|No.2 April 2007|
|Crop Prospects and Food Situation|
Harvesting of the 2007 winter cereal crops is due to start from June in most countries of the subregion. Production prospects remain mixed. In Egypt, the largest producer of the subregion, the outlook is favourable, principally for the irrigated wheat crop. By contrast, in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia prospects are less favourable and smaller crops are expected this year, mainly as a consequence of insufficient soil moisture at planting and subsequent erratic rains in the main growing areas. Weather conditions during spring will be critical for crop yields in these countries.
Table 4. Africa cereal production ( million tonnes)
Note: Totals computed from unrounded data.
Land preparation is underway in the Coastal countries for planting of the 2007 main season cereal crops, while in the Sahel, planting is scheduled for June. The food supply situation remains generally satisfactory in most parts of the subregion reflecting the bumper 2006 cereal harvest. In the Sahel, food prices have been mostly stable since the beginning of the marketing year in December. However, localized food security problems persist in several countries due mostly to lack of access. Joint CILSS/FAO/FewsNet post-harvest Assessment Missions visited Chad, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania and Senegal in February-March 2007 to assess the food situation, which still remains generally satisfactory, despite reduced 2006 cereal productions and marketing disruptions (see box).
In the other Sahel countries, in Niger, about 30 percent of the population remain food insecure in spite of last year’s record crop, according to the latest Joint Vulnerability Assessment Survey carried out by the Government of Niger, FAO, FEWSNet and WFP, as a result of localized crop failures and widespread poverty. The departments with the highest proportion of food insecure people include Tahoua (38 percent), Tillabéri (34 percent) and Zinder (31 percent). Although this represents an important improvement compared to last year, the survey reveals the structural nature of food insecurity in Niger. In Burkina Faso, where a record crop was also gathered last year, an increasingly tight food situation is reported in several areas where 2006 crop yields were sharply reduced because of delayed rains or floods. These include some departments of the provinces of Komandjari and Gnagna (East), Bam and Sanmentenga (Centre North), Lorum and Passoré (North) as well as Sahel region.
Planting of the 2007 cereal crops has just started. FAO’s latest estimates of the 2006 aggregate subregional cereal production indicate a good output of some 3.7 million tonnes, slightly higher than the previous year and above average mainly as a result of favourable weather conditions. In Cameroon the 2006/07 cropping season was marked by favourable weather conditions and an increase in area planted according to preliminary estimates of a joint mission of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MINADER) and World Food Program (WFP), which recently visited the northern provinces of Adamaoua, North and Extreme-North. Aggregate cereal production in the three provinces (accounting for 60 percent of national production) was estimated at about 1.38 million tonnes which is 13 percent higher compared to the previous year’s good crop. Following the good harvest in Cameroon and in neighbouring countries, notably in Nigeria, cereal markets are well supplied and prices, observed until February 2007, were mostly stable and lower than those during the previous year. A satisfactory food supply situation is expected for 2007, including the Chari and Logone regions in the extreme north of the country, which were struck by a serious food crisis in 2005. In Central African Republic by contrast, persistent insecurity continues to displace large numbers of population and compromise food security.
Harvesting of the 2006/07 secondary cereal crops is almost complete throughout the subregion, except in Ethiopia, where the 2007 secondary "belg" season crops are yet to be harvested from June. In Ethiopia, prospects for the belg crop are generally favourable due to early showers which helped land preparation. In Kenya, harvesting of the 2006/07 secondary "short rains" cereal crop, accounting for up to 20 percent of annual production, is complete. Favourable rains from October to early January 2007 helped improve yields. This crop provides the main source of food in parts of Central and Eastern provinces. In Somalia, the output of the recently harvested secondary “deyr” season cereal crops is forecast at about 111 000 tonnes, nearly three times higher than the poor crop of last year, and 13 percent above the post-war average, reflecting improved rainfall during the season. In Sudan, harvesting of the wheat crop has just started and production is forecast at 642 000 tonnes, 55 percent higher than last year. In the United Republic of Tanzania, prospects for 2007 main season “msimiu” coarse grain crops, for harvest from May, in the uni-modal rainfall areas (central, southern and western parts of the country including the maize surplus growing south-western highlands), are favourable following abundant rainfall. In the bi-modal rainfall areas of the northern coastal belt and north-eastern parts of the country, harvesting of the 2006/07 short "vuli" season crops is almost complete. A good crop is expected following favourable rains during the growing season. In Uganda, harvesting of the 2006/07 second season cereal crops is complete. Although unusually heavy rains affected harvesting in December and early January 2007, the output is estimated to be above average.
