|No. 1||Rome, February 2003|
Current Production and Crop Prospects
Far East: Aggregate cereal production in the region decreased in 2002, entirely as a result of a sharp reduction in the paddy crop, which more than offset increased output of wheat and coarse grains. FAO's latest forecast puts the region's aggregate wheat crop at 250.7 million tonnes, about 2 percent up from 2001, while output of coarse grains also rose by 2 percent to 214.4 million tonnes. By contrast, and largely the result of erratic monsoon rains, the region's paddy output fell by almost 16 million tonnes. The bulk of the decline was accounted for by the world's two major producing countries, i.e. China and India.
The outlook for the winter grain crops, planted in September to December, to be harvested later this year, is mixed. With above average or average rainfall during recent months in the northern and eastern countries of the region the outlook there is generally favourable, while in the Indian sub-continent, prospects are less favourable due to drier than normal weather.
In China, wheat production declined in 2002 for the third year in succession, to 89.3 million tonnes (5 percent below 2001 and 17 percent below the average of the past 5 years). The decline mostly results from a further reduction in the area dedicated to wheat production. The declining trend in wheat plantings over the past few years is reported to have continued again this year, with a further reduction estimated in the winter wheat area for harvest this summer. As a result, the preliminary production forecast points to a reduction of some 3 percent in the country's aggregate wheat output in 2003. In India, below normal rainfall in late 2002 and early 2003 in many parts, and particularly the drought in Rajasthan in the north-west and Orissa in the east, have adversely effected the sowing and growth of the Rabi winter wheat. The harvest is due to start from March and output is tentatively forecast to be around 70 million tonnes, significantly below the 73.5 million tonnes crop harvested in 2002. A similar weather pattern with below normal rainfall during late 2002 was observed in Pakistan. Consequently a decline in wheat production from last year's above average 19.2 million tonnes is expected in 2003.
The latest estimate of China's 2002 coarse grain crop (mostly maize) stands at some 135 million tonnes, slightly less than forecast in the previous report but still 10 million tonnes up from the previous year and above the average of the past five years. In India, reflecting the failure of the monsoon in key coarse grain producing states, the national output of maize and other coarse grains is estimated at 28.4 million tonnes, 18 percent below that of the previous year. The remaining countries of the region gathered coarse grain harvests similar to or higher than those of 2001.
The majority of the paddy growing states in India have now completed the harvest of the main Kharif (winter) crop. According to the official November forecast, the crop was expected to be about 16 percent smaller than in the previous year, owing to erratic monsoon rains. Since then, the brisk pace of Government procurement compared to last year and abundant supplies arriving onto the market place have raised some doubts over the extent of the shortfall. At the same time, expectations that the Kharif losses could be recovered through an expansion of the secondary irrigated (summer) Rabi crop have evaporated, since official sources have reported delays of over one month in the opening of the Rabi season as reservoir levels in some major growing areas were critically low. FAO now forecasts the country's aggregate 2002 output at 120 million tonnes (80 million tonnes milled equivalent), 17 million tonnes below the previous season and 5 million tonnes less than previously anticipated. This would be the lowest output since the 1995 drought-afflicted season. Basmati rice production, of particular relevance to the high quality export markets, was particularly affected, with its decline estimated at 30 percent.
World Cereal Production
Source: FAO 1/ Milled rice. 2/ Including milled rice. Note: Totals computed from unrounded data.
In Cambodia, paddy production from the 2002 season is officially forecast to drop by 18 percent to a six-year low of 3.4 million tonnes, reflecting disruptive weather patterns earlier in the season that sharply depressed both plantings and yields.
