|No.1 February 2007|
|Crop Prospects and Food Situation|
In North Africa, early prospects for the 2007 winter wheat and coarse grain crops, to be harvested from around June, are mixed. Land preparation and plantings were delayed by below-normal rains in October and November in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. Although precipitation arrived in December, somewhat improving soil moisture conditions, timely rains will be crucial during the next few months to ensure a good recovery of crops after the poor start of the season in these countries. In Egypt, the largest producer in the subregion, where most crops are irrigated, weather conditions were reported to be generally favourable and the areas planted to both wheat and barley are estimated to have increased. The food supply situation is satisfactory in the subregion, reflecting good harvests in 2006.
Table 3. Africa cereal production ( million tonnes)
Note: Totals computed from unrounded data.
In Western Africa, currently there is little agricultural activity, except for limited cultivation of recession or off-season crops, for which prospects are generally favourable. However, in Chad, the outcome of the berebere (off-season millet) crop, mostly cultivated in the east and harvested in January-February, risks being compromised by the deteriorating security situation and increasing population displacement in the eastern part of the country. Berebere production represents about one-fifth of the country’s aggregate cereal production in a normal year.
The food outlook for 2007 is generally favourable in the subregion, following above-average to record harvests in most Sahelian countries and satisfactory crops elsewhere. In Nigeria, the largest producer in the subregion, whose agricultural sector can strongly affect the food supply position of its neighbouring Sahel nations, cereal prices reportedly remain low, reflecting the bumper crop harvested in 2006. In addition to the good harvest, the low prices are due to the devastating effects avian flu has had last year on the Nigerian poultry sector, which absorbs an important share of domestic maize production. The re-emergence of avian flu in recent weeks in the northern part of the country has dampened hope for a strong recovery of the poultry sector in the near future. In spite of a government plan to buy 150 000 tonnes of maize in 2007 in order to support declining producer prices, a sustainable recovery of the cereal sector will depend largely on the evolution of the avian flu epidemics in Nigeria and the subregion.
Despite the generally favourable food supply outlook for the subregion as a whole, localized food security problems persist in most countries. In Mauritania, erratic precipitation caused localized crop losses again in 2006, giving little hope of improved food security in the near term for large sections of the population already affected by reduced incomes and assets after several consecutive years of crop failure. In Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, 2006 crop yields were sharply reduced in several areas because of delayed rains or floods, and some populations may be at risk of food shortages. In Guinea-Bissau and Senegal, persisting marketing problems in the cashew and groundnut sectors, the main sources of cash income for rural households, continues to threaten food security in these countries. Joint CILSS/FAO/FewsNet post-harvest assessment missions are scheduled to visit Chad, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania and Senegal in February-March to assess the food situation.
In Cameroon and the Central African Republic, harvesting of the second 2006 maize crop is complete. Satellite imagery indicates that rains have been abundant throughout the cropping season and the 2006 aggregate output is forecast to be about average. In the Central African Republic, however, any improvement in the food security situation continues to be hampered by persistent insecurity and inadequate availability of agricultural inputs, notably in northern parts. About 20 000 people have fled the country to southern Chad over the past year, bringing the number of Central African refugees in the latter country to over 45 000. Another 50 000 people have been internally displaced.
Harvesting of the 2006/07 main season cereal crops is complete in northern parts of the subregion while harvesting of secondary season crops is about to start in southern parts. The subregion’s aggregate 2006/07 cereal output (main and secondary crop seasons) is forecast at 34.6 million tonnes, 13 percent higher than in the previous year, mainly reflecting bumper crops in Ethiopia and Sudan, the largest producer countries of the subregion (Figure 2). Despite this favourable outcome, however, heavy rains and floods in the second half of 2006 have caused havoc in several parts of eastern Africa resulting in loss of life and property, and damaging crops and livestock. It is estimated that up to 1.8 million people have been affected by the floods, particularly in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia.
While at subregional level a record cereal crop was gathered in 2006, the situation varies from country to country.