With the bulk of the secondary season harvests now complete, and following above-average to bumper first season crops in many countries, FAO’s latest estimate for aggregate 2006/07 (first and second season) cereal output in the subregion (2006 in table 4) stands at a record 35.3 million tonnes, 13.5 percent up from the previous year.
The 2007/08 main cropping season is about to start in several equatorial parts of the region, the outcome of which depends very much on the level of precipitation during the March-May rainy season. Forecasts for this period indicate a normal to below-normal rainfall over major producing areas in the United Republic of Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia, central Sudan and eastern and southern Ethiopia. Rainfall levels so far in March are already reported to have been below normal in this region. However, over much of Uganda, central Ethiopia, southern Sudan, north-western and coastal Tanzania and the coastal areas of Kenya and southern Somalia, near to above-normal rainfall is forecast. At this very early stage, FAO’s tentative forecasts indicate a likely decline in the 2007/08 cereal harvest from the bumper crops gathered in the 2006/07 season.
Following the good 2006/07 crops, the overall food supply situation has improved considerably in most parts of eastern Africa compared to the same time last year. Grain surpluses in many areas have resulted in low levels of cereal prices, except in Ethiopia and Eritrea where other inflationary factors are keeping prices at high levels. The heavy rains have also improved pasture conditions. This has reduced pastoralist movement in search of water and feed, increased the availability of milk and improved the overall food security of pastoralist households.
Despite the overall improved food supply, however, millions of people continue to depend on food assistance due a combination of factors including conflict and the impact of previous or current adverse weather conditions. Recent escalation of conflict and unrest in Somalia, which displaced tens of thousands of people, is a serious concern. In addition, Rift Valley Fever (RVF), an acute fever-causing virus that affects livestock and humans, broke out in Kenya in late December 2006. The disease has already killed hundreds of people and many livestock and reduced livestock reproduction rates. Control measures, including market closures and livestock movement restrictions, have constrained pastoralist income. Vaccines are in short supply, and the upcoming rainy season may renew conditions favourable for rapid RVF transmission. The pastoral regions of southeastern Ethiopia, southern Somalia and northeastern Kenya have just emerged from a severe multi-year drought, during which herds suffered significant depletion and many pastoralists became destitute. A serious desert locust situation was also reported in the coast and areas of Eritrea, Sudan and northern Somalia. FAO, together with national authorities are closely monitoring the situation.
Harvesting of the 2007 main season cereal crops, mostly maize, is underway in the subregion. FAO’s preliminary forecasts indicate an aggregate maize production of 14.8 million tonnes, about the same as last year’s below-average level. However, prospects vary considerably country by country with significant crop losses due to floods in January and February in some parts, and reduced yields due to persistent dry weather in others.
In South Africa, the largest producer of the subregion, the 2007 maize crop is forecast at 7.1 million tonnes, about 3 percent higher than last year’s record low, but still well below average, with a recovery in plantings just offsetting a drop in yields. Official estimates indicate that the maize area has expanded from last year’s poor level by about 860 000 hectares to some 2.9 million hectares, encouraged by higher prices. However, prolonged dry spells and generally inadequate precipitation in the main maize triangle of the country are anticipated to reduce yields significantly. Dry weather during the season has also adversely affected plantings and yields in Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe, and the 2007 cereal outputs are forecast to decline from last year in these countries. By contrast, a bumper crop is expected in Malawi, reflecting abundant and well distributed rains, coupled with adequate availability of subsidized agricultural inputs at planting time. In Zambia and Madagascar, heavy rains in the second half of the cropping season, from January to March, have caused severe flooding in parts, damaging infrastructure and thousands of hectares of standing crops. However, abundant precipitation in other areas of these countries is expected to have resulted in improved yields, and the 2007 cereal outputs are anticipated to be slightly above average. In flood-affected areas, abundant soil moisture may also be beneficial for recession crops during the secondary season. Heavy rains and floods have also caused severe damage to crops in central parts of Mozambique, while in southern provinces prolonged dry weather has reduced maize yields; however the important growing areas of the north have benefited from good precipitation during the season. The final outcome of this year’s cereal crops is still uncertain. In Zimbabwe, rains in the second half of the season have been well below average in south-southwest part of the country, seriously affecting crops but north-northeast areas are expected to do little better. The erratic weather, coupled with shortages of agricultural inputs, will result in a reduced cereal harvest this year. In Angola, another increase in the area planted to cereals this season is likely to result in a higher production this year, without much change in long-term average yields. As a result of unfavourable crop prospects, FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions (CFSAMs) have been requested by the governments of Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Lesotho.