The 2002 season is about to be concluded in China (mainland) and sources in the country confirm that paddy output could fall to a fourteen-year low of 175.7 million tonnes, 2 million tonnes less than in 2001. The decline has coincided with changes in the cropping pattern, which has seen a 4 percent expansion in the main, 'intermediate' paddy crop this year, while the early and late crops contracted by a combined 9 percent. These movements were largely policy-induced, as pressure on farmers to grow rice has softened in several provinces, with the complete removal of protective prices on early rice and in some provinces, also on late rice. The 2002 rice output in the Chinese Province of Taiwan is expected to remain close to the previous year's low level. Water shortages were recently reported, which might prompt a contraction of the main crop, now at the planting stage.
In Japan, the first estimate of the country's 2002 paddy production by the Ministry of Agriculture was set at 11.1 million tonnes, around 200 000 tonnes lower than in the previous season. The moderate contraction is partly explained by unfavourable weather, but also by the Government's 'gentan' policy, which aims to curtail production through area cuts in response to faltering domestic demand. With regard to the 2003 season, the Government has targeted 1.06 million hectares, or 40 percent of the country's paddy capacity, for set-aside, 50 000 hectares more than in 2002.
In the Republic of Korea, the official estimate for the 2002 crop has been revised downward slightly. The revised figure of 6.7 million tonnes, which is only slightly lower than the earlier FAO estimate, would imply an 11 percent contraction from the previous year and be the lowest output since 1995, owing to adverse weather and policy measures designed to cut the country's stock surplus.
The 2002 paddy season is soon to be concluded in Myanmar. On account of an increase in the official estimate for the 2001 crop, FAO has also marginally raised its paddy forecast for 2002, to 21.9 million tonnes, to keep it at about the same level as last season. However, this would be less than the 23 million tonnes targeted by the Government, as excessive rainfall during the peak harvest period has likely caused some losses.
The 2002 paddy harvest in Pakistan was completed in November. A return to a regular pattern of monsoon rainfall supported larger plantings and yields, resulting in an estimated 14 percent recovery in paddy production from the drought-hit level of 2001. The current estimate of 6.6 million tonnes, however, would still be short of the record crop gathered in 1999.
Harvesting of the main paddy crop in the Philippines is expected to end by January. There is anticipation that aggregate paddy production in 2002 may reach a record level of 13.2 million tonnes, up by 1 percent from the 2001 bumper output. The foreseen production growth is reported to have been fostered by the application of better inputs and an expansion of irrigated fields, despite below-normal rainfall in the latter months of 2002. However, as the dry spell is expected to linger in the first half of the 2003, the final production outcome could be less favourable than currently anticipated.
In Thailand, the harvest of the main paddy crop is progressing satisfactorily. Output this season is expected to be about 25.8 million tonnes, 700 000 tonnes below the record produced in 2001, but still one of the highest levels ever for the country. Cultivation of Thailand's minor crop, which normally accounts for 12 percent of total production, began in January and planting is expected to be concluded by May. The Government has targeted to purchase almost 9 million tonnes of paddy under its 2002/03 paddy procurement programme. Such a scheme is likely to boost this crop, especially as intervention prices have been set at 35 percent above farmers' average production costs.
Official sources in Viet Nam have raised their 2002 paddy production estimate by 500 000 tonnes, to a record 34.1 million tonnes, in spite of serious flooding earlier in the season in the Mekong Delta (the principal growing region). The favourable outcome reflects high domestic prices, which contributed to an estimated 4 percent expansion in total rice area and a moderate rise of yields. Nonetheless, the Government, in its drive to shift away from low quality rice production, has recently announced further removals of marginal lands from paddy cultivation, which will take effect in the new season.
Among the countries situated in the southern hemisphere and along the equatorial belt, Indonesia already concluded its 2002 paddy season. Based on a more recent assessment of the outcome, the Central Bureau of Statistics has raised its estimate of the 2002 paddy production by 800 000 tonnes to 51.6 million tonnes, which would be 1.1 million tonnes more than in the previous season and close to the 2002 record. A moderate expansion in cultivated area and a marked improvement in yields led to the increase. Meanwhile, planting of the first of the 2003 paddy crops is well underway in several parts of the archipelago. Under Indonesia's concerted efforts to attain self-sufficiency, the Government has set a paddy target of 53 million tonnes for the new season.