In Eritrea, harvesting the 2006 main season, “Kiremti”, crops is over. Official estimates have not yet been provided but the output is preliminary estimated to be good. However, even in favourable years, Eritrea produces only a fraction of its total food requirements and largely depends on imports. The improved production is expected to ease somewhat the tight food situation as a result of consecutive poor harvests in the last years, lingering effects of war with neighbouring Ethiopia and serious macro-economic imbalances.
In Ethiopia, preliminary results from an FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission (CFSAM) which visited the country late last year indicate a record 2006 main season grain production. This reflects abundant rains during the growing season, increased use of fertilizer and improved seeds, and very low pressure from pests and diseases, together with expansion in cultivated area. The 2006 cereal output is the third consecutive bumper harvest. The report of the FAO/WFP Mission is expected to be issued soon.
Despite the succession of bumper cereal harvest and the overall satisfactory food supply situation, preliminary assessments from the Food Security Bureau (FSB) indicate that about 7.3 million chronically food insecure people, or about 9 percent of the total population, will need cash or food assistance through the Productive Safety Net Program. In addition, 2.3 million people will require emergency food assistance due to crop failure or loss of animals due to dry weather and floods. Results from the recent Government-led multi-agency “meher” season humanitarian needs assessment are expected to provide an update on the number of people requiring assistance in 2007. In particular, in the Somali Region, heavy rains and serious floods last October, which followed earlier floods in July and August, exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in pastoral areas. Overall, about 700 people are reported to have been killed by the floods and more than half a million people are reported to have been adversely affected. While the waters have receded, recovery of pastoral households who lost their herds takes considerable more time and humanitarian assistance will be still required in the short term.
Notwithstanding three consecutive good harvests, grain prices remain firm or are rising in major markets (see Box). Several factors are postulated to have resulted in this unusual behaviour in the last years including increased liquidity in the economy due to the partially cash based assistance in the safety net programs; the spread of the credit repayments by farmers throughout the year rather than immediately after harvest; budgetary support at “woreda”(district) level;increased formal and informal cross-border exports of grains; local purchases by cooperatives and relief agencies; and increased overall economic activity specially construction of roads and housing in urban areas. The prevailing high prices are making it more difficult for poor household to secure access to adequate food supplies.
In Kenya, harvest ofthe secondary cropping season, accounting for about 20 percent of the total annual cereal production, is about to start. Prospects are generally favourable following a timely onset and adequate “short rains”. The preliminary estimates for the “short rains” season maize crop indicate a good output of about 270 000 tonnes. The main “long rains” season maize crop, harvested until last November, was also above average. As a result, the overall food supply position is satisfactory and prices of maize have been declining in the past months.
However, in pastoral areas bordering Somalia and Ethiopia, which were devastated by torrential rains and floods between October and December 2006, large sections of the population remain in conditions of food insecurity. Overall, it is estimated that 41 people diedand 300 000 were negatively affected by the floods. These populations suffered severe losses of livestock and assets and continue to need emergency and rehabilitation assistance.Furthermore, a recent outbreak of Rift Valley Fever (RVF), an acute, fever-causing viral disease that affects domestic animals and humans, has exacerbated the already extreme levels of food insecurity in pastoral areas. RVF has already claimed about 100 lives, and restrictions to lessen the spread of the disease have disrupted the livestock market.
In Somalia, the conflict between the Ethiopian-backed Somali transitional government and the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) in the Somalia/Kenya border, coupled with a likely spread of Rift Valley Fever (RVF), give cause for serious concern about food security, in particular in pastoraland agro-pastoral areas of the Lower Juba region. In most districts, especially in Afmadow and Badhadhe, the food situation is reported to be alarming as a result of multiple shocks, including low-intensity conflict over the past 16 years, the 2005-2006 drought, crop failure in mid-2006 and floods in October-November that prompted large numbers of population to move to refugee camps in Kenya. Current estimates indicate that 450 000 people have been displaced by the floods and up to 900 000 people directly affected by loss of housing, crops and livestock.
