|No.5 December 2008|
|Crop Prospects and Food Situation|
Harvesting of the 2008 summer coarse grain and paddy crops is nearly complete while planting of the 2009 winter wheat and coarse grains is underway throughout the subregion. Adequate rainfall has been favourable for planting, except in Tunisia where precipitation has not been sufficient so far, and conditions still remain too dry in most producing areas for widespread sowing. Soil moisture reserves were already seriously depleted in Tunisia after drought in the past season.
The subregion’s 2008 wheat crop is estimated at 15.7 million tonnes, 17 percent up from the previous year's drought-reduced level. In Egypt, the largest producer of the subregion, 2008 wheat output is about 9 percent up from previous year’s average crop. The subregion’s 2008 aggregate production of coarse grains (winter and spring) is preliminarily estimated 5 percent higher than last year at about 11.5 million tonnes. This reflects a recovery in the winter barley output estimated at 3.16 million tonnes, 7.8 percent above the drought-affected crop of 2007 as well as a 4 percent increase in spring maize production (mostly in Egypt) from last year’s average level.
The increase in cereal production combined with a significant decline in international commodity prices has been favourable in helping to reduce inflation slightly and improve somewhat access to food. In Egypt, the most affected country, where the year-on-year rate of inflation in urban areas reached 23.6 percent in August 2008 (up from 6.9 percent in December 2007), a downward movement was observed in September when it dropped to 21.5 percent. Inflation is driven mainly by price changes in the food sector where the year-on-year rate of inflation dropped from 30.9 percent in August 2008 to 25.4 in September.
In western Africa, the 2008 cereal harvest is complete in the Sahel while in the coastal countries along the Gulf of Guinea, harvest of the second season cereal crops is in progress.
Joint CILSS/FewsNet Crop Assessment Missions to the nine Sahelian countries (Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chad, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal) have recently been completed. The Missions reviewed the evolution of the 2008 cropping season and preliminary cereal production estimates prepared by the national agricultural statistics services. This year, the exercise was extended to five coastal countries - Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Nigeria. FAO participated in some of these missions. According to preliminary findings, a good 2008 aggregate cereal output is anticipated, as a result of regular and well distributed rains throughout the raining season as well as various productivity enhancing safety net programme provided by governments.
In the Sahel, the 2008 aggregate cereal production in the nine countries is provisionally estimated at about 17.6 millions tonnes, mostly millet and sorghum, which is about 30 percent above last year’s output that was affected by floods and drought, and some 28 percent above the average for the last five years. At national level, above-average harvests are forecast in all Sahelian countries.
Harvest prospects are also good in the coastal countries along the Gulf of Guinea. In Nigeria, the largest producing country, an above-average harvest is expected (see box). The aggregate 2008 cereal production (main and second season) is officially forecast nearly 8 percent higher than in 2007 at about 30 million tonnes including about 4 million tonnes of rice. The good outcome is due to several factors including, exceptionally favourable weather conditions this year, increased government subsidies to farmers to expand use of high quality seeds and fertilizer, and strong demand for cereals by the agro-industrial and the poultry sectors. Other areas in the subregion also experienced favourable agro-climatic conditions and production is expected to be above-average in most countries including Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea and Liberia.
Coarse grains prices started declining from September, reflecting the arrival of new harvests on the markets. For example, after peaking in June/July/August, maize prices dropped by 42 percent in September in Malanville in northern Benin, while millet price declined by nearly 11 percent in Maradi (Niger). However, prices remain in general above their last year’s levels.
In view of this year’s good output, regional trade is expected to follow the normal market pattern, which in the eastern part of the subregion allows traders to move grains from northern Benin to Niger and from central and northern Nigeria to Niger and southern Nigeria, reflecting supply/demand positions in each zone. However, market performance will depend on the potential impact of current government interventions on market behaviour across the subregion. The Government of Niger was reported to have started buying cowpea from farmers at relatively high prices which may disrupt the market and affect regional trade flow. Similarly, the National Food Reserve Agency of Nigeria has decided to buy about 500 000 tonnes of cereal and cassava flour this year in the framework of the Government Guaranteed Minimum Prices Program.
