FAO/GIEWS - Food Outlook No.3 - June 2001 p. 5

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Current Production and Crop Prospects

Position by Region


Far East: Harvesting of the 2001 wheat crop is underway in some parts of the region. In China, below-normal rainfall is expected to reduce output of winter wheat in the northern parts of the country. In addition, area planted to wheat is reported to have declined significantly this year due to continued low support prices and government policy to reduce planting of low quality varieties. As a result, the 2001 winter wheat is now forecast at about 92.2 million tonnes, 300 000 tonnes lower than anticipated in the last report. The aggregate winter and spring wheat output is expected to reach 99.3 million tonnes, some 2 million tonnes below last year. In India, severe drought conditions substantially reduced the area planted to wheat in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat. Unfavourable weather conditions are reported to have affected the harvest in Haryana and Punjab, the country's wheat basket. As a result, the 2001 wheat output forecast has been lowered to 68.5 million tonnes, down 7 million tonnes from last year's record crop. Similarly, as a result of drought in several rain-fed wheat producing areas of Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan provinces in Pakistan, the country's 2001 wheat output is now forecast at about 18 million tonnes, 18 percent below last year's bumper crop. In Bangladesh, the wheat harvest is well underway and, reflecting an increase in area this year, output is forecast to rise to 2 million tonnes, about 200 000 tonnes up from 2000.

Planting of the 2001 main season coarse grain crops is underway or about to start in the main producing countries. Assuming normal growing conditions, early indications point to a favourable outlook for coarse grains in India, where planting is scheduled to start with the arrival of the monsoon season in June. Planting conditions for maize are reportedly favourable in most central and southern parts of China, although unusual dry weather may have delayed plantings in the north.

For those countries situated around the Equatorial Belt, the 2001 main paddy season is about to be concluded, but for the remainder of Asia, the season is just about to begin with the imminent arrival of the monsoon rains. While a number of countries in the region have signalled an intention to curb low quality rice output or to switch to more remunerative crops, others have maintained an expansionary stance towards rice cultivation.

In Indonesia, harvesting of the main-season rice crop is nearing completion, and planting of the secondary crop will commence thereafter. Owing to flooding at the beginning of the rice season, the Government forecasts a 2001 paddy crop of 50.1 million tonnes, 2 percent below the previous season's outcome.

Reflecting new initiatives to raise production and to reduce dependency on imports, Malaysia is forecast to increase paddy output by 10 percent from the previous year, to a record of 2.3 million tonnes in 2001. In Sri Lanka, ample precipitation in the growing season suggests that output of its principal rainfed crop will closely match the above average level of 2000.

In China (Mainland), total rice area in 2001/02 is estimated to fall by almost 0.7 million hectares, and current official forecasts put aggregate paddy output for the year at about 185 million tonnes, 5 million tonnes down from the previous season. The decline reflects falling prices in the previous two years. In the Philippines, planting of the main season crop is likely to be concluded in June. Despite concerns for another incidence of El Niño, 2001/02 paddy production is forecast to increase further to 12.6 million tonnes, 1 percent above the record achieved last season. However, if the Government can overcome expenditure constraints, which are currently hindering the seed distribution programme, the increase could be larger. In Thailand, preparation for the 2001/02 main-season crop is underway. The country's official estimate for the main crop suggests that production in 2001/02 will remain close to the previous season's outcome at about 24 million tonnes. In Viet Nam, planting of the 10th month rice crop, the first of the 2001/02 season, will commence with the arrival of the annual monsoon rains, normally in June. Depressed domestic prices have led the Government to intervene by purchasing 1 million tonnes of paddy for storage and introducing a minimum procurement price. Also, to improve export performance, the Government is encouraging the production of high quality rice and is seeking to curb low quality output. In addition, shorter-maturing seeds are being promoted to mitigate the effects of adverse weather that has regularly afflicted Viet Nam's rice sector. Pending further information, paddy output for 2001/02 is forecast to match the previous season's level of about 32-33 million tonnes. In Cambodia, owing to a forecast expansion in rice area and a sustained improvement in yields, a record harvest is expected in 2001/02. In Japan, planting of the new season's sole rice crop is underway. Under Japan's ongoing rice production adjustment programme, which aims to curb rice surpluses, over 1 million hectares of rice area have been targeted for diversion, 100 000 hectares more than last year. Thus, assuming a return to normal yields after last year's bumper levels, Japan is anticipating an 8 percent drop in production in 2001/02. In the Republic of Korea, planting of the annual crop is also underway. The Government has announced production-restrictive measures to comply with the country's Uruguay Round Agreement (URA) commitments and refocused its rice policy to enhance the quality, rather than quantity, of rice produced. Early forecasts for the 2001/02 production point to a largely unchanged output from that in the previous season, at about 7.2 million tonnes.

