|No.1 April 2006|
|Crop Prospects and Food Situation|
Harvesting of the winter grains (mainly wheat and barley), which make up the bulk of the subregion's cereal crop is underway. Prospects are very favourable for the 2006 cereal production reflecting above-average precipitation throughout the season across most of the subregion. FAO forecasts the aggregate output of wheat in the subregion at 17.4 million tonnes, 20 percent up from the previous year's drought-reduced level, while that of barley is put at 4.2 million tonnes, an increase of almost 70 percent, both results being well above the recent average. In Egypt, the largest producer in the subregion, cereal crops are mostly irrigated and yields remain relatively constant. An increasing trend in production over the past few years has thus come mostly from expansion in the area dedicated to cereal crops. The area sown to wheat, which is the most profitable winter crop, is officially estimated to have expanded again last autumn, and output is expected to rise further from the bumper level of almost 8.2 million tonnes already achieved in 2005. In Morocco, aside from the exceptionally favourable weather conditions, government policy to encourage investment in agriculture, in particular, increased subsidies to farmers to expand mechanization and use of high quality seeds, is reported to have also made a significant contribution to improved production prospects this year.
In Western Africa, normal to above normal rains in March and early April in the coastal areas along the Gulf of Guinea provided adequate soil moisture for planting of the 2006 main season cereal crops, which is underway. In the Sahel countries, planting is scheduled to begin in May. The 2005 aggregate cereal crop of the region was estimated at record levels in both the coastal and the Sahel countries mainly reflecting favourable growing conditions during the season. In the Sahel countries, production recovered sharply from the previous year's drought and locust affected harvest. However, relatively high food prices are reported in several countries with negative effects on access to food by poor households, including those living in chronically food-deficit agro-pastoral areas of Niger. Consequently, in spite of the improved food supply situation in the subregion in 2005/06, assistance is still needed mostly for income generating and asset reconstitution activities in order to strengthen access to food by vulnerable households. In Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, humanitarian assistance is also provided to internally displaced people and refugees.
Rainfall has been adequate since the start of the growing season, allowing land preparation and planting of the 2006 cereal crops to progress in Cameroun and the Central African Republic. In the latter country, however, agricultural recovery and food security continue to be hampered by persistent insecurity and inadequate availability of agricultural inputs, notably in northern parts. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, weather has been generally favourable but security problems have been responsible for worsening the food security situation especially in the eastern and north-eastern provinces.
The 2006 main season cereal crops are being planted and/or maturing in Somalia, Kenya and Uganda, while in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan sowing is not due to commence for about a month. Harvesting of the 2005/06 secondary season crops is completed in most countries of the region except in Ethiopia, where the “belg” crops are scheduled to be harvested from June, and Sudan where harvesting of the wheat crop is underway. Favourable rains were recently reported along the coast of Kenya, northern Tanzania, Lake Victoria Basin and the belg producing areas of Ethiopia. These rains were a welcome respite but it is too early to know is there has been any significant benefit on agricultural production. By contrast, below-average rainfall, so far, in the drought-affected areas of southern Somalia, northern and north-eastern Kenya, and south-eastern Ethiopia is a cause for serious concern. The outlook for the March to May 2006 rainfall point to an increased likelihood of near to below normal rainfall over much of the severely affected areas.
Table 4. Africa cereal production ( million tonnes)
Note: Totals computed from unrounded data.
FAO's latest estimates put the subregion's aggregate 2005 cereal output close to 30 million tonnes, about 19 percent higher than in the previous year and well above the average of the past five years. This mainly reflects generally favourable weather conditions in major growing areas. In Ethiopia, cereal output increased by 15 percent on the previous year's good level. In Sudan, the 2005/06 cereal crop increased by nearly 58 percent compared to the drought-affected 2004 harvest as a result also of good rains and also improved security in southern areas. In Tanzania and Uganda, the aggregate 2005 cereal crops are estimated slightly above the previous year's good levels. In Kenya, the 2005/06 cereal crop increased 29 percent above the previous year to some 3.4 million tonnes. In Eritrea, the 2005 cereal output, currently estimated at about 150 000 tonnes is nearly double the previous year's poor crop and about one-third above average. However, even in good years, Eritrea produces only a fraction of its total food requirements and largely depends on imports. By contrast, in Somalia, a poor secondary “deyr” season was preceded by the worst main “Gu” harvest in the last decade. Latest estimates put the aggregate cereal output in 2005/06 at 146 000 tonnes, nearly 50 percent below the previous year.
