FAO/GIEWS - Foodcrops & Shortages No.4, September 2001

CENTRAL AMERICA (including the Caribbean)

COSTA RICA (3 September)

Harvesting of 2001 maize crops started in August and the earlier forecast of a 12 percent increase in white maize production has been lowered following damages to the crop caused by a dry spell in June and July. Production is now anticipated to remain at last year’s level of about 18 000 tonnes. Harvesting of first season paddy crop is underway, and production is provisionally forecast to remain unchanged from last year’s level.

Wheat import requirements for marketing year 2001/02 (July/June) are predicted to increase to 200 000 tonnes from 120 000 last year due to low carryover stocks. Imports of white maize and beans are anticipated to remain unchanged from last year. Traditionally, Costa Rica imports white maize and beans from neighbouring countries, but importers this year will be looking elsewhere following a dry spell that affected first season crops throughout Central America.

CUBA (3 September)

Agriculture was affected last year and early this year by what some have described as the worst drought in a decade. Moderate rains in July and August have improved the situation and favoured first season coarse grain, paddy and coffee crops due to be harvested from September. Early forecasts are that production of maize will increase by 15 percent from last year’s drought affected crop. Coffee picking started in August and output is anticipated to increase by 15 percent.

Rice imports in marketing year 2001 (Jan/Dec) are forecast to remain unchanged from last year at 440 000 tonnes.


Harvesting of 2001 coarse grain crops started in July and is expected to continue until early next year. Output is forecast to increase slightly from last year following increased plantings and favourable weather conditions. Harvesting of the important spring paddy crop finished in August and planting of the second season crop is underway. A bumper paddy crop of approximately 620 000 tonnes is anticipated, representing a 3 percent increase from the level of last year. A slight increase in the production of plantain, yucca, beans and poultry is also reported.

Wheat imports in marketing year 2000/01 (July/June) are anticipated to reach 305 000 tonnes, while yellow maize imports (used as feed) are expected to remain unchanged from last year at some 700 000 tonnes.

EL SALVADOR (3 September)

The strong earthquakes that hit the country in January and February, damaging transport infrastructure and housing, and hampering the transport and marketing of produce by the farmers, led to severe resource constraints for the cultivation of third season crops in January and February. FAO, in collaboration with the Government, supplied agricultural inputs for the planting of first season crops in May and June. However, early estimates of a normal maize crop from the first and most important season have been lowered by 18 percent following drought, and aggregate cereal production is forecast to decrease by 7 percent from last year. Import requirements of white maize for marketing year 2001/02 are estimated to increase by 50 000 tonnes over last year, and which is expected to be covered by commercial imports.

The international community was already providing food aid from local purchases to 200 000 victims of the earthquake before the impact of drought. WFP, in collaboration with the Government, is assisting 25 000 drought affected families in 31 districts, while preparations to assist an additional 10 000 families in 29 districts in collaboration with NGO partners are underway.

GUATEMALA (3 September)

Rains in June were 60 percent lower than normal and some 8 percent of the area planted to maize and beans in the central and eastern departments of the country was lost. About 13 000 subsistence farms reportedly suffered at least 80 percent losses of first season crops in localized areas. Aggregate cereal production in 2001 is forecast to decrease by 9 percent from last year’s average crop. The government has declared a state of emergency in the affected departments and the international community is providing food assistance to the affected population with local purchases. Although food prices have shown signs of stabilization with the arrival of first season crops on the market, an increase in the demand for maize and beans from neighbouring El Salvador and Costa Rica could result in price increases before the end of the year.

HAITI* (5 September)

Prospects for the first season cereal and bean crops, now being harvested, are promising. Planting of second season paddy crops started in August and is expected to continue during September. Last year, the country was affected by drought, but the food situation is now stabilizing following favourable weather conditions for crop development during May, June and July. However, a deterioration of the NDVI index of the maize producing provinces of Sud and Grand Anse and bean producing areas east of Port-au-Prince, is observed during August. Food assistance from the international community continues to be distributed through development projects to some sectors of the population.

HONDURAS (5 September)

Honduras was the country most affected by Hurricane ‘Mitch’ in 1998, and some 250 000 people were still receiving food aid until June this year, when the country was hit by drought. The onset of dry spells in June adversely affected crops during the early stages of development. Severe losses are reported for some 28 000 farmers living in central and southern areas of the country. An estimated 42 000 hectares of maize were lost (20 percent of the total planted area), with an expected fall in production of 38 000 tonnes. Additionally, 20 000 hectares of sorghum and 8 000 hectares of beans were lost. The Government used its strategic reserves of maize and beans to improve market supply of basic grains, and the WFP has distributed over 1 000 tonnes of food among the drought affected population. Despite the drought damage, aggregate cereal production in 2001 is forecast to fall by only 2.6 percent from last year’s slightly below average crop, provided a normal second season crop is obtained.

MEXICO (5 September)

Harvesting of 2001 rain-fed summer maize crops started in September and is expected to continue until January. Last year maize crops were affected by a dry spell and yields were lower than originally estimated. This year the crop yet again received lower than average rain throughout the season, and earlier forecasts of an increase in maize production due to increased plantings are now being questioned. Early forecasts of an average paddy crop to be harvested from September, and most of which is rain-fed, may also need reviewing later in the year.

Cereal imports in marketing year 2000/01 (July/June) are expected to be about 2.8 million tonnes of wheat, 5.6 million tonnes of maize and 4.8 million tonnes of sorghum. Rice import in marketing year 2000/01 (Jan/Dec) are estimated at 440 000 tonnes.

NICARAGUA (4 September)

Western parts of Nicaragua, which were affected in October 1998 by Hurricane ‘Mitch’, were this summer affected by drought. Some 45 000 farmers have reportedly lost at least 50 percent of their crops in León and Chinandega departments. For the country as a whole, early estimates of a bumper maize crop in 2001 have been revised downwards by 15 percent, and production is currently forecast at 272 000 tonnes, some 8 percent lower than last year’s drought affected crop. Despite the fall in production, the level of aggregate cereal imports is not expected to increase substantially. Maize imports in marketing year 2001/02 (Jul/Jun) are estimated at 90 000 tonnes, 10 percent higher than last year. Rice import requirements in marketing year 2001 (Jan/Dec) are expected to remain unchanged from the last five year’s average of 80 000 tonnes.

The country is not expected to face an exceptional food emergency in the upcoming months. However, the food situation of the affected rural population is particularly difficult because of the widespread closure of coffee plantations throughout the country. The closing is due to low international coffee prices and low expected yields which make production unprofitable. The coping strategies currently used include the temporary migration of women to the cities in search of work for domestic services and of men for selfemployment in the informal sector. WFP is providing food aid from local purchases to 9 000 drought-affected victims, but this number is expected to increase in the next few weeks. FAO, in collaboration with the Government of Nicaragua, is providing 7 000 farmers with agricultural inputs for second season crops currently being planted.

PANAMA (4 September)

A drought hit Central America during the early months of the rainy season. The most affected areas of Panama are the peninsula of Azuero the province of Coclé and coastal areas of the Gulf. Some 2 000 heads of cattle were lost and paddy production is expected to decline from last year. The drought did not allow the timely preparation of the soil for planting paddy on schedule, and the total area planted is lower than last year. The drought also affected coffee, plantain and banana plantations.

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