In India, planting of the Karif main paddy crop is expected to begin with the arrival of the Southwest Monsoon. Since irrigation is available to only 45 percent of rice area, prospects for the new season crop will again be largely dependent on the monsoon. Assuming a return to normal weather conditions after drought in the previous season, output in 2001/02 is forecast to rebound to 131 million tonnes. In Bangladesh, planting of the smaller rainfed Aus crop is nearing completion. Last season's record harvest has depressed domestic prices to the extent that total area under rice may decline. However, with little scope for diversification, price-induced reductions to planting are likely to be only small. Producers in many other Asian countries, including Pakistan, Myanmar and Nepal, also await the arrival of the monsoon rains to plant their main crops. Owing to expected serious water shortages this season, the Government of Pakistan has announced significant cuts to irrigated supplies and is encouraging its rice producers to cultivate less water intensive crops. Consequently, output is forecast at 6.5 million tonnes, down 4 percent from the last season. By contrast, output growth in Myanmar, which has relied mainly on the opening of new paddy land, is expected to continue into 2001/02. Similarly, production is forecast to reach a new high in Nepal, barring adverse weather conditions, a reflection of the upward trend in yields.

World Cereal Production - Forecast for 2001

Coarse grains
Rice (paddy)
( . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . million tonnes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . )
Central America
South America
North America
2 050.4
2 074.4
(1 853)2/
(1 878)2/
Developing countries
1 186.5
1 206.5
Developed countries

Near East: Prospects of the winter cereal crops are unfavourable in several countries due to the adverse weather and insecurity. In Afghanistan, in addition to the adverse effects of continued civil strife and short supply of agricultural inputs, harsh winter conditions and lingering drought in parts of the country have affected the winter grain crops to be harvested from May. A recently completed FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission forecast a below average cereal production. In Iraq, persisting drought conditions and shortages of agricultural inputs continue to severely constrain grain production. In Jordan, insufficient rains have affected agricultural production in several regions. In Turkey and Syria, despite improved rains as the season progressed, a below average production is projected due to earlier warm and dry conditions. In the Islamic Republic of Iran, drought for the third year in succession is hampering any likelihood of a significant recovery in cereal production. The 2001 winter wheat output is tentatively forecast at 8 million tonnes, similar to last year's crop. In Iraq, paddy production in 2001/02 is expected to recover partially from the previous year but, as for the other cereals, remains constrained by drought and shortages of inputs. Also, in the Islamic Republic of Iran, paddy output could increase somewhat from last year's low level but persisting dry conditions will continue to limit yield potential.

CIS in Asia: In the eight CIS countries in Asia, winter cereals are being harvested or are in the filling/ripening stage. Unseasonably hot weather has favoured spring planting progress but has also increased irrigation requirements. The outlook remains uncertain. 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. In Uzbekistan, latest indications are that the area sown is less than last year's. In Armenia, indications are that the area sown to winter wheat has fallen to about two thirds of normal. By contrast, in Azerbaijan, the area sown to wheat has increased to 523 000 hectares. In many of the countries affected by drought in 2000, soil moisture deficits have not yet been fully replenished. Assuming normal weather until the completion of the harvests, aggregate wheat production of these countries in 2001 is tentatively forecast to increase by 1 million tonnes to 17.8 million tonnes, reflecting further increases in output in Turkmenistan, and a recovery in Georgia. In Kazakhstan, the largest producer in the region, wheat plantings are underway. Good precipitation this winter has provided ample soil moisture reserves and aggregate cereal output is forecast at 11.6 million tonnes, including 9 million tonnes of wheat, which would be close to last years level. In the region, spring coarse grains, (mainly maize) are being planted now. In Uzbekistan, paddy production is expected to recover from the drought-reduced level in the previous season.