Reflecting the poor harvest prospects, maize prices have escalated in South Africa, the region’s main exporting country, with current maize prices in US dollar terms higher than the corresponding levels last year, thus affecting Swaziland, Lesotho and other dependent markets in the region. Similarly, sustained heavy rains in Madagascar have reduced the rice supplies resulting in steep rise in rice prices. However, in other countries, current prices of maize, the most important staple food, are much below the corresponding levels a year ago when widespread food shortages were experienced.
Prospects for the winter grain crops (mostly wheat) that are developing throughout the main producing countries remain mostly favourable. In China, wheat plantings were reduced in some parts by dry conditions last autumn and limited soil moisture availability continues to be reported in some northern and central areas. Latest forecasts point to a drop in output by some 4 percent to 99.5 million tonnes compared to last year. By contrast, in India, a sharp increase in production is expected this year reflecting an expansion of the area sown and particularly favourable weather conditions. As a result, the country’s wheat imports in 2007/08 are forecast much lower at 3 million tonnes, compared to their exceptionally high level of 6.5 million tonnes in the previous year. Pakistan is also expected to have a good winter wheat harvest again in 2007, and output is forecast at 22 million tonnes, close to last year’s record output reflecting the favourable weather during the winter and spring so far. In the southern hemisphere countries of Indonesia and Sri Lanka, the main season rice crop is being harvested. Output is forecast somewhat down from last year’s good crops but still about average. Prospects for dry season rice in Thailand, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Cambodia, and Viet Nam are generally satisfactory.
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 insecurity. The main food security concerns centre on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste, and Nepal. In Timor-Leste, as a result of violence in April and May 2006, an estimated 100 000 IDPs (10 percent of the country’s population) are still living in camps. The precarious food security situation has been further worsened by a drought during the early period of the current main crop season. A joint FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission (CFSAM) is visiting country to assess the impact of adverse weather on crop production (mainly maize), markets, and food security of the vulnerable population. In Nepal, the 2006 paddy production is officially estimated to be down by over 10 percent from the previous year and below average as a result of adverse weather and crop disease. The worst affected areas are in central and western regions. An FAO/WFP CFSAM is visiting the country. Despite a satisfactory level of overall food supply in Sri Lanka, the food security in the northeast remains severely affected by the political and worsening security situation. The country has also been affected by flooding following torrential monsoon rains in January 2007, which displaced some 60 000 people, mostly in the district of Nuwara Eliya and Hambantota. The 2006 aggregate cereal output in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is officially estimated at 4.07 million tonnes (including 1.64 million tonnes of milled rice, and 1.96 million tonnes of maize), somewhat better than earlier expectations and above average, but still some 100 000 tonnes lower than the previous year’s record production. With this revised level of output, the import requirement of cereals (mainly food aid) in 2006/07 is now forecast at 960 000 tonnes. Food security is still a major concern, although food aid deliveries may resume.
In Afghanistan precipitation and snow cover on the mountains throughout the country have been above average, partly replenishing the receding water table in the country and providing good soil moisture. Last year drought had caused significant damage to crops and livestock and some people in the north had abandoned their villages in search of food and water. This year’s cereal output is tentatively forecast at about 4.9 million tonnes, nearly 1 million tonnes up on last year’s drought-reduced harvest. In Iraq, however, satellite based imagery indicates that agro-meteorological conditions during November-February were unfavourable, being rather too dry, for satisfactory development of crops. Due to continued conflict and displacement, the food security situation in the country remains extremely fragile. Recent events indicate a rise in humanitarian needs due to increased displacements. The UN and other international agencies are monitoring the situation and providing assistance as needed. The food situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip also gives cause for serious concern.
Above-average winter precipitation and good snow cover in the mountainous areas throughout the subregion should ensure ample soil and irrigation water supplies for development of crops that are now coming out of their winter dormancy and for the spring cereals still to be sown. Relatively warm temperatures have also been favourable for this year’s winter crops. With the exceptions of Kazakhstan, the single largest producer in the region, winter cereals are the most important crops in the region. Winter cereals in Kazakhstan account for less than 5 percent of the total output, where land is not a constraint and extensive cultivation is common under rainfed conditions. Yields, are, therefore, lower in Kazakhstan than other countries in the subregion, accounting for more than 77 percent of the total area planted with cereals but less than 55 percent of the total output. In other countries of the subregion cereals are mainly cultivated under irrigated systems with significantly higher yields. The aggregate winter cereal harvest in 2007 is forecast at about 11.8 million tonnes, nearly 400 000 tonnes up on last year. Wheat is the most important staple crop in the region and makes up a large part of the daily diet. Wheat, winter and spring, accounts for about 83 percent of the total annualcereal production in the subregion.