The secondary “deyr” season crop, for harvest from February, is projected to be below average, as much of the riverine cereal crops were destroyed by floods. However, rangeland conditions, including pasture, browse and water sources have improved, as result livestock body conditions, production and values are improving. In southern areas worst affected by severe drought in the first half of 2006, however, pastoralists will not fully benefit from these gains due to their previous livestock losses. The report of a 2006/07 “deyr” season crop assessment, led by the Somalia Food Security Assessment Unit (FSAU) is expected to be released soon. The 2006 main “gu” season cereal crop, harvested last August, was also reduced due to poor rains. The FSAU estimated the “gu” cereal output, accounting for some 70 to 80 percent of the annual production, at about 113 000 tonnes, better than the previous year’s reduced crop but still 29 percent below average. The FSAU estimated that 1.8 million people throughout the country would face serious food difficulties as a result of the reduced main cereal harvest. Further information and analysis can be accessed at: www.fsausomali.org.
In Sudan, a recently concluded FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission (CFSAM) indicates a record 2006 cereal crop of 6.64 million tonnes, about 19 percent higher than last year’s good production and 32 percent above the average of the previous five years. The good outcome, of which 78 percent is sorghum, is the result of favourable rains and relatively few outbreaks of pests or diseases. The good cereal production, together with high levels of carryover stocks, is expected to result in large cereal surplus in 2007. In view of the ample domestic cereal availability, the CFSAM recommended, timely local purchases of cereals by the Sudan Strategic Reserve Corporation (SRC) and for food aid programs. This will support markets and ensure locally-acceptable varieties of cereals. In addition, timely rehabilitation assistance in the agricultural sector is required, including emergency support to returnees and to other vulnerable farming communities. The assistance should be delivered before the start of the next cropping seasons in April-May in southern Sudan, and June-July in northern Sudan.
Reflecting the bumper harvest, market prices for sorghum have begun falling in the main producing areas, which is expected to improve access to food by low income groups of population; however, as a result of the abundant supplies, concern has been raised about a continuing decline in prices which could result in farmers financial difficulties and reductions in the area planted next season. Livestock and pasture conditions are also good over most of the country and the water levels in water holes ( hafirs) are generally satisfactory. In addition, increased export earnings from oil, rising to US$4.2 billion in 2005, have continued to boost overall economic activity.
Despite the overall good food supply situation and strong economic growth, problems of physical and financial access to food due to war, displacement, poor infrastructure, weak marketing system and economic isolation continue to render millions of vulnerable people dependent on food assistance. The recent escalation of conflict in Darfur region alone is estimated to have resulted in substantial losses of cropped areas and the displacement of about 1.6 million people.
In the United Republic of Tanzania, harvesting of the 2006/07 short rainfall “vuli” season crops in the bi-modal northern areas is about to start and the outlook is favourable. In the uni-modal central and southern areas, the 2007 long rainfall “msimu” season crops, for harvest from May-June are at different stages of development. The 2006 aggregate cereal production (long rains and short rains season) is forecast at 5.6 million tonnes, about 4 percent above the previous year’s good harvest due to favourable rains. The good output has resulted in a satisfactory overall food supply situation with an improved cereal availability in all markets. There has also been an increase in non-cereal crop availability, mainly root crops and pulses.
In 2006, several parts of the country, have received heavy rains. Torrential rains in the Misungwi district, northern region of Mwanza, in mid-December have left almost 900 people homeless and destroyed almost 5 000 hectares of farmland. Earlier heavy rains resulted in serious localized flooding, especially in the country’s central region of Shinyanga. Relief supplies were distributed to an estimated 1 500 people uprooted by floods.
Wholesale maize prices have remained significantly low in most markets in the United Republic of Tanzania due to the increased domestic supplies, as well as government restrictions on exports of agricultural commodities. Kenya normally imports about 55 000 tonnes of maize from Tanzania between June and November but in the same period in 2006, imports amounted to about 40 000 tonnes
In Uganda, land preparation is underway for the 2007 main season crops for sowing in the next few weeks. Harvesting of the 2006/07 secondary season crops is almost complete. Heavy rains had impeded harvesting and drying of secondary season crops in some areas. Overall, however, an average to above-average crop is expected from the secondary season.