The estimate of Sri Lanka's 2002 paddy output has been revised upward by 6 percent, which would match the record crops of 1999 and 2000. However, excessive precipitation in the northern and eastern parts of the country has caused some disruption to the early maturation stage of the main (Maha) crop, which might compromise the 2003 season.
Near East: Early indications for the 2003 wheat output in Afghanistan point to a likely reduction after a strong recovery in production last year, by 68 percent, to 2.7 million tonnes. Inadequate precipitation is reported in the south and eastern parts of the country. In the Islamic Republic of Iran, growing conditions for the recently planted wheat and barley crops for harvest in mid-2003 are favourable after the early onset of rains and snowfall in most parts of the country, and another good harvest is in prospect. Output in 2002 rose to 12 million tonnes, sharply up from the previous year's drought-reduced crop. In Syria and Jordan, recent good rains have improved prospects for the 2003 cereal crop to be harvested in April/May. In Turkey, heavy rains and snow received in the last month are expected to be beneficial for the wheat crop, to be harvested from June.
The 2002 paddy season is about to be concluded in the Near East. The aggregate paddy output for these countries for the 2002 season is now forecast to have increased by about 23 percent, to a record 9.6 million tonnes. This significant upturn reflects a sharp improvement in irrigated water supplies compared with the previous year and generally favourable growing conditions in several major rice producing countries. Leading the recovery, the Islamic Republic of Iran's paddy output is projected to reach 2.7 million tonnes, up 500 000 tonnes from 2001. Large to moderate production growth is also forecast by FAO in Afghanistan, Iraq and Turkey.
CIS in Asia: The CIS countries in Asia produced some 24.1 million tonnes of wheat in 2002 compared with 21.9 million tonnes in 2001. Kazakhstan (the largest producer in the region) produced some 12.6 million tonnes followed by Uzbekistan 4.9 million tonnes, Turkmenistan 2.2 million tonnes, Azerbaijan 1.9 million tonnes and the Kyrghyz Republic 1.3 million tonnes. Wheat is the most important staple in the region and the area planted to wheat has significantly increased in the region in the past few years. A similar or even larger output is foreseen for 2003, assuming that the satisfactory levels of precipitation so far this season continue until harvest. The region produced some 4.8 million tonnes of coarse grains in 2002, which is slightly below the 2001 harvest. This total includes some 2.8 million tonnes of barley and 1.4 million tonnes of maize. In Uzbekistan, the paddy harvest is now officially estimated at around 140 000 tonnes, double the level of 2001 but almost 60 000 tonnes below the Government target, since the increase in water availability failed to trigger a sharp expansion of plantings. Output in Turkmenistan also increased sharply.
Northern Africa: The subregion's aggregate production of wheat in 2002 is estimated at about 11.7 million tonnes, almost 10 percent down from 2001, but close to the average of the past 5 years. Production increased by some 6 percent in Egypt where the crop is largely irrigated, reflecting an expansion in plantings of almost 5 percent compared to 2001 and higher than normal yields. A small increase in production is reported for Morocco. In Algeria and Tunisia, by contrast, delayed rains and dry conditions during the growing season resulted in sharply reduced outputs. Production of coarse grains in 2002 for the subregion as a whole was slightly above average. This is principally due to the satisfactory production levels of maize in Egypt and barley in Morocco which helped offset the low outputs of barley in Algeria and Tunisia.
Planting of the 2003 winter wheat and coarse grain crops has been virtually completed in the subregion. Sowing was conducted under normal weather conditions in Egypt, while in Tunisia conditions were rather dry. In Morocco, by contrast, heavy rains and flooding in mid-November are reported to have had an adverse affect on the developing winter crops.
In Egypt, the 2002 paddy season is virtually over, with the harvest underway in the last remaining paddy areas in the south of the country. The estimate of the crop remains at a record of over 6 million tonnes, reflecting an officially estimated 15 percent expansion in rice area.
