to date and some 88 percent of the crop are in good/satisfactory condition. So far, crop losses due to winterkill, reported between 300 000400 000 hectares, are well below average. Moreover, 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 and satellite imagery shows markedly better conditions than at the corresponding time last year.

The government discontinued provision of commodity loans to agricultural enterprises last year. Instead it assists agricultural enterprises in obtaining working capital for sowing and harvesting crops. Among other things, this season, the government decided to compensate 70 percent of the interest payments on loans that agricultural enterprises obtain from commercial banks. The National Bank of Ukraine's discount rate is used to calculate the amount of compensation. Meanwhile the moratorium on payment of valueadded tax by agricultural enterprises has been extended until 2004. In addition several tax breaks in the Law on Stimulating Development of Agriculture During the 2001- 2004 Period have been introduced.

Spring planting has started in the Crimea. As the area to be sown in the spring is also expected to increase, the area for harvest could be around 1 million hectares more than in 2000. Demand for contractual harvest services later this year is also greater than at the same time last year. The recent flood damage in Zarkapatia has led to loss of life and left thousands of people homeless but its effect on crops is likely to be limited. However, it could delay spring planting in that area. Provided normal weather continues until the completion of the harvests, the 2001 grain output could reach up to 30 million tonnes, compared to an estimated 23.4 million tonnes in 2000. However, the mild wet winter has led to increased weed infestation and disease and could affect crop quality. Despite the drought-reduced harvest in 2000, the country could remain a net exporter of cereals. In the first seven months of the current marketing year, the country has exported in excess of 1.2 million tonnes (mainly barley) and imported roughly 0.6 million tonnes (mainly wheat). In the 2000/01 marketing year, aggregate cereal exports are anticipated to halve to 1.5 million tonnes while imports should increase to about 900 000 tonnes, from just over 600 000 tonnes in 1999/2000.

YUGOSLAVIA, FED. REP. OF (SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO)* (23 March)

The outlook for winter wheat, to be harvested as of June, has improved somewhat with localized rains but more precipitation is needed to replenish soil moisture supplies. In addition, there is a critical shortage of fertilizers for both winter and spring crops.

Prolonged dry weather delayed winter wheat planting and hindered crop establishment but somewhat better rains and mild temperatures since late December have improved the outlook. Also, despite poor economic conditions, farmers managed to plant some 700 000-750 000 hectares to winter wheat. This is less than planned - 800 000 hectares - but, more than was actually sown and harvested last year (roughly 600 000 hectares) and closer to average. The wheat production target is 2.5 million tonnes, but the critical shortage of fertilizers could result in a significantly smaller harvest.

Similarly, the spring planting and output targets may not be achieved. These include 6 million tonnes of maize from an area of 1.4 million hectares, 2.5 million tonnes of sugarbeet from 60 000 hectares, 450 000 tonnes of sunflower from 200 000 hectares and 350 000 tonnes of soybeans from 120 000 hectares.

WFP is currently targeting about 700 000 refugees and socially vulnerable people. In addition the ICRC assists 200 000 IDPs with an individual food ration and 100 000 people (social cases) through a hot meal under their soup kitchen programme.


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