Conflict and insecurity, coupled with drought-affected harvest late last year, continues to affect the food security position of the population in the north-eastern Karamoja region. It is estimated that at least 40 percent of the population lacks adequate, if any, food stocks, and is at risk of rising food insecurity. The World Food Program (WFP) plans to provide food assistance to some half a million people. Elsewhere in northern Uganda, a better security situation has improved access to food and other productive resources by large number of IDPs. The slow progress of the peace process, however, continues to hamper their return home.
As the 2006/07 agricultural season in Southern Africa nears the mid-point, heavy rains were reported through much of the region in the third dekad of December and first two dekads of January, causing localized floods in Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique and Madagascar. Despite crop damage in some of the affected areas, the abundant precipitation of December and January improved overall growing conditions. However, the rains may have arrived too late to avoid reductions in plantings and yields in areas affected by erratic rains and dry spells, since the beginning of the season in late October, particularly in north-western Angola, central and southern Mozambique, western Zambia and central parts of Zimbabwe. The cumulative rainfall picture has significantly improved due to the heavy rains since late December particularly in eastern parts. The cumulative rainfall difference from the average of past eight years for the first three months of the season (October dekad 3 to January dekad 2) shows normal to above-normal precipitation through the eastern and central parts of the region and most of Madagascar but below-normal in northern Angola and northern and central Mozambique (see Figure 3.). The vegetative growth at the second dekad of January 2007, as indicated by the NDVI difference from the long-term average, also reflects improved vegetative growth throughout the region except some areas of central and southern Mozambique and northern Angola. In spite of generally satisfactory regional rains during the season, the forecast for the second half of the season points to a drier than normal climatology primarily due to the El-Niño conditions and the rain situation needs to be closely monitored in the coming weeks.
At the regional level, early prospects are also favourable reflecting an increase in the area planted to the main maize crop. This is mainly due to higher plantings in South Africa, where latest official estimates indicate an increase in the area under commercial maize of 68 percent from last year’s reduced level, to some 2.7 million hectares, in response to high prices. Overall, input availability at planting time was normal in most countries. Large input subsidy schemes were implemented in Zambia and Malawi, enabling farmers to use quality seed and fertilizer. This is expected to have a significant positive effect on the total maize harvest later this year. However, in Zimbabwe, continuous shortages and/or high prices of key inputs such as fertilizer, fuel, draft animal power and spare parts are expected to result in relatively low yields, as in previous years. In Lesotho and in several farming districts in Eastern Cape and Free State in South Africa, an outbreak of Brown Locust affected maize and other crops in December. Aerial spraying to combat the large swarms was undertaken in both countries. In Mozambique, an outbreak of Trypanosomiasis, a parasitic disease caused by tsetse fly, has reportedly affected cattle in the Central Region of the country, including Manica, Sofala, Zambezia and Tete Provinces.
With improved 2006 productions in the majority of the countries of the region, the aggregate cereal import requirement for the 2006/07 marketing year (April/March in most cases) was estimated about 13 percent lower than in the previous year at 6.3 million tonnes. If South Africa and Mauritius are excluded, the reduction in the total cereal import requirements of the region is more pronounced, declining from the actual imports of 5 million tonnes in 2005/06 to about 3.5 million tonnes in 2006/07 (see Table 4). Food assistance needs in 2006/07, estimated at about 547 000 tonnes are also lower than the average annual food aid of the previous five years, calculated at about 700 000 tonnes. Available figures by late December 2006 or late January 2007 show that so far only some 56 percent of import requirements of all cereals and about 54 percent of maize have been received and/or pledged. However, cereal imports in the form of food aid have reached almost three-quarters of the estimated total needs in 2006/07. Imports are likely to pick-up during this last quarter characterized as the food-deficit period.