Western Africa: Harvesting of coarse grains is now underway. In the Sahel, a series of joint FAO/CILSS Crop Assessment Missions were fielded in October to the nine CILSS member countries to review the outcome of the 2002 cropping season. The aggregate cereal production of the nine CILSS member countries has been estimated by these missions at 11.3 million tonnes, 3 percent below 2001 but 11 percent above the average of the last five years. Below-average crops are anticipated in Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau and Mauritania. Near-average production is expected in Chad, the Gambia, Mali and Senegal, while above-average outputs are foreseen in Burkina-Faso and Niger. In the coastal countries along the Gulf of Guinea, harvest prospects are generally good in Benin, Nigeria and Togo but are less favourable in Ghana, following below-normal rains in September and October.
Almost all countries in Western Africa had completed the harvest of their paddy crops by January. Below-normal precipitation and continuing civil unrest marred the 2002 season in several of them. A number of revisions have been made to production estimates, which, on balance, have left aggregate prospects for the subregion unchanged. For instance, based on the release of official estimates for the preceding season and several recent FAO/WFP missions, output is seen to expand in Benin, Ghana, Mauritania, Nigeria and Sierra Leone but contract in Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia, Mali and Senegal.
Central Africa: Harvesting of coarse grains is underway in Cameroon and prospects are favourable. In the Central African Republic, harvest prospects are uncertain following erratic and below average rains that affected crop development in some regions.
Persistent insecurity in the Democratic Republic of Congo has led to a fourth consecutive contraction in paddy production, which is officially forecast at 315 000 tonnes in 2002 - the lowest output level in the past two decades.
Eastern Africa: Harvesting of the 2002 wheat crop is complete. The subregion 's aggregate output is preliminarily estimated at 1.6 million tonnes, about 17 percent below the previous year and 15 percent below the average of the past five years. In Ethiopia, the wheat crop is estimated at 1.1 million tonnes, 22 percent down from the previous year, reflecting erratic weather and insufficient rainfall overall during the season. In the Sudan, wheat output declined 18 percent to 247 000 tonnes.
Harvesting of the 2002/03 main season coarse grains is completed in the subregion while the secondary season's crops are being harvested, with the exception of Ethiopia where the crop is about to be planted. The 2002/03 aggregate coarse grains output is provisionally forecast at 18 million tonnes, 18 percent below the good crop in the previous year and 8 percent below the average of the past five years. In Ethiopia, late and erratic rains during the season resulted in a 25 percent drop in coarse grains output, from the good crop of 2001, to 5.6 million tonnes. In Sudan, coarse grain production declined by nearly 30 percent from the previous year, mainly due to a significant reduction in the area under irrigated sorghum. This was largely an adjustment back to a normal area after the unusually large expansion in 2001. In Eritrea, the 2002 coarse grains were affected by a severe drought and output is estimated to have declined by nearly 80 percent to just 44 000 tonnes. In Kenya, the 2002/03 maize output is forecast at 2.3 million tonnes, about 16 percent below the previous year's crop but slightly higher than average. In Tanzania, despite some heavy rains and flooding in parts, prospects for the 2003 secondary season 'vuli' crop, now being harvested, are favourable. In Uganda, the 2002 main season crop was reduced as a result of population displacement and dry weather. The outlook for the second crop, now being harvested, is also unfavourable due to delayed rains. In Somalia, the outlook for the secondary 'deyr' season crops, about to be harvested, is favourable due to better distributed rains compared to last year. The main 'gu' season crop in southern Somalia, harvested last August/September, is estimated at about 209 000 tonnes (80 000 tonnes sorghum and 129 000 tonnes maize), well above the relatively poor crop in 2001.
Official estimates for 2002 paddy production have been made available for the minor producing countries of Kenya, Sudan and Rwanda. Output is expected to rebound sharply in the latter two countries, but to remain unchanged in Kenya.