Harvesting of the 2007 main winter wheat crop is about to start in Mexico, virtually the sole producer in the subregion. Early official forecasts point to a good production of some 2.9 million tonnes, very similar to the same season of previous year, reflecting adequate availability of irrigation water in north-western producing states of Sonora and Baja California.
Planting of the 2007 main season coarse grains and paddy crops is expected to start at the beginning of May with the arrival of first seasonal precipitation in Mexico and other Central American and Caribbean countries. In the subregion, the 2007 planted area is tentatively forecast at an average level, including 9.3 million hectares of maize, 2 million hectares of sorghum and 710 000 hectares of paddy. Early forecasts put the 2007 aggregate cereal crop at a very good level of 38.4 million tonnes. In Mexico, despite a good 2006 maize production, commercial imports in marketing year 2006/07 (July/June) are expected to reach a record level of 8 million tonnes in order to boost supply and reduce domestic prices of white maize and “tortillas”, which have reached their highest level in the last ten years.
In Cuba, harvesting of sugar cane, the main agricultural export, is underway and early estimates point to a national output of raw sugar of 1.6 million tonnes, which positively reverts the trend of the last 15 years when production declined from 8 millions tonnes in 1990 to only 1.2 million tonnes in 2006.
Table 6. Latin America and Caribbean cereal production ( million tonnes)
Note: Totals computed from unrounded data.
Harvesting of the 2007 main season coarse grain crops is underway. Preliminary estimates indicate a record aggregate production of about 89 million tonnes, 20 percent above last year’s good crop and the average of the last five years. This is due to a widespread increase in both area planted and yields. The subregion’s aggregate maize area has increased some 5 percent in response to strong demand for ethanol production. In Argentina, despite some delay in harvesting operations due to abundant rains during the second week of March, yields of maize are expected to be record at 7.7 tonnes per hectare. Record average yields of 3.7 tonnes per hectare are also expected in Brazil, with peaks above 9 tonnes per hectare in the key growing state of Parana. High international prices, due to the strong US demand for ethanol, are inducing Brazilian farmers to increase plantings of the second season winter maize crop, called safrinha, which are expected to cover a record area of almost 3.8 million hectares. Harvesting of the 2007 main rice crop is underway and aggregate production of paddy is tentatively forecast at an average level of 22 million tonnes.
In the Andean countries, adverse weather conditions have affected food and cash crops in Bolivia and parts of Peru. In Bolivia, several climatic events since the end of 2006, have seriously affected all nine departments with floods and landslides in the midlands and lowlands (departments of Santa Cruz, Cochabamba, Beni, Chuquisaca Tarija and Pando) as well as drought, hail storms and frost in the highlands (departments of Oruro, Chuquisaca, Potosí and La Paz). The Government of Bolivia has declared a national emergency and appealed for international assistance. Agricultural losses of the main summer season crops, normally to be harvested from mid-March to May, are provisionally estimated at about 200 000 hectares of crops (mainly soybean) and some thousands of heads of cattle. The food security situation of most vulnerable rural communities, already entering the lean period, is expected to deteriorate in the coming month as a consequence of severe crop losses, rising food prices and shortage of seeds. In view of the unfavourable crop prospects, an FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission is planned, in order to make a comprehensive assessment of agricultural damage and emergency assistance needs.
In Peru, unexpected frost and hailstorms in mid-February in mountain areas have affected cereal and potato crops to be harvested from April-May. The worst affected departments are Huancavelica, Junín, Ayacucho, Apurimac and Puno, where several districts have been declared in a state of emergency. Unofficial sources report that about 100 000 hectares of crops have been lost or damaged, mainly potatoes, white maize and barley.