North Africa: Harvesting of the subregion's 2001 wheat crop is underway. Aggregate output is forecast to be close to 13 million tonnes, compared to about 10 million tonnes last year, and somewhat above the 5-year average. However, conditions are very mixed throughout the subregion. In Morocco, wheat production is expected to be more than double the drought-affected level of 2000, on account of favourable conditions in northern and central areas. However, a below average output is anticipated in southern growing regions as a result of inadequate rainfall and reduced plantings. In Algeria and Tunisia, although the wheat harvests are expected to increase from last year's drought-affected low levels, prolonged dry conditions in April/May this year during the grain filling period have limited the extent of the recovery. Production is forecast to remain below average in Tunisia while in Algeria, it is anticipated to be close to the five-year average. In Egypt, output of the irrigated wheat crop is expected to be only slightly below last year's above-average level of 6.6 million tonnes, as a result of a small reduction in area planted this year. The subregion's 2001 aggregate coarse grains crop is forecast at some 10 millions tonnes. This is above the previous year's drought-reduced crop but below the 5-year average, on account of inadequate rainfall over many areas.

In Egypt, given constraints on water availability, paddy output growth is largely dependent on productivity improvements. Therefore, higher yielding varieties, faster maturing strains and improvements in irrigation infrastructure continue to be promoted. The Government has set aside an upper bound of approximately 462 000 hectares for rice production this season. While ceilings have been exceeded in previous years, depressed pre-season prices may facilitate compliance this season. Thus, output is forecast to decline by about 7 percent from the previous year to 5.6 million tonnes.

Western Africa: The first rains were received in March in southern parts of the coastal countries along the Gulf of Guinea, where they permitted planting of the first maize crop. Rains progressed northwards in April, allowing the planting of millet and sorghum. Satellite imagery indicates that precipitation were generally normal to above normal in April and May, notably over Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria. In Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, civil disturbances and poor infrastructure may affect agriculture activities in several areas at the critical planting period. In the Sahelian countries, the rainy season started in mid-April in the south of Burkina Faso and Mali and in early April in the extreme south of Chad, allowing land preparation and plantings of coarse grains. Plantings is progressing northwards following the onset of the rains, which improved significantly in mid-May. Availability of seeds is generally adequate but localized shortages are likely in Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad following 2000 reduced crops in some areas.

Planting of the 2001/02 paddy crop is underway in several countries in western Africa, favoured by the timely arrival of the rainy season, but uncertainties still surround planting intentions in the region. In Nigeria, the Government has re-introduced a 25 percent subsidy on fertilizers and output growth is expected to continue through to 2001. In Liberia, growth in production, led by a reported expansion in area, is expected to be constrained by a shortage of inputs and inadequate infrastructure. The rice area is forecast to increase in Mali and Ghana, which might boost production in the two countries to record levels, assuming normal weather conditions. Civil conflicts prevail in several other rice producing countries in the subregion, which continue to disrupt rice cultivation.

Central Africa: Planting of coarse grains is progressing satisfactorily in Cameroon and Central African Republic. In the Republic of Congo, crop production should increase following satisfactory security situation. Despite recent improvements in the security situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo agriculture activities were hampered by civil disturbances in the past few months.

Eastern Africa: Harvesting of the 2001 wheat crop has been completed in Sudan. A recent FAO/GIEWS mission estimated output at 299 000 tonnes, some 40 percent above last year's reduced crop but 30 percent below the average for the previous five years. In Ethiopia and Kenya, the early outlook is favourable following beneficial rains and a positive rainfall forecast in major producing areas.

Planting of the 2001 main season coarse grains is underway in several countries in the subregion. Early prospects are generally favourable following good rains since March. In Ethiopia, despite dry spells in March and April, the outlook for the 2001/02 coarse grains crop has improved with well distributed rains in the "belg" season dependent areas. In Kenya, abundant rains in March and April benefited developing crops. In Uganda, the 2001 main season coarse grains have benefited from well-distributed rainfall and improved security, particularly in north-eastern parts, during late March and April. In Somalia, despite a slow start of the "gu" season, good rains have fallen in major crop producing areas since the second dekad of April benefiting coarse grains development. Most farmers in southern parts of Somalia have already planted. Pasture conditions remain good in most parts of the country. In Sudan and Eritrea, the planting of 2001 main season crop is due to start in June.