Southern Africa: FAO's latest estimate of the subregion's aggregate 2002 wheat crop is 2.6 million tonnes, a decline of 10 percent from the good level of the previous year but still average. In South Africa, which accounts for three-quarters of the subregion's production, the 2002 wheat output decreased to 2.3 million tonnes, which is 7 percent below the 2001 level. This is the result of a slight reduction in plantings and lower yields in the major producing Free State due to relatively high temperatures during the cropping season. In Zimbabwe, wheat production declined by 42 percent, to a poor level of 160 000 tonnes, as a result of low plantings and yields following land reform activities.
Prospects for the 2003 coarse grains are uncertain. Abundant rains in the first half of January provided relief to crops in areas previously affected by dry weather, but cumulative precipitation since the beginning of the season remained below average in most of the subregion. The heavy rains of January also resulted in floods and crop losses in parts. In South Africa, the outlook for the main maize crop is favourable so far. Following a prolonged dry spell in November rains have been adequate in most of the maize belt since December and only northern parts continue to experience moisture deficit. Preliminary official estimates point to an increase of 7 percent in the area planted to maize, comprising an increase of 17 percent in white maize plantings and a decline of 9 percent in that of yellow maize. By contrast, prospects for this year's crop are poor in Zimbabwe. Rains in the second dekad of January relieved dryness in eastern parts, but the main maize growing areas remained dry. The outlook is unfavourable also due to reduced plantings as a result of disruption in the commercial sector and shortages of agricultural inputs. In Mozambique and Malawi, widespread heavy rains around 10 January resulted in localized floods but overall benefited crops, which were stressed by previous dry weather. In Zambia, abundant rains in January improved prospects for the 2003 maize crop in most growing areas except in the extreme southern parts, where more precipitation is are still needed. In Botswana, prolonged dry conditions since the beginning of the season have negatively affected crop prospects, mainly sorghum. In Namibia, rains in January benefited developing coarse grains affected by earlier dry weather. In Lesotho, good rains were received in January but yields are likely to have been adversely affected by hail. Several current indicators point to a moderate El Niño event, which should result in below average rains in Southern Africa until March 2003. The weather and crop situation needs to be closely monitored in the coming weeks.
Latest estimates of the subregion's 2002 coarse grain crop stand at 14.8 million tonnes, only slightly higher than the previous year's below average level. Production was sharply reduced in most countries of the subregion, with the exception of South Africa, Mozambique and minor producer Botswana.
The 2003 rice season is advancing in the major producing countries of Madagascar and Mozambique, but information regarding the state of these crops is sparse. With regard to the 2002 season, a recent FAO/WFP mission to Madagascar concluded that the rice production may have reached 2.7 million tonnes, 300 000 tonnes higher than the prior forecast, and similar the levels produced in the past two seasons.
Growing conditions are normal for the 2002/03 irrigated wheat crop in the northwestern parts of Mexico. Water reservoir levels are reported to be adequate. Harvesting is due to start from April and early forecasts indicate that 2003 output will likely be somewhat less than last year's 3.3 million tonne crop, largely as a result of a decrease in the area planted, but should still remain about average.
Harvesting of the 2002/03 second season coarse grain (mainly maize) is virtually completed in all Central American countries while harvesting of the third season crop ('apante') is about to start in some countries. Average maize outputs are provisionally estimated for Honduras and Guatemala while production should be above average in El Salvador and Nicaragua, particularly in the latter country where a near record output has been collected. By contrast, production has been low in Costa Rica. In aggregate, production of maize in 2002 for these countries is tentatively estimated at an about-average 2.7 million tonnes, 8 percent up from 2001. In Mexico, an average output of about 19 million tonnes in 2002 is tentatively estimated. In the Caribbean, maize output in the Dominican Republic is provisionally estimated at an above-average level, largely reflecting favourable weather conditions at planting and during the growing season. In Cuba, despite damage caused to first season crops by hurricane rains and winds (Hurricanes 'Isidore' and 'Lili' in late September), a good maize crop was gathered. In Haiti, maize output was below average, mainly as a result of the poor outcome of the first season crops which were affected by extremely dry weather at planting and during the growing season.