While governments should be encouraged to replenish their food reserve in order to increase intervention capacity in case of food crisis, the timing, the size and the purchasing prices of the operation should be carefully determined in order to avoid any negative impact on markets. Market and price conditions in concerned countries need to be closely monitored in order to adjust accordingly as soon as it is necessary.
In Cameroon and the Central African Republic, harvesting of the second 2008 maize crop (planted from August-September) is about to start in the south and overall prospects are favourable reflecting adequate rains throughout the cropping season. In the north, characterized by only one rainy season, harvesting of millet and sorghum is underway and output is forecast to be above average. Larger domestic crops in 2008 are expected to ease the impact of high international commodity prices. In the Central African Republic, however, agricultural recovery continues to be hampered by persistent civil unrest and inadequate availability of agricultural inputs, notably in northern parts where nearly 300 000 people have reportedly been uprooted from their homes over the past two years. Continuing insecurity in both Chad and the Darfur region of Sudan threaten to further destabilize the situation in northern parts of the country.
Harvesting of the 2008 main season cereal crops is well in advance in northern parts of the subregion while it has been completed in southern parts. The October-December “short-rains” season is off to an excellent start and began to provide relief for many local areas in Somalia, western Kenya and southern Ethiopia that have suffered from repeated failed seasons. However, the rains have also caused flash-flood problems in the Mandera region in north-eastern Kenya and the lower Juba and Shebelle river basins. Further excessive rains during the first dekad of November caused localized flooding in Kenya’s Western Province, particularly in the Budalangi District displacing thousands of people and destroying homes and farms.
In Eritrea, harvesting of the 2008 main season (“Kremti”) crops is underway. Although below average rains in June and July had delayed the start of the season in the traditional and in the mechanized sectors of Gash Barka, Debub and Maekel regions, about-normal rains in August had a positive impact on the vegetative growth of crops. However, satellite imagery indicates a vegetation index lower than average in several parts, reflecting below-average rains during the first months of the year. Notwithstanding significant increases in the last few years, domestic cereal production is inadequate to cover the requirements and large quantities of cereals have to be imported. In Ethiopia, prospects for the 2008 main season “meher” crops have improved following a delayed start. The secondary “belg” season harvest, normally carried out from June, was a failure due to poor rainfall. This was particularly so in the lowlands of Oromiya, Somali and SNNP regions. Although this crop accounts for only a small portion of the total national cereal production, in Amhara and Tigray regions, where output is severely reduced, large numbers of people depend on this crop for about half of their annual food consumption. An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission is visiting the country in December to assess the main season production and estimate food assistance requirements in 2009. In Kenya, the October–December “short-rains” season is off to a good start providing relief for many areas in western Kenya. The maize output from the short-rains season averages at about 360 000 tonnes. Harvesting of the 2008 long-rains season maize is almost over in most parts of the country and the outturn is expected to be lower than the previous year due to erratic rainfall, reduced area, rising fuel and agricultural inputs prices and high labour costs. In addition, in January, most farmers were displaced following the civil unrest and those not affected were able to cultivate only a portion of their farm due to the increased cost of agricultural inputs. The Ministry of Agriculture has estimated the long-rains maize production this year at 2.25 million tonnes, 11 percent lower than in 2007/08 season. In Somalia, the 2008/09 secondary “deyr” cropping season has started favourably. The deyr rains began in many parts of the country during late September and early October, demonstrating a timely onset to the short rainy season. Pasture, and water availability has improved and cereal crop establishment and development are reported to be good in main producing areas of the south. The main “gu” season cereal crop, harvested last summer, has largely failed as a result of a late start and poor performance of the rains in most parts of the country. According to the Somalia Food Security Analysis Unit (FSAU), the 2008 gu cereal production, estimated at 85 000 tonnes, is about 42 percent below the post-war (1995-2007) average and follows two below-average seasons (gu 2007 and deyr 2007/08). In Sudan, prospects for the 2008 food crops are favourable in major producing areas owing to improved rainfall. An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission (CFSAM) has completed field work in Southern Sudan and preliminary findings indicate that the 2008 output is well above the previous year’s. In the United Republic of Tanzania, planting of the 2008/09 short “vuli” season crops in the bi-modal rainfall northern areas is complete despite poor precipitation in parts. The 2008 maize crop is preliminarily forecast slightly up from last year’s good level and about 18 percent above the average of the previous five years. In Uganda, prospects for the current second season food crops have improved with recent rains. However, excessive rains and floods have damaged crops and prevented harvesting in eastern Uganda. Harvesting of the 2008 main season crops is almost complete and an average crop is forecast. By contrast, severely reduced outputs, for the second consecutive year, are expected in the poor Karamoja region where many farmers have not planted their crops due to delayed and erratic March-September rains.