Southern Africa: Overall, prospects for the subregions 2001 coarse grains, now being harvested, are unfavourable. The output of maize, which account for over 90 percent of the coarse grains output, is forecast at 13.7 million tonnes, 26 percent lower than last year's good crop and 15 percent below the average of the past 5 years. The decrease in production is concentrated in South Africa, the largest producer of the subregion. A prolonged dry spell in January in southern countries, followed by excessive rains and flooding, negatively affected yields. The 2001 maize crop in South Africa is forecast at about 7.2 million tonnes, sharply below the 10.9 million tonnes harvested last year. This reflects a 17 percent decline in the area planted, in response to low domestic prices, and the mid-season dry spell. Recently completed FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions in Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Lesotho have confirmed earlier unfavourable production forecasts. In Zimbabwe, maize production is expected to be just 1.5 million tonnes, 28 percent below last year good crop. Plantings declined, mainly due to the resettlement of commercial farms, and yields were affected by adverse weather, particularly in southern parts. In Angola, the Mission has estimated a higher coarse grain production, as a result of an increase in the area planted by large numbers of displaced population. In Mozambique, total coarse grain production is forecast by FAO slightly below last year's good output, reflecting excessive rains in central parts and dry weather in southern provinces, which negatively affected yields. Excessive rains also affected maize production in Malawi, where the crop is forecast at 2 million tonnes, 20 percent below the bumper crops of the previous two years but still average. Coarse grain production also declined sharply in Namibia and Botswana affected by dry weather, and in Zambia, due to excessive precipitation and floods.

Prospects for the subregion's 2001 irrigated wheat crop, currently being planted, are uncertain. Following abundant rains in the past months, water availability in dams is satisfactory. This is expected to encourage large plantings. However, in Zimbabwe production is expected to be reduced for the second consecutive year due to sharp decline in the area planted.

The 2001 paddy crop season is nearing completion in Southern Africa. Erratic and disruptive weather patterns are giving rise to uncertainties over rice output in the subregion's principal producing countries of Madagascar and Mozambique. Unless weather problems persist, the impact on output should not be as pronounced as observed last season, to the extent that a general recovery in paddy production in these countries is anticipated.

Central America and the Caribbean

Normal weather conditions are benefiting the harvest of Mexico's 2001 winter wheat. Total production (winter and summer wheat) is forecast at 3.2 million tonnes. Although this figure represents a fall in output of about 4 percent from last year, the fall is not unusual as Mexico's wheat production has decreased at an annual rate of about 80 000 tonnes in the last 10 years. This year, the decrease is due to a lower area planted and water deficits in the main producing areas.

Coarse grain crops are currently being planted in Central America. In Mexico, the area of maize (yellow and white) is forecast remain unchanged from last year. Total maize production is expected to increase by about 16 percent provided the rains and temperatures are normal this summer. Sorghum planting intentions increased some 4 percent in line with the expansion of the animal feeds industry. In the remaining Central American countries, the area planted with white maize (the most important food crop) is forecast to remain unchanged from last year. The rainy season so far is developing normally, and the early forecast of aggregate maize production is 2.85 million tonnes. This figure represents a 4 percent increase in total output from last year's drought affected crop, but is below the last ten years' average of 2.94 million tonnes. The early forecast for the whole of Central America and the Caribbean is for an output of 22.2 million tonnes of maize and 6.7 million tonnes of sorghum.

Following a second successive year of severe drought and disease, paddy output in Cuba is again expected to decline sharply. Current estimates point to a crop of 250 000 tonnes in 2001/02, a fall of 17 percent from the previous season and of 32 percent from 1999/2000.

South America

Wheat planting has started in northern Argentina and Central Brazil under a relatively cold and rainy autumn. Planting intentions in Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) are on the increase due to the expectation of higher regional prices, the current success of the summer crops campaign, and the substitution of beef with crop production following recent foot and mouth outbreaks. Argentina's farmers intend to plant 6.8 million hectares of wheat this year. Farmers in Brazil are expected to plant 1.5 million hectares of wheat, and in Uruguay 195 000 hectares. Wheat is also currently being planted in Chile with planting intentions up by 6 percent relative to last year. Prospects are good for Bolivia's irrigated winter crop currently being planted in the valleys, as water reservoirs are full from abundant summer rains.