As the 2002 rice season draws to a close in Central America and the Caribbean, latest information indicates that output in several countries is higher than earlier expected. For instance, unofficial sources in the Dominican Republic put paddy output at a record 740 000 tonnes, some 140 000 tonnes more than earlier anticipated and up 9 percent from 2001. Favourable growing conditions and high domestic support prices have had a positive effect on both yields and rice area. Similarly in Panama, the Government anticipates a record paddy crop of 320 000 tonnes, up 15 percent from the previous year. For the other major producers in the region, rice production in Costa Rica, Mexico and Nicaragua is estimated to have undergone a contraction, while in Cuba moderate growth is foreseen.
Harvesting of the 2002 wheat crop is reaching completion in the southern areas of the subregion. In Argentina, the largest producer, about 96 percent of the crop had been harvested by mid-January. The latest official forecast indicates a below-average production of 13 million tonnes. The sown area for the 2002 crop was significantly reduced compared to the previous year, and yields were lower, largely as a result of financial constraints on farmers, curtailing plantings and input use. Furthermore, heavy rains in mid-January have affected the tail-end of the harvest in the large producing areas of southeastern Buenos Aires Province and the final figure could be somewhat lower. In Brazil, harvesting has been completed and output is estimated at 2.9 million tonnes, 12 percent down from the previous year but still above the five-year average. This is less than earlier expected as adverse weather in the main producing states of Paraná and Rio Grande do Sul seriously affected developing crops in the latter part of the season. In Chile, harvesting is underway. Recent heavy rains are reported to have negatively affected the crops, but no detailed assessment of damage has been made available yet. Output is nevertheless forecast to be about average. In Uruguay, harvest operations have been virtually completed and some 135 000 hectares of wheat have been harvested, an improvement over the previous year but still well below average. In the Andean countries, in Bolivia, wheat output in 2002 is estimated at a slightly above-average 143 000 tonnes. Planting of the 2003 first season crop has started in the largest producing areas in the eastern Department of Santa Cruz. In Peru, production of wheat, mostly grown in the highlands and for local consumption, was a high 190 000 tonnes in 2002.
Planting of the 2003 coarse grain crops, principally maize, in the southern areas of the subregion is well advanced. In Argentina, about 95 percent of intended plantings had been completed by the end of the first week of January. As a whole, the crop is reported to be in good condition, particularly in the main growing areas; nevertheless, total maize plantings are provisionally estimated to be slightly lower than the previous year's below average level. This is mainly the result of credit constraints on producers in view of the uncertain economic situation faced by the country. In Brazil, planting of the 2003 main maize crop (summer crop), which started in August 2002 should be completed by February. Harvesting is due to start in some parts by next month. Latest official estimates indicate that the planted area decreased slightly from last year's level, largely because of farmers' decision, principally in the large producing southern states, to decrease the area planted to maize in the summer in favour of more exportable crops. To offset the decline, it is expected that farmers will increase plantings of the second season crop ('safrihna'), which are due to start from March. Planting has also been recently completed in Chile and Uruguay, and an increased area is reported in the former country. In the Andean countries, in Bolivia, planting of maize and barley has been completed in the highland valleys as well as in the important producing eastern Department of Santa Cruz. Growing conditions are reported to be normal and harvesting is due to start from late March. In Ecuador, harvesting of the 2002 second season maize crop has recently been completed and output for the year is provisionally estimated at a high 560 000 tonnes. In Peru, where maize is grown throughout the year, a record output of about 1.5 million tonnes has been harvested. In Colombia, harvesting of the 2002 second season crops is underway and an average aggregate maize output (both first and second season crops) is anticipated. In Venezuela, harvesting of the 2002 maize and sorghum crops has been recently completed and below-average outputs were collected.