Planting rains were received only in the second dekad of November through much of the subregion thus delaying the start of the 2008/09 agricultural season, except in northern Mozambique and parts of Zimbabwe where no effective rain at all had been recorded by end-November (see Figure 6). The regional meteorological outlook for the 2008/09 main agricultural season is mixed across the region. According to the Climatic forecasts by the 12th Southern Africa Regional Climatic Outlook Forum, parts of the region, including most of Mozambique and Zambia, will have enhanced chances of receiving normal to above normal rainfall during the entire season, while other areas like southern Madagascar, most parts of Namibia, southern Lesotho have high chances of receiving normal to below normal rainfall during these periods.
Through various agricultural support programmes, the Governments of Angola, Madagascar, Malawi and Zambia distributed agricultural inputs to beneficiaries. In general, these distributions were started early enough to facilitate timely planting by farmers. Farmers in Zimbabwe, by contrast, continue to face severe shortages of and/or unaffordable prices for most agricultural inputs (e.g. fertilizers, seed, agricultural chemicals and tillage power). For example, estimated maize seed availability by October was sufficient to meet less than a quarter of the national requirements in the country.
While it is still too early to estimate the subregion’s planted area this year, in South Africa, a farmer’s planting intentions survey indicates that the maize area could decrease by about 8.5 percent to some 2.6 million hectares, discouraged by current declining trend of the SAFEX and international prices.
The path of cereal imports this year into the deficit countries of the subregion has been relatively slow, possibly due to the generally higher import prices this year compared to last, particularly for wheat and rice. Available figures by late November 2008, which is about two-thirds into the marketing year, show that only 38 percent of import requirements of all cereals (as opposed some 47 percent the year before) have been received and/or contracted/pledged since the beginning of the marketing year in April 2008 (see Table 7). Large quantities of cereals are yet to be imported/contracted in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola and other countries (see Figure 8). Given that the lean period is starting in January 2009 additional imports would have to be arranged urgently in order to avoid food shortages and further price hikes in local markets.
With a sizeable exportable surplus of white maize in South Africa, forecast at around 2.4 million tonnes for the 2008/09 marketing year, and more or less self-sufficiency expected in Malawi and Zambia, the overall, maize supply situation in Southern Africa is satisfactory. The subregion’s aggregate maize import requirements (commercial and food aid for both white and yellow) of 1.9 million tonnes. Hence local and regional purchases of food aid, direct or through triangular arrangements are highly recommended.
Harvesting of the main rice and coarse crops is complete or drawing to a close. Based on latest information, the 2008 aggregate cereal output of the subregion is forecast at 1 063 million tonnes, a new record, 1.5 percent up from the previous year’s crop. Most of the growth is on account of a forecast strong increase in paddy production to an all-time high of 607 million tonnes (406 million tonnes in milled terms).
Record cereal outputs are estimated for 2008 in Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam. In China (Mainland), harvesting of the late rice and coarse grains is complete. The country has recorded the fifth consecutive increase in cereal production reflecting continued government policies to support agriculture and favourable weather. The 2008 aggregate cereal output (including rice in milled terms) is forecast at 409 million tonnes, some 9 million tonnes above the record in the previous year. China is expected to be a net cereal exporter in 2008/09 (an estimated 4.5 million tonnes could be exported). The 2008 aggregate cereal output in India is forecast at 261 million tonnes, virtually unchanged from the previous year’s high. The 2008 paddy production may reach 147 million tonnes, close to last year’s good harvest, while the 2008 wheat crop is estimated at 78 million tonnes, some 2.2 million tonnes above the previous year’s record. However, several countries in the subregion are expected to have a smaller production in 2008, especially in Iran due to adverse weather, and in the Democratic Republic of Korea due to input shortages and economic constraints.