Table 4. Import requirements and current import position (as of end January 2007) for Southern Africa, excluding South Africa and Mauritius, 2006/07*
*Available import data varies from November 2006 to end-January 2007.
Marketing year mostly April/March.
Source: FAO/GIEWS estimation.
Current prices of maize, the most important staple foodstuff, in most deficit countries of the sub-region are well below their corresponding levels a year earlier, when food shortages were experienced in several countries. For example, as shown in Figure 4, in Zambia and Mozambique, wholesale prices of white maize in the capital city markets by mid-January 2007, were about US$200 and US$232 per tonne, down from US$345 and US$385 per tonne respectively at the same time a year ago. However, prices have been showing a seasonal positive trend since September after a long and steady decline from US$354 and US$390 per tonne, respectively, during the peak of the hunger season in February 2006. By contrast, in South Africa, the region’s main exporting country, current maize prices in US dollar terms are higher than the corresponding levels last year, reflecting a reduced harvest in 2006 and lower maize supplies. There has been a steady increase in the SAFEX maize price since September 2005. This increase is expected to continue until the new harvest in April 2007.
Changes in the maize prices in local currency have been a little more pronounced as compared to the changes in US dollar prices as a result of the weakened Rand in South Africa, but less marked in Zambia due to the strengthening of the Kwacha against the US dollar. In Mozambique, variation in the Metical prices have more or less mirrored changes in the US dollar prices primarily due to this currency’s relative stability during this period.
Overall, aggregate food supply in the region this marketing year has been quite favourable. In South Africa, the region’s major exporter, supplies of white maize were estimated at 6.3 million tonnes at the beginning of the marketing season in May which, compared with a domestic utilization of 4.3 million tonnes, left a surplus of about 2 million tonnes. Assuming the level of the strategic reserves at about 600 000 tonnes, the potential exportable surplus of white maize from South Africa was estimated at about 1.4 million tonnes. In addition, some sizeable exportable quantities were also estimated from Malawi (200 000 to 350 000 tonnes), Zambia (180 000 to 280 000 tonnes) and Mozambique (150 000 to 250 000 tonnes) after accounting for a build-up of stocks in each of these three countries to a level of about 100 000 tonnes. Thus in aggregate, the regional surplus is more than enough to cover the commercial import requirements of the other maize deficit countries in the region estimated at just under 1 million tonnes. However, official information on South Africa exports by the end of December indicate that only 318 000 tonnes of white maize have been exported since May 2006. Significant quantities are available for local and regional purchases of food aid for distribution in the region.
The outlook is generally favourable for the 2007 winter grain crops (mainly wheat) that were planted from September to December 2006. In China, the winter wheat crop, which accounts for about 95 percent of China’s total wheat production, is still dormant. The area planted is estimated at 21.3 million hectares, some 2 percent lower than last year, but still above the five-year average. Dry and mild weather has prevailed in most winter wheat areas and provided favourable overwintering conditions. Based on the winter wheat area estimate and assuming normal conditions for the remainder of the season, early tentative forecasts point to a total wheat output in 2007 of about 100 million tonnes, some 3 million tonnes smaller that last year’s good production. In India, the winter wheat area is estimated up 6.7 percent from last year, encouraged by a 15 percent increase in the government support price for the 2007 wheat crop. In northern India, rain and snow in December increased irrigation reserves for winter wheat crops already in the ground. In central and southern India, dry weather at the end of 2006 was beneficial for late summer crop (kharif) harvesting as well as late winter grain planting. In Pakistan, prospects for the 2007 wheat crop have improved as the arrival of rain and snow in December increased irrigation reserves. Current indications suggest that the 2007 output may equal last year’s bumper crop.
In most rice growing countries in the region, the main paddy crop has already been harvested or harvesting is nearly complete. The 2006 paddy production of the subregion is estimated at 563.6 million tonnes, close to the record production in the previous year, while the 2006 total cereal output in the subregion remains at a record 986 million tonnes, some 7.5 million tonnes above the previous harvest, mainly as a result of bumper wheat and maize crops.