Harvesting of coarse grain crops is well advanced in the Mercosur countries. The crops benefited from abundant summer rains, and output is expected to increase significantly from last year. Brazil's total maize production for 2001 is expected to increase by almost 7 million tonnes relative to last year, transforming the country from a net importer of maize to a net exporter. Uruguay's maize crop is also in good condition and the country is likely to achieve self-sufficiency in the forthcoming marketing year (June 2001/July 2002). In Argentina, harvest of the 3.2 million hectares planted with maize is also advanced despite delays caused by abundant end-of-summer rains. Maize production is forecast at 15.4 million tonnes, and sorghum output is expected to reach 3.5 million tonnes. In the Andean Countries, in Bolivia, the maize harvest in the highlands is above average, but the harvest in the valleys is not expected to be abundant due to damage caused by drought and floods at the beginning of the year. In Peru, white maize crops (harvest May-July) are reported to be in good condition despite recent heavy rains and floods. In Ecuador, the major maize crop (currently in vegetative state) is benefiting from normal rainfall, both in the littoral and cordillera areas. In Colombia, the rains so far have favoured the development of crops located in the Pacific and Andean areas. The Colombian National Meteorological Office (IDEAM) forecast for the northern departments is for rains to intensify in the coming months, providing ample water to satisfy the needs of rain-fed maize crops currently being planted.

Harvesting of the main-season paddy crops is drawing to conclusion in the subregion. Following an estimated one-third cut in rice area, Argentina's 2001 paddy output is forecast to fall by 264 000 tonnes to 640 000 tonnes. Similarly in Brazil, rice area is estimated to have undergone a substantial contraction. Although a significant improvement in productivity is anticipated through the greater use of technological inputs and planting of improved varieties, the yield increase should only partially offset the contraction in plantings. As a result, production for the 2001 season is forecast to decrease by around 5 percent from the previous year to 10.9 million tonnes. In Uruguay and Bolivia, output is forecast to drop respectively by 16 percent and 7 percent, also reflecting a reduction in area.

North America

In the United States, aggregate (winter and spring) wheat production in 2001 is officially forecast at 53.4 million tonnes, 12 percent down from the previous year. The area of winter wheat to be harvested in 2001 is now forecast at about 13 million hectares, some 8 percent down from 2000 and the smallest area since 1971. Regarding spring wheat, planting was virtually complete by late May and, if early indications in the USDA's Prospective Plantings Report have materialized, the area will be down by about 1 percent from 2000 to 7.7 million hectares (see table A. 10). In Canada, the official March seeding intentions report (see table A. 11) points to a marginal decline in the overall wheat area in 2001. A slight increase expected in the area sown to spring wheat would be more than offset by a sharp reduction in durum wheat plantings. As of mid-May, planting was reported to progressing at about normal pace in Alberta and Saskatchewan although most of the former and the western regions of the latter were in need of moisture to aid emergence and early crop development. By contrast, however, in Manitoba, planting was well behind normal pace because of rain and cool temperatures.

With regard to coarse grains, according to the USDA's Prospective Plantings Report, a decrease in the overall area sown is expected compared to the previous year. Plantings of Maize, barley and oats are seen to decrease while the area of sorghum could increase (see table A. 10). Planting of maize was reported to be 90 percent complete by time of the USDA May 21 Crop Progress Report, somewhat behind last year's pace but ahead of the average pace, reflecting generally favourable planting conditions. Based on the indicated areas planted, and assuming normal weather conditions prevail for the remainder of the season, aggregate 2001 coarse grains output in the United States is forecast at about 267 million tonnes, about 3percent down from the previous year. Of the total, maize would account for 243 million tonnes. In Canada, early indications in the March seeding intentions report (see table A. 11) point to an increase in plantings of the major coarse grain crops. Tentative official forecasts point to a significant 17 percent increase in the overall coarse grains production to just under 29 million tonnes, well above the average of the past five years.