Planting of the 2009 winter wheat crops is underway or complete in the major wheat producing countries of the subregion under favourable conditions and a large area is reported in response to continuing relatively high prices and government support policies. In India, the government increased the minimum support price for wheat and a larger wheat area is expected. However, as of the late November, the area sown was still less than at the corresponding time last year due to delayed sowing in the States of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Bihar as a result of excessive soil moisture. Similar to India, prospects for the wheat crop in Pakistan are favourable at this stage, reflecting an increase in the government procurement price. Planting of the 2008/09 winter wheat crop in China is complete and the area planted is estimated to be about the same as the large area last year. Ample moisture is reported in the major wheat growing regions and the condition of crops is satisfactory.
As of late November, in Southeast Asia the northeast monsoon was well entrenched and seasonal showers favoured winter-grown rice and maize in the Philippines.
Despite the 2008 good cereal harvest in the subregion, national or localized food supply difficulties remain in several countries. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continues to suffer chronic food insecurity and remains reliant on external food assistance to meet the needs of its people. The FAO and WFP recently conducted the first Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission (CFSAM) since 2004. The Mission forecast that domestic production for the 2008/09 marketing year at some 3.3 million tonnes (including rice in milled terms and potatoes in cereal equivalent), similar to the poor output in the previous year. The total cereal import requirement in 2008/09 is estimated at about 1.8 million tonnes. Based on these findings, and assuming commercial imports are maintained similar to last year’s good level, the country faces a cereal deficit of 836 000 tonnes. In Myanmar, the 2008 Monsoon season rice production in the areas affected by cyclone Nargis has been significantly reduced. Based on the recent FAO/WFP CFSAM, the average paddy production is estimated to have declined by 32 percent in seven affected townships in Ayeyarwaddy Division and by 35 percent in three affected townships in Yangon Division. Agricultural assistance for the coming summer season and next Monsoon season is required to help small farmers recover their production and livelihood. Furthermore, food assistance to the worst affected families will continue to needed. In Sri Lanka, the country’s food security situation continues to be affected by the resurgence of civil conflict. Localized food insecurity will continue in the Far Western and Mid-Western regions of Nepal, due to the floods in the summer, which displaced some 180 000 people. Recent floods in the Philippines resulted in a number of deaths and some 50 000 people were made homeless. An extensive damage to property and infrastructure has been reported.
In several countries of the Near East, poor and irregular rains affected the 2008 cereal production. In Iraq, generally unfavourable weather for most of the growing season led to drastically reduced 2008 winter grain production. The aggregate output of wheat and barley is estimated at 1.9 million tonnes, some 40 percent lower than the average level in 2007 and the smallest crop in recent history. Thus, imports of wheat in the year ending in June 2009, are anticipated to increase to about 3.8 million tonnes, against 3.6 million tonnes estimated for the previous year. In the Syrian Arab Republic, poor and irregular rains during the 2007/08 growing season have threatened the food security of farmers and herders in the affected areas and seriously jeopardized their livelihoods and nutritional status. The total wheat production in 2008 was estimated at 2.0 million tonnes, half the poor crop harvested last year and below average for the third consecutive year. As a result of inadequate pastures herders sold their animals for 60-70 percent below the normal prices and in many areas they even exhausted their herds. In response, an Emergency Operation was jointly approved by FAO and WFP in November 2008 for food assistance to 40 000 households (200 000 people), worth USD 5.2 million for a period of six months (15 November 2008 to 15 May 2009).
In Afghanistan, the 2008 cereal production was sharply reduced because of unfavourable weather, falling to just 3.7 million tonnes, one-third down from 2007 and well below the average of the past 5 years. As a result, the cereal import requirement in 2008/09 is estimated at 2.3 million tonnes, more than double the previous year’s level. The commercial import capacity is estimated at 1.5 million tonnes, leaving 0.7 million tonnes to be mobilized with assistance. Earlier this year the Government and the United Nations appealed to the world community to donate USD 400 million to cover the wheat import and food aid needs as well as to prepare for the winter cropping season. According to WFP, 30-35 percent of the requested food aid resources had been received as of early November 2008 and WFP believes that using the donations received thus far, it can meet the needs of the most vulnerable populations until February 2009. However, further donor commitments are needed now to ensure that distributions can continue after February 2009, when the hunger season begins.