Table 5. Asia cereal production ( million tonnes)
Note: Totals computed from unrounded data.
Despite an overall satisfactory food supply situation in the subregion, vulnerable populations in a number of countries are still affected by serious food supply difficulty. In Sri Lanka, despite a record crop gathered last year, the food security in the northeast still significantly affected by the deterioration of the political and security situation. In the central, southern and eastern districts, particularly Nuwara Eliya and Hambantota, agricultural production has been affected by unusual monsoon rains. Up to 90 000 people are reportedly affected, including 60 000 displaced, and emergency food aid is needed. In Timor-Leste, although the political and security situation has stabilized following the deployment of international forces at the end of last May, the food security situation still gives rise for concern, especially for displaced persons unable to return to their homes. In January, the United Nations and the Government of Timor-Leste launched an appeal for US$16.6 million to help the resettlement of 100 000 IDPs. In Nepal, cereal production in 2006 decreased to some 5 percent below the recent average, reflecting the drought and floods during the summer crop season. A tight food supply situation has been reported in the country, especially in the Eastern Terai districts, Siraha and Saptari, where the paddy crop losses were very high and the retail price of rice in January was reported to be over 40 percent higher compared to the same period of the previous year. In the Philippines, although the food supply situation is generally satisfactory following a record crop in 2006, hundreds of thousands of people, in the Bicol region and other regions that were devastated by four successive typhoons, are still in need of emergency assistance including food. Some 100 000 people in three provinces are reportedly receiving food aid from WFP in conjunction with non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
In the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the 2006 cereal harvest is tentatively estimated at some 3.8 million tonnes (rice in milled terms), some 300 000 tonnes lower than the previous year’s record production, but still a good, above-average crop. With the steady recovery in cereal production in the last few years, imports of cereals (mainly food aid and some commercial imports), have declined. However, despite the improvements in domestic production, it still falls well below the minimum food needs and the cereal import requirement in 2006/07 is estimated at some 1 million tonnes. The rapid reduction in food aid shipments to the country since last summer, give rise to some concern over how much of the import requirement for the current year may be met. Since the start of the current marketing year last November, only some 8 000 tonnes cereals have been imported (including food aid).
In the Near East, rain and snow in several major producing parts during
December and January have benefited the 2007 winter grains after a dry
start to the season.
Prospects remain generally favourable for the 2007 winter grain crops after an optimal sowing period last autumn and mostly favourable conditions since then. Winter grains (mostly wheat) are the most important crops in the subregion, with the exception of Kazakhstan, where most of the grains are spring sown. The subregion’s 2006 aggregate cereal output is now estimated at 30.9 million tonnes, well above the average of the past five years. Kazakhstan, the region’s main producer harvested a bumper wheat crop, which should promote an increase in exports, currently forecast to reach about 5 million tonnes during the 2006/07 marketing year. However, while the 2006 harvests were favourable in most countries, localized drought affected Armenia and Georgia during part of the season, having a negative impact on crop yields. As a result, Armenia in particular is expected to have to rely more on imported wheat (the main food cereal) during the 2006/07 marketing year, and the country’s estimated food aid requirement for the year is significantly higher than estimated deliveries in the past few years.
Table 6. Cereal production in Asian CIS
Planting of the 2007 important winter maize crop in Mexico, the only producer of the subregion, is about to be completed. Planting intentions pointed to an above average level of about 578 000 hectares and, providing favourable weather conditions persist during the growing season, production is officially forecast at 2.9 million tonnes, very similar to the good output obtained in the same season in 2006.
Table 7. Latin America and Caribbean cereal production ( million tonnes)
Note: Totals computed from unrounded data.