With the exception of a few countries situated north of the equator, which are in the process of gathering winter paddy, the 2002 rice season for the region ended in June of last year. The aggregate output estimate remains unchanged at 19.5 million tonnes, 3 percent down from the 2001 level.
As for the 2003 season, most countries in South America, began planting their main paddy crops last October. As these crops approach maturation, several of the larger rice-growing countries in the region have released preliminary production forecasts, which all appear promising, despite widespread economic uncertainty. For example, in Argentina, a sharp area expansion might lead to rebound in production by about 24 percent from last year's level. In Brazil, the region's largest producer, output is forecast to increase by 3 percent from 2002, based on trend growth in yields. However, excessive rainfall during the planting stage has cast some doubt on the country's prospects. A production recovery could also take place in Uruguay, led by a forecast increase in plantings.
In the United States, the final official estimate of the 2002 wheat crop is 44 million tonnes, some 8 percent down from the already well-below average crop in the previous year. The first official forecast of the winter wheat seeded area for the 2003 crop points to an increase of 6 percent from the previous year to 17.9 million hectares, the largest area since 1998. The increase is mostly attributed to higher wheat prices during the peak planting time last August. Apart from the increased area, improved planting and growing conditions also contribute to the likelihood of a larger crop this year. According to the last official Crop Progress report of the 2002 season in late November, overall, about 60 percent of the crop had a good to excellent condition rating compared with 44 percent a year ago. In Canada, latest estimates put the 2002 wheat crop at 15.7 million tonnes, a 24 percent drop from the previous year and well below the five-year average. Regarding the prospects for 2003, the relatively small winter wheat crop has already been sown and the area is estimated at a record high of 400 000 ha, 67 percent up from last year, in response to the high wheat prices last autumn. Early indications for the main spring crop to be sown later this year also point to a sharp increase in the area sown by about 7 percent. However, the area harvested is expected to increase much more compared to 2002 as a sharp drop in abandonment is likely. Thus, based on the expected harvested area and assuming a return to near-normal yields, total wheat production in 2003 could increase by over 60 percent.
The final estimate of the United States 2002 coarse grains crop is 245.2 million tonnes, about 6.5 percent down from the previous year's crop and below the average of the past five years. Of the total, maize is estimated to account for about 229 million tonnes. In Canada, as for wheat, output of coarse grains was also reduced by drought, falling to just 19.8 million tonnes, 13 percent down from the previous year's already below average output.
According to the USDA, United States' rice production registered a 2 percent contraction from the 2001 high, but the agency confirmed that the crop still stands as the second largest in history. Although several major producing states posted record yields, a decrease in long-grain production, attributed to a price-induced fall in planted area, more than offset a sharp rise in medium grain output.
The latest estimate for the region's aggregate 2002 cereal output is 434 million tonnes, 1.6 percent up from the previous year. Most of the increase is attributed to larger wheat crops in the main producing countries in the EU and in the Russian Federation. The wheat crops elsewhere, and the coarse grain crops throughout the region were mostly similar to, or somewhat down from the previous year's levels. Output of wheat in the region is estimated at some 209.7 million tonnes, about 4.5 percent up from 2001. The latest estimate of the region's coarse grains output has been raised slightly since the last report to 221.1 million tonnes, about 1 percent down from the previous year, while paddy production is estimated marginally up at 3.3 million tonnes.
Autumn and winter weather conditions so far, have been generally favourable for the bulk of the winter grain crops throughout the EU, and mostly better than during the same period in the previous season. Latest information suggests that the overall winter wheat area will probably remain around last year's level. Wheat prices in the EU in the latter part of 2002 were under pressure from large volumes of imports from other parts of Europe, somewhat reducing the incentive for EU producers to plant wheat last autumn. However, generally better conditions for crops so far this season may lead to higher yields.