Looking ahead to the next season, FEWSNet conducted an assessment of winter wheat planting in late October and early November, and reported that normal levels of planting were expected in all provinces this year with the exception of Bamyan and Wardak, where irrigation water reserves are limited and farmers would plant the area that could be supported accordingly. However, high prices of improved seeds and chemical fertilizer could limit farmers’ access to these inputs, in turn limiting the size of any potential recovery in output in 2009. After a milder than normal start to the rain and snow season, by November temperatures had dropped below-average, beneficial for the accumulation of snow pack, which is critical for irrigation later in the season.
A bitterly cold winter, below-normal precipitation and shortages of irrigation water have adversely affected crop yields in southern parts of central Asia. The 2008 harvests were well below average in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. In the case of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, this is the second poor harvest in succession. In Kazakhstan the 2008 cereal harvest is provisionally forecast at 17 million tonnes, 3 million tonnes less than last year’s near record but still above average. Although Kazakhstan reopened its wheat exports as of 1 September, which was beneficial for neighbouring drought-affected countries needing to mobilize their wheat import needs, purchasing power, rather than supply of grains, is the limiting factor in the food security situation in this region. Uzbekistan was also affected by the drought but to a lesser extent. The harvest is officially reported to be over 6 million tonnes, about average but less than last year. By contrast growing conditions in the Caucasus have been satisfactory this year and Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia have good harvests for the second year in succession.
The 2008 aggregate cereal output of the subregion (including rice in milled terms) is forecast by FAO at 41.3 million tonnes, about 600 000 tonnes more than the previous year’s record level and some 4 million tonnes above the average of the last five years.
In Mexico, harvesting of the 2008 main rain-fed summer coarse grain crops, accounting for some 75 percent of the annual production, is underway and seasonal production is expected to reach 23 million tonnes, slightly above the record level obtained the year before. This result is a consequence of widespread use of better seed varieties and higher sowing density that improved average yields. In addition, the country has received normal to above-normal monsoon rains that maintained favourable soil moisture levels across the main producing areas and boosted yields well above average. Planting of the mostly irrigated 2009 winter wheat crop is underway in north-western states and above normal temperatures are favouring germination rates of early-planted varieties.
In Costa Rica, Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, harvesting of the 2008 second season maize and bean crop is about to start. Since the end of October, heavy and constant rainfall has caused flooding and mudslides in several locations across the subregion, affecting more than 500 000 people (65 percent of them in Honduras), with tens of thousands of families evacuated from their homes, loss of about 80 human lives and severe damage to housing and transport infrastructure. In many areas of the Atlantic coast, precipitations surpassed the high levels generated by devastating Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Important staple foods such as maize, beans and paddy are among the most affected crops, but damage is also reported for important cash crops such as bananas, sugar cane, papayas, pumpkins and sesame. In many cases, households’ food reserves have been washed away and lost. Floods also affected the livestock sector, with deaths of animals and losses of pasture land. Food and non-food emergency assistance is being provided by the international community.
In the Caribbean, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Cuba are still recovering from an intense second-half of the hurricane season that caused severe damage to urban and rural infrastructures and losses of human lives. At the beginning of November, powerful Hurricane Paloma hit Cayman Islands and central-eastern provinces of Camaguey and Las Tunas in Cuba. Several food and cash crops (from cereals and beans to vegetables, sugar cane and bananas) have been extensively damaged, with disruptive consequences on local livelihoods and food supply.
In South America, harvesting of the 2008 winter wheat and barley crops has just started in key growing areas of Argentina and Uruguay, while it is already well underway in central and southern states of Brazil and in eastern Paraguay. The aggregate output of wheat in the subregion is forecast at 20.3 million tonnes, about 2.3 million tonnes below the average of the last five years. The decrease is largely a result of a decline in plantings in Argentina, reflecting a prolonged drought that affected several departments in the country from May to late September. Additionally, in Argentina use of fertilizers was reduced because of their high cost, and some crops were negatively affected by frosts. By contrast, in Brazil, good weather conditions in the main producing states of Parana and Rio Grande do Sul and a widespread increase in planted area in response to high international prices have been positive for production prospects, and output is expected to reach 5.8 million tonnes, the largest wheat crop output since 2004. If favourable weather conditions persist during harvesting, record wheat crops are also expected in Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, reflecting a substantial increase in area planted. Regarding barley, the subregion’s aggregate production is tentatively estimated at record 2.7 million tonnes.