In the United States, planting of the 2001/02 paddy crop is underway. Concerns over recurrent power shortages in the major growing state of California, necessary for irrigation, and concerns over reduced demand by millers, have dampened output expectations for this season's crop. Consequently, paddy production for 2001/02 is officially forecast to fall by about 3 percent from the previous year to 8.4 million tonnes.


In the EC, conditions for the 2001 cereal crops remain mixed. Northern parts of the community were generally characterized by abundant rainfall during April and early May, which hampered spring and summer crop planting and other spring field activities such as fertilizer application. However, by mid-May, a period of drier and warmer conditions eased earlier problems of excess moisture and soil conditions improved. By contrast, in the Iberian Peninsula, lack of rainfall and above normal temperatures in April stressed the most advanced crops. However, conditions for newly planted summer crops improved in mid-May with cooler temperatures and the arrival of some light rain showers.

Latest information confirms expectations of a decrease in the EC cereal crop in 2001, largely reflecting a significant contraction in the winter sown soft wheat area. The aggregate wheat crop in 2001 is now forecast at 97.5 million tonnes, somewhat down from the forecast in the previous report and 7.5 percent down from last year's bumper crop. Apart from the large area reduction, yield prospects have reduced somewhat over the past two months because of less than optimum growing conditions in many parts. Regarding coarse grains, although the outcome of spring/summer crop planting is still uncertain, tentative forecasts point to an overall reduction in output to just under 108 million tonnes, compared to 108.3 million tonnes in 2000. While barley production may decrease slightly, output of maize could increase if the larger area expected in France, the Community's major producer, should materialize. The 2001/02 paddy season is in progress but planting intentions remain largely uncertain. Pending more information, production in the EC is tentatively forecast to recover from the 11 percent contraction experienced last year, that followed from flood-induced losses in Italy. Area ceilings at the national level under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), continue to limit the scope for large increase in plantings. However, such ceilings were overshot last year in Spain. Abundant water availability in the country, combined with steady productivity gains, might induce planting to yet again exceed the CAP national planting limit, despite the resulting penalties to producer income payments in breach of the ceiling.

Elsewhere in Europe, prospects for the winter cereal crops, although remaining somewhat mixed, are still generally better than last year when severe drought afflicted several countries. In the Czech Republic, the 2001 cereal area is estimated to be similar to the previous year's level at about 1.6 million hectares, and an average output is expected. In Hungary, a dry April favoured spring crop sowing. Scattered showers in early and mid-May helped to improve soil water supplies, which have been generally low since last summer, but more moisture is still needed to ensure satisfactory development of crops through to harvest. Wheat output is now forecast to recover to about 4.5 million tonnes, after reduced outputs in the past two years. A significant recovery in maize output is also expected as long as satisfactory amounts of rainfall continue to be received. In Poland, winter and spring weather conditions have been excellent for the 2001 cereal crops. As a result, although the overall cereal area is expected to remain close to last year's level, improved yields should lead to a significant rise in output. Currently, aggregate cereal output is forecast to recover to almost 26 million tonnes, 15 percent up from last years reduced crop. Of the total wheat is forecast to account for 9 million tonnes. 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 Balkan countries, in Bosnia Herzegovina, wheat production is likely to remain at about 250 000 tonnes but maize output, given adequate rains this growing season could recover from last year's drought reduced level. In Bulgaria, conditions have remained generally satisfactory over the past two months for the developing cereal crops and a sharp recovery in this year's cereal output, after last year's reduced crop, still seems likely. Aggregate output of cereals in 2001 is now forecast at about 5.4 million tonnes, about 17 percent up from 2000, of which, wheat will account for about 3.2 million tonnes. In Croatia, the outlook is uncertain with moisture reserves remaining tight, but again good spring rains have improved the outlook and the 2001 cereal crop is likely to recover from last years low of 2.8 million tonnes. In the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), good rains in the past few weeks have helped to boost soil moisture for crop development. However, after last year's persistent and prolonged drought, soil moisture reserves remain low and the harvest outlook depends crucially on regular rains throughout the remainder of the growing season. However, official expectations are that this year's harvest will be markedly better than last year's. FAO expects the 2001 wheat harvest to reach at least 2 million tonnes and the maize harvest to recover to about 5 million tonnes, from 3.1 million tonnes in 2000. In the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, prospects remain somewhat uncertain after exceptionally dry winter conditions, especially in eastern parts of the country. Winter wheat production in particular is reported to have been severely affected in some counties and, as a result, the overall output could fall below average this year. In Romania, prospects for the 2001 cereal crops have improved over the past two months with beneficial rain helping to replenish soil water reserves, which had earlier been severely depleted. Yields are likely to recover from last year's poor levels and aggregate cereal output is tentatively forecast at almost 14 million tonnes, 4 million tonnes up from last year but still well below the average of the 5 years preceding the 2000 severe drought year.