Harvesting of the 2006 second season coarse grains and bean crops has been recently completed. Despite some localized losses due to dry weather conditions during the second season in Belize, northern Guatemala and some central regions of Honduras and Nicaragua, the aggregate coarse grains output in 2006 is estimated at a good level of 31 million tonnes. This result is mainly due to the good summer season maize production in Mexico, which at 16.2 million tonnes increased 19 percent from the same season’s output in 2005, which was seriously reduced by insufficient rains during the growing season. Elsewhere in Central America, average or above average 2006 coarse grain crops were obtained in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras but production declined sharply in Nicaragua, due to dry weather, and in Costa Rica, due to a reduction in plantings following trade liberalization policies. In Caribbean countries, 2006 production of coarse grains, rice and beans has been above average reflecting moderate and well-distributed rains during the hurricane season (from June to October).
Planting of 2007 main season maize crop has been recently completed. Although planted area is preliminary estimated at the same level as in 2006, very good yields are expected as abundant precipitation is benefiting key producing areas in Argentina and Brazil. In Andean countries, despite some localized floods in Peru and Bolivia, prospects for 2007 cereal crop production are favourable as abundant rains are improving soil moisture for wheat, maize and rice crops to be harvested by mid-March.
Harvesting of 2006 winter wheat crop has been completed in southern key growing areas. The 2006 aggregate wheat output is estimated at a low 19 million tonnes, 8 percent lower than the 2005 level and 13 percent below the average of the past five years. This mainly reflects the very low production obtained in Brazil, only about 50 percent of the five-year average, following a decline of one-quarter in both the area planted and yields. The reductions were the result of low prices and dry weather conditions at planting, coupled with frosts during the flowering and maturing phases. By contrast, in Uruguay, the production of wheat reached a record level of nearly 570 000 tonnes due to a substantial increase in planted area. In Argentina, the largest producer of the subregion, the wheat output recovered from the reduced level of the previous year but remained below average due to dry spells during the season.
The area sown to winter wheat in the United States for harvest in 2007 is officially estimated to have increased by 9 percent from the previous year to some 17.8 million hectares, the largest area since 2003. Strong prices encouraged farmers to increase their plantings, even in many areas of the Great Plains where dry weather prevailed but producers took the risk in the anticipation of moisture arriving later. The condition of the crop at the end of November, reported in the last Crop Progress Report of 2006, was rated at 53 percent good to excellent, similar to the previous year at the same time, and indications since then point to improving conditions in central and southern plains where much needed precipitation arrived in December. Based on the satisfactory condition of crops going into the winter, and in absence of any significant winterkill risk so far in the major producing areas, the prospects are good for a significant increase in the country’s wheat harvest in 2007 from the below-average output last year. Harvesting of the 2006 maize crop (the major coarse grain), was completed by the end of November, just slightly behind the normal pace. Estimates at that time already pointed to a significant reduction in output for the year because of adversely hot and dry conditions in some major producing areas. The official Annual Crop Report in January put the final estimate even smaller than earlier expected at 267.6 million tonnes, 5 percent below the previous year’s crop.
Table 8. North America, Europe and Oceania cereal production ( million tonnes)
Note: Totals computed from unrounded data.
In Canada, apart from a small amount of winter wheat grown in Ontario, wheat is spring sown in March-April. In its official January outlook paper, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada forecasts a significant decline, by 10 percent, in the wheat (excluding durum) area in 2007. Canadian farmers’ planting decisions are expected to be influenced by the relatively better returns expected for other crops in 2007/08, as well as a technical need for crop rotation (the non-durum wheat area expanded sharply in 2006). The area of the minor winter wheat crop in Ontario is reduced by about 25 percent compared to the previous year but this was also a result of a wet autumn and delays with the soybean harvest. By contrast, the durum wheat area, which normally accounts for about 20 percent of the total, is projected to rise sharply by 15 percent as a result of declining domestic stocks and higher returns expected compared to wheat other than durum. Likewise, the areas sown to the main coarse grains (barley, oats and maize) are projected to increase because better returns are expected relative to wheat.