The outcome of the 2002 cereal harvests in central and eastern Europe were somewhat mixed. While production in Bulgaria registered a significant improvement, rising above the average of the past five years, output in Hungary and Romania fell back to below-average and average levels respectively after bumper crops in 2001. Elsewhere the harvests were similar to the previous year's levels.
Regarding the winter grain crops for the 2003 harvest, apart from adverse weather last autumn, which disrupted planting in some parts, conditions have been generally satisfactory. In the Czech Republic, the outlook is somewhat uncertain: a new wave of flooding in early January may have further stressed some crops following the impact of adverse weather already during planting last autumn. The winter wheat area in Hungary is estimated to be similar to that of the previous year. However, the condition of the crop is reported to be significantly better, pointing to an increase in production from last year's below average level, should the weather be normal during the remainder of the season. In Poland, the winter wheat area is tentatively estimated to be down for the second year. In the Slovak Republic, as of early December, planting of the winter grain crops was reported to be about 75 percent complete, well behind the pace at the same time in the previous year. It is likely that the final area sown will haven fallen short of last year's level. Excessive autumn rainfall hampered fieldwork, particularly in October.
In the Balkan countries, in Bulgaria, latest official information points to a winter wheat area of about 850 000 tonnes, down from the average of 1 million hectares. The decline is attributed to adverse weather during the peak planting period last autumn, and poor returns on last year's crops for most small to medium sized wheat producers. The area planted to wheat for harvest this year in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) is reported to be similar to last year's. Growing conditions have been favourable so far and overall cereal output is expected to be similar to last year's level, which comprised about 2 million tonnes of wheat and 6 million tonnes of coarse grains. In Romania, in contrast to many other parts of the region, the winter grain planting campaign benefited from generally favourable weather. The total wheat area is estimated at about 2.1 million hectares, similar to the previous year's area, and with the bulk of the crop planted within the optimum date the yields prospects are good.
The 2002 wheat harvest in the Baltic States, estimated at 1.3 million tonnes, was similar to the 2001 harvest. Production is expected to be maintained at this level in 2003 also.
In the CIS countries west of the Ural Mountains, the aggregate wheat harvest in 2002 totaled about 73 million tonnes, which is a record in post-Soviet era. The Russian Federation accounted for the bulk of the increase as output in Ukraine fell slightly. The overall coarse grains output among these countries in 2002 also rose, to 58.4 million tonnes, 1 million tonnes higher than the bumper harvest in 2001. In this case Ukraine and Belarus accounted for the bulk of the increase, as coarse grain output fell in the Russian Federation. The estimate of the 2002 paddy output in the Russian Federation has been revised downward since the last report, to 480 000 tonnes, around 3 percent below last year's crop, mostly on account of reduced plantings.
The area planted to wheat and other winter cereals in these countries for harvest later this year is estimated to have increased slightly, but late planting due to adverse autumn weather, and harsh winter conditions may result in lower yields this year.
In Australia, the recently completed 2002 winter wheat harvest is officially estimated at 10 million tonnes, just a little more than 40 percent of the previous year's bumper crop, reflecting the devastating impact of a severe and prolonged drought.
The winter coarse grain crops (mostly barley and oats) also suffered from the drought, and the aggregate coarse grains output shrank to about 6.8 million tonnes, compared to almost 12 million tonnes in the previous year. Prospects for the summer coarse grain crop (mostly sorghum) have improved somewhat in parts of northern NSW and southern Queensland following the arrival of some rainfall in late December. The precipitation is reported to have benefited crops already in the ground and allowed planting in some areas that would otherwise have remained fallow. However, the rainfall was insufficient to significantly improve the severely depleted soil moisture reserves or irrigation reserves.
The ABARE crop report in December confirmed that owing to severe water shortages, the area sown to rice would cover only 30 percent of the 2002 level. This could bring the 2003 paddy crop down to 380 000 tonnes, compared to 1.3 million tonnes in 2002. The situation might even deteriorate further, given that the current drought conditions are forecast to prevail up to the harvest in April.