In the Baltic countries, (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) the 2001 cereal harvest could remain close to last years good level, with aggregate wheat and coarse grain production estimated to remain stable at 1.5 million tonnes and 2.6 million tonnes respectively.

In the CIS countries west of the Ural Mountains, (Belarus, Moldova, Russian Federation and Ukraine) FAO's early forecast is for an increase in the 2001 cereal production in response to mostly good growing conditions to date for winter crops in most areas of the Russian Federation and Ukraine and favourable planting conditions for spring plantings now underway. This could lead to an increase of the order of 3 million hectares in the aggregate area sown or to be sown to cereals. Markedly better growing conditions this season to date in the Ukraine and Moldova point to a recovery from the poor levels of the past two years.

In the Russian Federation, the area sown to winter crops increased by 0.5 million hectares to 14.7 million hectares, mainly due to larger plantings in the North Caucasus and the bulk of the crop is in satisfactory to good condition. Winterkill has affected crops on an area of 1.2 million hectares, below average but similar to last year's level. The area to be sown to spring grains is projected to rise by up to 2.4 million hectares compared to the previous season, to 35-36 million hectares bringing the aggregate area sown to cereals to about 48 million hectares compared to 45.6 in 1999/2000 season. Yield projections are difficult to make for an area as large and varied as the Russian Federation but, given normal weather until the completion of the harvest, the 2001 grain and pulse harvest is forecast to reach 74 million tonnes compared to the estimated 71 million tonnes in 2000. FAO's estimates for both years are some 10 percent higher than official estimates. At this early stage the 2001 wheat harvest is forecast at 40 million tonnes (2000: 38 million tonnes) and coarse grains at 32 million tonnes, similar to last year's level. In Chechnya, insecurity and shortage of farm inputs continue to compromise production.

In Ukraine, the area sown to winter grains increased by an estimated 0.6 million hectares to 8.4 million hectares; growing conditions have been good in the 2000/2001 season to date and the bulk of the crop remains in good condition. Spring planting is nearing completion and by and large weather conditions have been satisfactory. The outlook is for a sharp recovery from the poor harvests of the past two years, (estimated by FAO at 27 million tonnes and 23 million tonnes respectively). Early projections, provided normal weather prevails, are for the 2001 wheat harvest to reach 17 million tonnes (2000:11 million tonnes) and coarse grain production to reach 13 million tonnes (2000:12 million tonnes). In Belarus, weather conditions for the 2001 crops have also been beneficial overall and despite persistent economic problems, indications are that the 2001 grain harvest could reach 5 million tonnes, cleaned weight compared to an estimated 4.7 million tonnes in 2000. In Moldova, also, expectations are for an increase to an estimated 2.4 million tonnes (2000: 2.1 million tonnes) in response to better weather conditions to date.


In Australia, planting of the 2001 winter wheat and coarse grain crops is underway under generally favourable conditions. In western Australia, good rainfall throughout the winter grain belt in early May improved soil moisture for planting and germination. In the eastern areas, where soil moisture was already ample after earlier rains, drier conditions in May were beneficial for developing winter crops and summer crop harvesting. Early indications of farmers' planting intention point to a likely increase in winter wheat area this year to about 12.5 million hectares, in response to favourable price prospects. Given the good planting conditions, and assuming normal weather for the remainder of the season, a crop of about 24 million tonnes is currently forecast, sharply up from last year's output of 21 million tonnes, and well above the average of the past five years. As regards barley, the major winter coarse grain crop, early indications suggest that the planted area and output may also increase somewhat compared to last year. The harvest of the 2001 rice crop is almost complete in Australia, and the country remains on course to post a record harvest of 1.8 million tonnes, reflecting increased availability of irrigation water and ideal growing conditions in the country this season.

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