Despite the bumper aggregate 2005 cereal crop, large areas in the subregion face severe drought conditions which, coupled with the effects of past and ongoing conflicts, have put millions of people on the brink of starvation. Food problems are particularly serious in southern Somalia, and pastoral areas of northern and eastern Kenya, and south-eastern Ethiopia. The drought which has affected contiguous areas of these three neighbouring countries has increased the vulnerability of mobile pastoralist communities as they have found it difficult to find water and pasture in the region, including across international borders. Responses to mitigate the effects of the drought need to have a regional perspective to avoid large-scale population movements from areas where there is no response to areas where assistance is being provided. With the drought, competition for scarce resources has fuelled violence among rival pastoral tribes forced to share a dwindling supply of water and grazing land. Although recent rains have alleviated somewhat the situation, humanitarian assistance is still necessary for large numbers of people affected by several months of food and water shortages. The international response so far is insufficient, particularly the non-food assistance. Increased interventions in food, water, health and nutrition, and livestock needs are urgently required.
Current estimates of the number of vulnerable people (both chronic and acute) in the countries affected by the current drought in the Horn of Africa are given in Table 5.
Table 5. Horn of Africa: estimates of vulnerable population in drought-affected countries
In the Great Lakes, in Burundi and Rwanda, planting of the main season (2006B) cereal and other food crops, usually carried out from February to April, was delayed due to the late start of the rains in the region. Heavy rains were received in March, continuing well into April. Production of the 2006A season crops, already harvested in January, was reduced compared to the previous year due to prolonged dry spells during the growing season in October-November.
In Southern Africa, harvest of the 2006 main season cereal crop has started in several areas, while in others it is scheduled for May. Prospects are generally good in most countries. Rains during the growing season, especially during the critical months of January and February, have been very favourable for crop development. In particular, central parts of the region received abundant precipitation. However, erratic rains, including some dry spells, were experienced in parts of South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, as well as in northern areas of Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique. In the western edge of the subregion, dry weather affected cereal crops in south west Angola. At the same time, leaching of nutrients due to excessive rains and water logging conditions, at certain periods, has been a problem in parts of Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Angola. Estimated cumulative rainfall during the first half and the second half of the season is shown in Figures 3 and 4. Overall good rains not withstanding, this year's crop yields will also depend on availability of key inputs (fertilizer, chemicals and/or labour for weeding, etc.).
Despite the generally favourable growing conditions this season, the aggregate 2006 coarse grain crop is forecast by FAO to decline by some 22 percent from 2005 to a reduced level of some 14.4 million tonnes. This reflects a sharp decrease in South Africa, by far the largest producer of the subregion, which more than offset improved harvests in most other countries. Excluding South Africa, however, the aggregate 2006 coarse grain crop increases by almost a quarter. Output of the major staple maize is forecast at 6.9 million tonnes, the largest crop since 2000, about 27 percent up from last year's drought-affected output and 21 percent above the five-year average (see Table 6). In South Africa, a contraction of 39 percent in the area planted with maize, caused primarily by low maize prices in 2005, will result in a severely reduced crop this year. Output is forecast to decline by over 5 million tonnes from the year before. Nevertheless, due to a bumper harvest in 2005, current stocks (end of March) are estimated at a record level of over 4.5 million tonnes and food availability at national and regional levels is not likely to be negatively affected by the low harvest. Production of maize is also forecast to decline in Angola as a result of dry spells in the main south-western cereal growing area, which has been experiencing drought conditions since planting in October last year. The drought has also negatively affected pastures and cattle conditions. In order to get a more precise evaluation of the situation, an FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission (CFSAM) is in Angola in May. By contrast, substantial recovery in the maize and cereal output from the reduced crop of the previous year is expected in Botswana, Malawi, Zambia, Namibia, and Mozambique. In Zimbabwe, early forecasts for the maize crop point also to a substantial recovery from last year's drought-affected production, which, however, will remain well below the levels before the persisting economic crisis. Despite a good rainfall season and adequate seed availability, shortages of fertilizers, as a result of limited domestic production and lack of significant imports due to scarce foreign currency, coupled with shortages of mechanical and human labour, are expected to have negative impact on maize yields. In Madagascar and Swaziland, preliminary estimates suggest no significant changes in 2006 cereal production from the above-average levels of last year. In Lesotho, production will remain around the poor levels of the past three years.