Prospects for the United States’ 2007 wheat crop remain generally favourable. The area sown to winter wheat increased by 9 percent from the previous year, to some 17.8 million hectares, and the condition of crops as of mid-March in the major producing areas was reported to be much better relative to last year’s drought-affected stands. Based on the satisfactory condition of the winter crops and expectations of an about-average spring wheat area, the overall harvested area could be up by 9 percent compared to 2006 and with good yields also expected, the United States’ wheat production could recover sharply to about 59 million tonnes in 2007, almost 20 percent up from the reduced 2006 output. Regarding coarse grains, as of mid-March, planting of the major maize crop was reported to be off to a good start in southern parts. Higher returns anticipated from maize relative to soybeans and other crops, largely because of strong demand for ethanol production, are expected to encourage a sharp increase in plantings to about 35 million hectares, from 31 million hectares in the previous year. At this early stage, assuming average seasonal conditions and moderate yields, the maize output is forecast to rise to at least 285 million tonnes, 6 percent up from the previous year’s crop. In Canada, with the bulk of the cereal crops still to be sown this spring (March-April), the outlook remains largely unchanged from earlier reported. The main wheat crop area is expected to be reduced sharply with farmers shifting land into specialist durum wheat production, barley or canola oilseed. The expected planting decisions reflect relatively better returns expected for the latter crops in 2007/08, as well as a technical need for crop rotation after a relatively large wheat area in 2006.
Table 7. North America, Europe and Oceania cereal production ( million tonnes)
1 Eu-25 in 2005,2006; EU-27 in 2007.
2 In 2007 included in EU-27.
Note: Totals computed from unrounded data.
The outlook for the 2007 cereal production in the European Union remains mostly favourable, with the exception of some dry southern parts. Warmer than usual weather has continued to promote vegetative growth ahead of the normal pace in many countries, which should be beneficial for crop yields providing weather conditions remain satisfactory. However, the exceptionally advanced state of growth makes crops more vulnerable than usual to any weather excesses in the coming weeks. The main exceptions to the generally satisfactory condition in most of the EU are in some southern parts. In Italy, the winter has been particularly dry and hot, which leads to concern over available soil and irrigation water supplies this spring. Also in Hungary, although the winter weather has been mostly favourable, moisture supplies remain limited after last year’s long dry spell and more rains are needed. In Greece, a minor producer in the EU, the winter cereal area was increased sharply this year to make up for reduced production in 2006 and reflecting a shift away from some traditional non-cereal crops. However, exceptionally dry conditions and lack of snow in the mountains gives rise to serious doubt over the availability of moisture during the rest of the growing season.
Based on latest information, the aggregate cereal crop of the EU27 could amount to more than 280 million tonnes in 2007, some 4 percent above the aggregate output of the 27 countries in 2006. Output of wheat is forecast to rise by 3.3 percent to about 131 million tonnes, while that of coarse grains is tentatively forecast to increase by 5 percent to about 147 million tonnes.
In the European CIS (The Russian Federation, The Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova), winter cereal crops are in good condition and winterkill, normally accounting for more than 10 percent of the planted area, is particularly low this year, following an unusually warm winter. Favourable weather conditions and adequate soil moisture have prompted some farmers in the southern parts of the region to plant spring cereals nearly a month ahead of schedule. Although the unusual seasonal conditions, with mild temperatures and limited snowfall, rendered the winter crops highly vulnerable to any sudden cold spells during the past few weeks, the weather conditions in February and March so far have been, by and large, favourable and no significant frost or crop damage have been reported. The aggregate area planted with winter cereals in the region for the 2007 harvest is about 20.2 million hectares, about 2 million hectares up on last year. Winter cereals account for about one-third of the total area planted with cereals in the region and there are recent indications of a trend towards an increased share of land devoted to winter cereals. The aggregate 2007 winter cereal production in the region is forecast at about 55.2 million tonnes, compared with 49 million tonnes last year. This forecast includes some 46.4 million tonnes of wheat and 3.2 million tonnes of barley.
The severe drought that affected winter grain production in 2006 continued over the summer, with an adverse impact also on the 2007 summer grain crops. The main summer grain is sorghum, and reflecting the reduced area planted, because of the dry conditions, and the poor yields in prospect, production is forecast to decline by about 50 percent to just 1 million tonnes in 2007. Looking ahead to the 2007 winter grain season, the latest outlook from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology indicates that the 2006/07 El Niño has ended, but cautions that this doesn’t imply an immediate recovery from drought conditions. The severely depleted water reserves in some areas could require several years of normal rainfall to recover to satisfactory levels. Nevertheless, there is a good probability of average seasonal conditions for 2007/08 and the winter grain area is expected to recover sharply, by about 15 percent. Wheat could be sown on about 13 million hectares, and output is tentatively forecast to rebound to almost 25 million tonnes, from the 9.8 million tonnes crop harvested at the end of 2006.
|GIEWS||global information and early warning system on food and agriculture|