AUSTRALIA (11 June)
Prospects for the 2001 winter grain crops improved significantly with the arrival of much needed rains in early June after a prolonged dry spell. The moisture benefited crops that had already been planted into dry soils and encouraged many farmers to continue planting winter grains. After a promising start to the planting season, a prolonged dry during most of April and May had threatened to make many farmers reconsider their cropping plans, which would have led to a reduction in the winter cereal area. The latest official forecast for the 2001 wheat crop, which was released in early June, just before the arrival of the beneficial rains, was cut considerably from earlier expectations to 21.7 million tonnes, similar to last yearís level. However, based on latest indications there is renewed likelihood that the final outcome will be a crop somewhat above last yearís level, although maybe not as large as the seasonís first forecasts suggested. The difference may be taken up by barley, which is normally later sown, and would have been the preferred winter crop should the dry conditions have continued. The harvest of the 2001 rice crop is virtually complete, and a record harvest of nearly 1.8 million tonnes has been gathered, reflecting increased availability of irrigation water and ideal growing conditions during the rice season.
PAPUA NEW GUINEA (15 June)
The country was hit in early June by two earthquakes affecting mostly northern areas, as in December 2000. The two earthquakes reaching 6.4 degrees on the Richter scale were followed by a number of aftershocks, particularly landslides in their immediate vicinity. Although the reported injuries and damage crops were limited, two villages were destroyed, leaving some 200 people homeless.
SOLOMON ISLANDS (15 June)
The food supply situation continues to be tight for many people in the country, particularly the internally displaced and the new returnees who need humanitarian assistance. Despite the signing of a comprehensive peace agreement between the major factions at the end of last year, progress in the rehabilitation and resettlement process has been slow. Income and employment opportunities are scarce in the country as the economy is officially reported to have reduced its output and performance for the past three years to less than half of its normal level.
VANUATU (15 June)
The cyclone season has been generally calm this year, with the only major tropical cyclone reported in the northern tip of the country in early April. Little damage was reported to crops. Heavy rains in the affected areas may have benefited crops.