Prospects for planting of the 2006 wheat crop from May are favourable. In South Africa, which accounts for about 90 percent of the subregion's production, planting intentions indicate a slight increase in the area which, however, will remain below the five-year average. The increase in plantings reflects higher domestic and international prices since the beginning of the year, as well as improved residual soil moisture in growing areas.
The “hungry season” has reached its peak in southern Africa, with household food stocks nearly exhausted. However, early harvest or use of green maize is expected to provide some relief before the main harvest becomes available. Following last year's poor crop, nearly 12 million people in the subregion have been affected by food insecurity, including a large number in a chronic situation. Emergency assistance is being provided in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Swaziland, Lesotho, Mozambique and Zambia. The overall cereal import requirement of the subregion, excluding South Africa, for the 2005/06 marketing year (April/March), was estimated at about 5.2 million tonnes, comprising 700 000 tonnes of food aid. Virtually all the food aid requirements have been covered by pledges and on-going distributions are contributing to improve the food situation of the most vulnerable households. However, commercial imports of cereals, estimated at some 3.4 million tonnes by the end of April, fall short of requirements, especially those of wheat and rice. Due to the slow pace of commercial and food aid imports, prices of maize have been on the rise in several countries in past months. In particular, food shortages in Zimbabwe and Malawi, are reflected in rising staple food prices. In Zimbabwe, the maize price in the parallel market was Z$600 000/20kg in first week of March up from about Z$400 000 from the month before. Prices of most cereal based goods have gone up by about one-third in about one month keeping in track with the national inflation rate of over 900 percent in March. Food aid distributions in February reached 54 000 tonnes and the same levels were planned for March and April. In Malawi, despite substantial imports of maize through informal cross-border trade, prices of maize are three times above their levels at the beginning of the marketing year. Maize quotations have also increased sharply in Zambia. Due to the start of early harvest, maize prices in most countries have either stabilized or began to fall in April.
Table 6. Southern Africa, maize production: Early 2006 forecast and comparison with 2005 estimate and 2001-05 average ( 000 tonnes)
Prospects for the regional food supply in the forthcoming 2006/07 marketing year look relatively favourable. In South Africa, closing maize stocks on 30 April 2006 are projected at about 4 million tonnes and total domestic supply (2006 production plus the carry over stocks) is forecast to be about 10 million tonnes. Given the estimated total domestic utilization of about 8.4 million tonnes (including about 600 000 tonnes of strategic reserves) in South Africa, the potential exportable surplus is likely to be around 1.6 million tonnes. This surplus would be enough to cover the aggregate maize import requirements of other countries of the subregion, tentatively estimated at about 1.5 million tonnes (based on the preliminary forecast of maize production for 2006 and the historical utilization in the region). Prices of white maize on SAFEX have increased substantially since planting time last November and by early April they had almost doubled their level of a year ago. (see Table 7). The increase was partly a recovery from the price slump in the previous year and partly a reflection of generally tight supplies in the subregion. The increase in price is lower in US dollar terms due to the appreciation of the South Africa Rand since mid November 2005. Further, in anticipation of the reduction in the domestic maize production in South Africa, contrary to the usual post-harvest trend, the SAFEX futures price of white maize is firming up by moving from R1099/t in April to R1163/t in December 2006. However, the ample carryover stocks and the anticipated improved harvest in the other countries of the subregion are likely to limit further increases in prices.