In the European Union, a generally favourable planting season saw larger winter grain crops sown in most of the main producing countries. Crops established well in most northern parts but lack of moisture compromised early development in southern parts of Italy and Spain. With unseasonably mild weather prevailing through late 2006 and most of January 2007 crops developed ahead of normal but without their winter hardiness or any significant snowcover, they stand more vulnerable than normal should freezing temperatures arrive. The levels of pest and disease infestations are also reported to be higher than normal as a result of the exceptionally mild weather. The arrival of wintery storms across most of western Europe in late January, while beneficial for soil moisture reserves, especially in southern parts, has raised the concern over possible crop damage from freezing temperatures.
The accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU from 1 January 2007 (taking the membership to 27 countries) will bring with it a significant increase in the group’s grain production. Based on recent data, Bulgaria and Romania will add about 10 percent to the EU25’s total grain output, the bulk of which will be in wheat and maize. Table 9 compares the two countries’ grain outputs in the past three years with the top producers in the EU25. However, it should be noted that the grain yields in the two acceding countries are relatively low compared to the EU25 average (see figure 7). This stems largely from inadequate irrigation (in the case of maize) and limited use of fertilizer and plant protection inputs.
Table 9. EU Cereal production, average 2004-2006 ( million tonnes)
In the European CIS, as in other parts of the region, the early part of the winter was also characterized by unseasonably mild weather. As a result, crops are generally more advanced in their development than normal but have less winter hardiness. In the absence of significant protective snowcover, this situation gives rise to considerable concern because should temperatures drop suddenly significant damage can be expected. A further consequence of the unusually mild winter and advance plant growth is expected to materialize in the spring, when a leafier crop, and the likely increased presence of weeds, could favour increased disease and pest infestations.
Although, in the light of the above, much could change before the end of the winter, the available information on planting points to a significant increase in the region’s overall winter grain area, which, for the moment at least, gives the potential for a significant rise in output also. In the Russian Federation, the area planted to winter wheat is estimated to have risen by about 10 percent, while in Ukraine, a 9 percent increase is reported.
The recently completed 2006 harvest of winter grains (mostly wheat and barley) in Australia, which account for the bulk of the annual grain production, is officially estimated to have fallen by over 60 percent because of extreme drought and high temperatures. The latest estimates (see Table 8), date from early December when a large proportion of the crop had already been gathered and are unlikely to change significantly after final revisions, due in February. Prospects are also poor for the minor 2007 summer cereals (mostly sorghum maize and rice), as soil moisture profiles and irrigation water reserves are severely depleted in the main growing areas of Queensland and northern New South Wales.
Australia ranks among the world’s top five grain exporters, normally exporting some 60 percent of its annual production. While grain exports in the 2006/07 marketing year are expected to be below average, the impact of the reduced 2006 harvest on the volume of shipments from the country will be somewhat offset by large stocks built up in the preceding three years.
The GIEWS Workstation team of the EC-FAO Food Security Programme has released the 2007 version of the Global Administrative Unit Layers (GAUL). The GAUL is an initiative which aims at compiling and disseminating the most reliable spatial information on administrative unit boundaries for all the countries in the world. The GAUL always maintains global geospatial layers with a unified coding system at country, first (e.g. regions) and second (e.g. districts) administrative levels. In addition, when data are available, it provides layers down to third, fourth and lowers levels. The GAUL initiative keeps track of changes in administrative units and an updated version of the GAUL is released once a year. Each new set of boundaries in these yearly releases is created in a new layer in the GAUL, thus creating a record of the changes over time. In the latest version (GAUL 2007), 26 countries have been updated at country, province or district level. Updates have been carried out either because more reliable and accurate data is available or because administrative units changed.
Authorized users1 can download the layers from the FAO Geonetwork at the site:
Other useful links:
The GIEWS Workstation
The EC-FAO Food Security Programme
Fabio Grita email@example.com
Michela Marinelli firstname.lastname@example.org
1Authorized users include the UN community and many international and national institutions and agencies. Contact the GIEWS Workstation team for details.
|GIEWS||global information and early warning system on food and agriculture|