Planting of the important 2009 summer maize crop is underway in southern countries of the subregion and will be concluded by the end of the year. In Argentina, planting operations have been delayed by inadequate soil moisture and official planting intentions point to an area of about 2.7 million hectares, some 15 percent less than last year. This reduction is the consequence of higher costs of production compared with the previous season (especially the increase in costs of transport) and relative to other crops such as soybean and sunflower. In addition, uncertainty about prices in 2009 due to potential export restrictions for maize may also have induced farmers to plant alternative crops such as sorghum with lower domestic demand than maize. A reduction in planted area is tentatively forecast also in the other countries of the subregion as a consequence of the volatility of world financial markets that has reduced farmers’ access to credit lines and prospects of declining international prices.
In the United States, winter wheat planting for the 2009 harvest was complete by the end of November and crop development was reported to be normal in most areas. Regarding crop condition, late November ratings were well above the previous year’s, with 66 percent of the crop rated good to excellent compared to 44 percent a year ago. Although final estimates are not available yet, the winter wheat plantings, which account for over 80 percent of the country’s total wheat area, are thought to be about 3 to 4 percent down from the previous year.
The latest official estimate of the United States 2008 wheat crop remains unchanged at 68 million tonnes. The maize harvest has been completed in the past few weeks with no significant change to the outlook, and the total coarse grains output in 2008 is estimated at some 324 million tonnes, 8 percent down from last year’s record level.
In Canada, the bulk of the wheat is spring planted and the 2009 crop will not be sown until March-April next year. However, as in other major wheat producers around the globe, early indications point to a likely reduction in area. Latest information regarding the 2008 cereal harvest mostly confirms earlier expectations: output of wheat rose sharply to 27.3 million tonnes, 36 percent up from last year’s crop. In contrast, with more land given over to wheat, production of coarse grains (mainly barley, maize and oats) has declined, with latest official estimates putting their aggregate output at 26.1 million tonnes, about 7 percent down from last year.
With the bulk of the winter grain crops now sown, the aggregate wheat area for the 2009 harvest in the EU is tentatively forecast to be slightly down from last year’s relatively high level. Given a less attractive outlook for producer returns than at this time last year, some of the less productive land brought back into production last year when compulsory set-aside was removed, will likely be set-aside again this year on a voluntary basis. On top of this, persistent heavy rains have hampered winter grain planting in parts of France and the United Kingdom while, by contrast, dry conditions in several eastern countries, including Romania and Bulgaria, have been unfavourable for planting operations and crop emergence in those parts.
The EU’s aggregate cereal output in 2008 is now estimated at 312.9 million tonnes, slightly up from the forecast in September and 20 percent up from 2007. Output of wheat rose almost 25 percent to 149.6 million tonnes, while that of coarse grains is up about 17 percent at 160.8 million tonnes.
In the European CIS subregion, autumn conditions are reported to have been generally favourable for the winter grain planting campaign. However, as in other parts, the prospect of lower producer prices, combined with higher costs of production at planting time are reported to have discouraged or impeded farmers from cultivating as large an area as in the previous year. Although, no firm estimates are available yet, it is likely that the winter grain area (mostly wheat) for the 2009 harvest is down in both the Russian Federation and Ukraine, the largest producing countries in the group. The aggregate 2008 cereal harvest in the subregion is estimated at 160.1 million tonnes, 38 percent up from the reduced crop in 2007.
The prospects for the 2008 winter cereal crops in Australia have deteriorated further over the past two months, reflecting a lack of spring rainfall in particular across Victoria, South Australia and southern New South Wales. Nevertheless, the prospects for the coming harvest remain much better than last year when the country suffered widespread drought. The latest official forecasts in early November put wheat output in 2008 at just about 20 million tonnes. This would still represent an increase by 52 percent from last year. Regarding the summer grain crop for harvest in 2009, the total area planted to grain sorghum (the major crop) is reported to be down by about 4 percent compared to the previous year as less fallow land was available for summer cropping in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales as a result of the increased area currently sown to winter crops. Assuming a return to average yields from the records achieved in the 2007/08 season, grain sorghum production in 2008-09 is forecast to decline to slightly less than 2 million tonnes.
|GIEWS||global information and early warning system on food and agriculture|