Table 7. Safex white maize prices
Harvesting of the 2006 main winter wheat and first rice crops is underway or about to start in several countries of the subregion, while planting of spring coarse grains will begin soon. Prospects for the 2006 wheat crop are overall favourable reflecting generally satisfactory growing conditions. However, in India, the outlook for the harvest has deteriorated in the past month due to abnormally low temperatures and untimely rains. The 2006 wheat production is likely to be lower than earlier anticipated, although still average. Given the outlook for a smaller crop, as well as the depletion of stocks, the Government is planning to import 2.5 to 3 million of wheat in the 2006/07 marketing year. This will change India's trade position from a large exporter of wheat in the last years to a large importer. In China, the main winter wheat and the early (secondary) paddy crop are maturing in the major growing regions and latest forecast points to a slight increase in outputs from the above-average levels of last year. This reflects better yields and somewhat larger plantings for the third consecutive year in response to higher producer prices and government support policies. The latter include reduced agricultural taxes, direct subsidies to farmers and minimum support prices. In Pakistan a good wheat crop is expected, although lower than last year's bumper harvest, as a result of increased availability of irrigation water, good management practices and increased applications of fertilizers and herbicides. By contrast, in Bangladesh wheat production this season is forecast to fall by 18 percent, despite a larger area planted, due to dry weather and shortage of fertiliser. However, the outlook for the irrigated “boro” paddy crop, being harvested, is positive. In Nepal, after a downturn in 2005 paddy production affected by drought, this season's wheat production is officially forecast to decline 10 percent from the 2005 crop, reflecting dry weather. In southern parts of the subregion, where harvesting of the main rice crops is underway or near completion, prospects are favourable in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Cambodia, and the outputs are expected to be around the above-average levels of the previous year. In Vietnam, transplanting of the main winter-spring crop is complete and another large crop is officially forecast. Harvesting of the dry season (secondary) paddy crop has started in Philippines and Thailand, with good crops expected in both countries, reflecting adequate weather conditions during the growing season.
The overall food supply situation is satisfactory after last year's bumper cereal harvests in most countries of the subregion, including China, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia and DPR Korea. In the latter, the 2005 cereal crop was the largest in ten years, reflecting favourable weather, coupled with strong government support in mobilizing workers from the cities at critical periods of the season and providing seeds and other inputs. However, in spite of this positive development, chronic food insecurity remains widespread. The Government stopped all humanitarian aid by the United Nations on 31 December 2005 and accepts only assistance that addresses medium and long-term needs. The food situation gives cause for concern in Mongolia where the 2005 wheat crop, virtually the only cereal produced in the country, declined by some 44 percent from the previous year's level. The 2005/06 (October/September) cereal import requirements are estimated at 323 000 tonnes. Some food aid in wheat has reportedly been donated by Japan and the United States of America, and more food aid imports are anticipated from the Russian Federation and China. Similarly, in Timor-Leste the 2005 production of the staple maize and rice crops was severely reduced by drought followed by floods and strong winds during the harvest period of February 2006, especially in the district of Oecussi. In Nepal, the tight food supply situation following last year's drought-affected rice crop has been aggravated by armed conflict between the Government Government and rebel forces. In Pakistan, WFP continue to provide food aid to some 670 670 000 people left homeless by the severe earthquake of October 2005. The Government and the humanitarian community are moving from emergency relief to recovery assistance in the areas hit by the earthquake. Recovery activities also continue in Indonesia's Aceh Province and Nias Island, where some 29 000 hectares out of 37 500 hectares damaged by the tsunami disaster of December 2004 have been rehabilitated. However, 300 000 Internally Displaced Persons still depend on food aid and emergency employment schemes. In Sri Lanka, WFP will extend its operations through 2007 for some 347 000 people affected by the tsunami, with focus on long-term recovery rather than free food distribution.
Table 8. Asia cereal production ( million tonnes)
Note: Totals computed from unrounded data.
Precipitation in March and early April in several countries, after a predominantly dry winter, was beneficial to winter grains for harvest from May. The development of the winter crops at the end of January early February 2006 was delayed compared with last year in most countries of the subregion. In Turkey and the Islamic Republic of Iran, the largest producers in the subregion, harvest of the winter wheat and barley crops is scheduled from June. Early prospects point to another above-average output. In Afghanistan, rains and snow in early April in north-western and central parts, following below-average precipitation in the previous months, provided relief to the 2006 main wheat crop, to be harvested from May. However, dry weather persists in extreme southern areas. Relatively warm weather in previous months has also caused early snow-melt, which may result in water deficit in the streams and reservoirs for the much needed irrigation during summer and late spring. More rains are needed in the coming weeks to avoid yield reductions. A total of 4.8 million vulnerable people are targeted for assistance under the current WFP Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO). In Iraq, recent reports indicate a significant rise in population displacement with between 30 000 to 40 000 people fleeing their homes in the past few weeks as a result of the ongoing sectarian violence. Most of the displacement has occurred in Baghdad, Anbar and Diyala governorates. In another development, the Ministry of Trade has cancelled several items provided by a monthly food-ration programme. Subsidies on staples including salt and beans have been cut, but the trade ministry will continue supplying families with four essential items: sugar, rice, flour and cooking oil. As a result of the reduction of the monthly food ration, the price of some staple food has increased. Families have relied on government-subsidized ration programmes ever since the application of United Nations-imposed sanctions on Iraq in 1991. Nearly 96 percent of the country's 28 million people receive food rations on a monthly basis.
Prospects for the 2006 winter cereal crops, to be harvested from July, are favourable. Above-average rains and snowfall in the past months provided adequate moisture for the developing crops and ensured sufficient water for the extensive irrigation systems of the region. Irrigation in the region, except the new lands of Kazakhstan, is essential for crop production. Aggregate winter cereal harvest, which accounts for roughly half of the annual production, is tentatively forecast at about 13 million tonnes, slightly down on last year's above-average harvest. In Kazakhstan, by far the largest producer of the subregion, the outlook for the winter crops is satisfactory reflecting good rains and a generally mild winter, except in some areas in the Northern territories. However, spring and early summer precipitation will be determinant factors in the final output. Exports by Kazakhstan are crucial for the food security of other food-deficit countries of the region. In 2005/06 marketing year cereal exports are projected at about 4.4 million tonnes, mostly wheat, and the country reportedly has sufficient carry-over stocks to be able to export similar quantities during the 2006/07 marketing year. In Uzbekistan, the main winter wheat crop is reported in good condition but output is expected to be lower than the above-average crop of last year. The country has made significant efforts to increase cereal production over the past few years. It has not only become virtually food self-sufficient but has also been able to export some half a million tonnes of wheat per year over the past three years. In Turkmenistan, good precipitation in winter benefited winter wheat, while adequate snow cover in Tajikistan is seen to ensure adequate irrigation water throughout summer. Prospects for the winter crops are also satisfactory in Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan.
Harvesting of the 2006 main irrigated wheat crop is underway in Mexico, virtually the sole producer in the subregion. Early official forecasts point to a good production of some 3 million tonnes, an increase of 10 percent from the previous year, due to an expansion in area planted and adequate availability of irrigation water in north-western producing states of Sonora and Baja California. Planting of the 2006 main season coarse grain crops, mainly maize, is expected to start at the beginning of May with the arrival of first seasonal precipitations in Mexico and other Central American countries.
The 2005 aggregate cereal output of the subregion is estimated at 35.7 million tonnes, well below the previous year's level and some 900 000 tonnes below the average of the last five years. The decline in production reflects a reduced coarse grain crop in Mexico, affected by insufficient rains during the growing season, which more than offset satisfactory outputs in most other countries. The reduced maize output in Mexico, coupled with an increase in demand from the domestic feed industry in the country, is expected to result in significantly higher maize imports in 2005/06 (July/June). In Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras, food assistance from the international community continues to be delivered to vulnerable rural families and communities affected by hurricanes during the second half of 2005. Food aid is also distributed to vulnerable populations in Haiti, where the food situation continues to be tight due to civil conflict and declining agricultural productivity.
Harvesting of the 2006 main season coarse grain and rice crops is underway. Preliminary estimates indicate an aggregate coarse grain production of about 72 million tonnes, slightly below last year's average level. This reflects a widespread reduction in planted area and lower yields due to a mid-season dry spell, only partially compensated by a better crop production in Brazil. In Argentina, where harvest of maize crop is delayed due to heavy rains during last weeks of March and to the priority given by farmers to harvesting of soyabeans, the 2006 maize crop production is officially forecast at 13.8 million tonnes, well below the record of 20.5 million tonnes obtained in 2005. Area planted declined by 10 percent in response to low prices, higher production costs and higher export taxes, while yields were reduced by prolonged dry weather. As a result export prices of Argentina maize are well above their levels of a year earlier. In Uruguay, 2006 maize production is expected to decrease substantially from last year due to inadequate soil moisture, in particular in northern departments. In Brazil, the area planted to the main season maize crop increased 11 percent in response to unattractive prices for soyabeans and technical need for rotation. In addition, yields are expected to recover from last year's drought-reduced levels. Aggregate 2006 maize crop production (first and second seasons) is tentatively forecast at about 41.9 million tonnes, 20 percent higher than in 2005 and above average. By contrast, Brazil's paddy crop, which accounts for some 80 percent of the production of the region, is forecast at 11.5 million tonnes, substantially below the 2005 record output but still average. This decrease is the result of a 20 percent contraction in planted area mainly induced by low domestic prices following the bumper harvest of the previous year. In Paraguay, dry weather conditions have seriously affected the 2006 soyabean crop, now being harvested. In particular, yields of early planted short-cycle varieties in north-western departments, which represent about half of national production, are estimated to be slightly below one tonne per hectare compared to the average of 2.6 tonnes per hectare. Initial official production estimates of 5.5 million tonnes have been revised downward to 3.6 million tonnes, very similar to the previous two years’ outputs that also suffered from limited water availability.
In Andean countries, an intense rainy season starting in early February has caused damages to infrastructure and localized losses of food and cash crops in some areas of Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru. In Colombia, flooding and mudslides are reported in several Pacific and Andean departments, with losses of human lives and damages to rural and urban infrastructures, in particular in the Valle del Cauca department. In Ecuador, floods in February and March have negatively affected prospects for the 2006 paddy and maize crops, especially in the coastal provinces of Guayas, Los Ríos and Manbi where replanting activities are underway with the support of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock through distribution of seeds and fertilizers. In Bolivia, at the beginning of March, the Government has declared a national emergency in the Departments of La Paz, Beni and Potosi and appealed for international assistance. In Peru, the department of Tumbes in the north and the departments of Cusco, Puno and Arequipa in the south have been most affected.
Table 9. Latin America and Caribbean cereal production ( million tonnes)
Note: Totals computed from unrounded data.
In the United States, the arrival of much-needed precipitation in the central and southern Great Plains in March benefited the winter wheat crop that has been stressed by prevailing drought conditions throughout the season so far. However, the condition of crops in the drought-affected areas, which account for a major proportion of the winter wheat production, remains below normal. According to the first Crop Progress and Condition Report for 2006, based on conditions as of late March, 31 percent of the crop was rated as very poor or poor compared to just 6 percent with such a low rating at the same time last year. The spring wheat planting has just started and conditions are reported to be generally favourable. Regarding planted areas, the official Prospective Plantings Report as issued at the end of March, indicates that, while the winter wheat plantings increased by 2 percent, the spring wheat area is expected to decrease by about 1 percent, and in particular, the durum area could fall sharply. Based on these official planting indications, and assuming mostly average yields and area abandonment, with some adjustment for the impact of the winter drought, FAO forecasts total United States’ wheat production in 2006 to decline to 55 million tonnes.
Table 10. North America, Europe and Oceania cereal production ( million tonnes)
Note: Totals computed from unrounded data.
Some early coarse grains crops are already in the ground in southern parts, but the bulk of maize planting in the Corn Belt states starts in April. Early indications point to a significant decrease of 5 percent in maize plantings but a marginal increase for sorghum. Producers are expected to shift land out of maize to other less input intensive crops, such as soya beans, due to high fertilizer and fuel costs.
In Canada, planting of wheat is due to start in May and a predicted increase of about 8 percent in the non-durum wheat area is expected to be mostly offset by a sharp reduction in the durum area by 27 percent. Production is expected to remain close to the previous year's good level. Output of coarse grains may rise slightly as barley and oats plantings are expected to increase.
In the EU, early indications point to a larger cereal crop this year. Although spring planting still has to be completed in many countries, and several parts are encountering delays because of unseasonably cold and wet weather, the increase is already firmly predicted on the basis of the winter crop areas and conditions. Soil moisture levels for autumn planting of the winter cereals were satisfactory in most countries, including Spain and Portugal, affected by drought during the previous season.
France is expected to contribute to a large part of the overall increase in the EU cereal output this year. Its wheat and barley crops are both forecast to increase following larger plantings and improved yield prospects. Likewise, Spain is expected to substantially increase both its wheat and barley production. Elsewhere among EU members, Hungary and Poland are expected to increase their wheat output significantly, despite an uncertain start to the season because of delayed planting due to wet conditions in the former country and unusually dry conditions in the latter. Germany is expected to produce an above-average crop of barley this year following increased plantings. Throughout the EU, barley output may increase somewhat following abolition of EU price support payments for rye, which could shift some land into barley.
In the Balkan Peninsula, reduced cereal harvests are forecast for the two largest producing countries, Romania and Bulgaria. The area of winter grains sown last autumn in both countries was reportedly reduced as the delayed 2005 harvest hampered planting activity and weather conditions since then have been far from ideal. Temperatures in March remained below the seasonal averages slowing crop growth in many parts while heavy rainfall combined with rapid snowmelt across the area in late April led to severe flooding in several main wheat producing areas. The full impact of the flood damage on this year's cereal production is not yet known but could be significant in some parts. In the European CIS (The Russian Federation, The Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova), an abnormally cold winter has compromised significant areas planted with winter cereals. The effect has been particularly severe in the Volga basin of the Russian Federation and some parts of the Ukraine and Belarus, where some 20 to 22 percent of the area planted has been compromised. Winterkill in these two main cereal producers of the subregion is usually between 5 and 8 percent. Much of this lost area is normally replanted with spring cereals but lack of sufficient farm inputs, in particular machinery, and prohibitive fuel prices make it unlikely that such a large area could be replanted. Aggregate winter cereal output in the region is tentatively forecast at about 42 million tonnes, some 27 percent down from the harvest in 2005. This will certainly compromise the subregion's ability to match the high cereal exports of the past few years but both the Ukraine and the Russian Federation have significant stocks from last year's good harvest and will continue to remain important players in the international grain market. During the current marketing year cereal exports from the Russian Federation are estimated at over 11.6 million tonnes, while those from Ukraine are estimated at some 10.7 million tonnes of cereals, mainly wheat and barley.
In Australia, the harvest of the minor summer coarse grain crop (mostly sorghum) began in March. Latest forecasts point to a below-average output of about 1.8 million tonnes, substantially down from last year's good crop, because of lack of rainfall since December. Early indications for the 2006 wheat crop, to be planted later this year, point to a possible increase in plantings in response to favourable export prospects. However, a return to normal yields after last year's above-average levels could, nevertheless, result in a slightly smaller crop than last year's bumper 25 million tonnes.
|GIEWS||global information and early warning system on food and agriculture|