WORLD AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION
This reports includes the weather briefs, production briefs, and commodity feature articles from the full World Agricultural Production circular, with the exception of some of the statistical tables and charts. This report draws on information from USDA's global network of agricultural attaches and counselors, official statistics of foreign governments, other foreign source materials, and results of office analysis. Estimates of U.S. acreage, yield, and production are from the USDA Agricultural Statistics Board, except where noted. This report is based on unrounded data; numbers may not add to totals because of rounding. The report reflects official USDA estimates released in the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE-336) March 12, 1998.
The report was prepared by the Production Estimates and Crop Assessment Division, FAS, AGBOX 1045, 14th and Independence Ave., Washington, DC 20250-1045. Further information may be obtained by writing to the division, or by calling (202) 720-0888, 9516 or by FAX (202) 720-8880.
We plan to issue PART 2 of this circular every month, normally 5 working days AFTER the release of Part 1. The next issue of World Agricultural Production, Part 1, will be available electronically after 3:30 pm local time on April 10, 1998.
SOUTH AFRICA: RAIN FOLLOWED BY WARM SUNNY WEATHER FAVORS CORN CROP
During January 1998, rainfall averaged near-to-above normal across South Africa's corn belt while temperatures averaged near-to-below normal for much of the month. Rainfall totaled only about 70 percent of normal in traditionally higher yielding sections of the north and east, but timing was favorable for crops. Some locations went three weeks without significant rain in late January to early February which, along with a summer heat wave, caused crop stress and dried top soils. During the first week of February, mostly dry weather covered the corn areas of South Africa, increasing stress on vegetative to reproductive corn. Temperatures averaged 1 to 3 decrees Celsius 8 above normal as highs ranged from 30 to 35 degrees 8. Isolated showers brought only local relief to the western corn areas. From February 8 - 14, scattered showers swept across the corn belt, bringing some relief to reproductive corn. The heaviest rain fell from southeastern Free State to the southern coast of Kwazulu-Natal, with lighter showers covering the northern and western corn areas. Temperatures averaged above normal for the week, although the rains brought daily highs down to more seasonable levels later in the week. During February 15 - 21, widespread showers covered the corn belt, benefiting reproductive to filling crops. Temperatures averaged 2 degrees 8 below normal, with highs ranging from the mid 20's to low 30's 8. Although the lack of heat stress was favorable for corn condition, crops at many locations were substantially behind in development and need to accumulate heating units before April, when autumn weather usually arrives. During the last week of February, showers tapered off across the corn belt, with most locations receiving less than 10 millimeters. The exception was a section of the east, centered over the border between Free State and Kwazulu-Natal, where rainfall ranged from 25 to 97 millimeters. The band of wetness extended southward into Eastern Cape but missed primary sugarcane areas, allowing some recovery from recent excessive rainfall. Temperatures averaged near to above normal, spurring growth of reproductive to filling corn. A continuation of warm weather and sunny skies would greatly improve the chances of corn and sunflowers escaping damage from an autumn (April - May) freeze.
ARGENTINA: FREQUENT RAINS MAINTAIN ADEQUATE-TO-SURPLUS SOIL MOISTURE
In January 1998, above-normal rainfall and below-normal temperatures produced ideal growing conditions for corn and soybeans in central Argentina. However, the wet, cool weather increased disease potential for maturing sunflowers. During the first week of February, widespread rain and cool temperatures in central Argentina maintained ideal conditions for reproductive soybeans and filling corn. Heavier showers fell across northern Argentina, boosting moisture supplies for cotton but caused some flooding. During February 8 - 14, light, early-week rain maintained soil moisture for reproductive to filling corn and soybeans in central Argentina. Drier, slightly warmer weather later in the week helped to reduce summer crop disease potential. Early-week, heavy showers caused some flooding in the cotton areas of northern Argentina and southern Paraguay. During February 15 - 21, widespread rain returned to central Argentina, maintaining abundant soil moisture for reproductive to filling corn and soybeans. Temperatures averaged near normal for the first time since mid-December. Moderate showers, for the most part, favored cotton in northern Argentina and southern Paraguay, but again caused some isolated flooding. During the last week of February, light to moderate rain benefited reproductive to filling soybeans in central Argentina. Late-week, dry weather aided maturing corn and sunflowers. Heavy showers continued to soak cotton areas of northern Argentina and southern Paraguay.
BRAZIL: HEAVY SHOWERS MAINTAIN HIGH SOIL MOISTURE IN SOUTHERN BRAZIL
During January 1998, rainfall was above-normal in Rio Grande do Sul and near-normal to normal elsewhere in southern Brazil. This moisture was particularly beneficial to soybeans. During the first week of February, heavy showers fell in Rio Grande do Sul and Parana, aiding soybeans. Elsewhere in southern Brazil, moderate showers favored reproductive soybeans, where temperatures averaged 2 to 4 degrees Celsius 8 above normal. During February 8 - 14, widespread moderate showers covered the main soybean areas, maintaining adequate soil moisture for filling soybeans. Temperatures were below normal across Rio Grande do Sul, near normal to normal in Parana, and 2 to 3 degrees 8 above normal elsewhere. From February 15 - 21, drier weather reduced disease potential in Rio Grande do Sul. Elsewhere, moderate showers maintained soil moisture for filling soybeans. Heavy showers, however, caused some flooding in south-central Minas Gerais and northeastern Sao Paulo. Temperatures averaged 2 to 3 degrees 8 above normal across southern Brazil. During February 22 - 28, excessive showers in Rio Grande do Sul caused local flooding and increased disease potential for filling to maturing soybeans. Heavy showers also caused flooding in southern Paraguay. Elsewhere in southern Brazil, moderate showers maintained favorable moisture for filling to maturing soybeans.
INDIA: COTTON PRODUCTION ESTIMATE LOWERED DUE TO RAIN DAMAGE
The 1997/98 Indian cotton crop is forecasts at 11.7 million bales, 15 percent lower than the record crop of 13.8 million produced in 1996/97, and 1.1 million lower than last month's estimate. Area is forecast at 9.0 million hectares unchanged from last month, but 2 percent less than last year's record of 9.2 million. The forecasted yield is 14 percent lower than last year's record of 330 kilograms per hectare, and 8 percent less than the five-year average. This year's cotton crop had beneficial growing conditions during the first part of the season. However, during the second half of the season, untimely rains and pest attacks caused extensive damage in major cotton growing states. A recent assessment of the 1997/98 cotton crop by the Cotton Advisory Board of India revealed higher losses than previously estimated. Unusually heavy rains in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and late-season rains in Punjab and Haryana accompanied by pest attacks were cited for the production decreases. In addition, the above average precipitation precludes additional late-season harvesting. In previous seasons, 1995/96 and 1996/97, dry weather and sunny conditions were conducive to additional pickings, thereby increasing yields.
CHINA: HIGHER ESTIMATES FOR CORN AND PEANUTS
A serious drought cut 1997/98 coarse grain and oilseed yields in northern China but the impact was less than initially expected, according to Chinese officials and the U.S. agricultural counselor in Beijing. China's 1997/98 corn crop is estimated at 110.0 million tons, up 5.0 million or 5 percent from last month, but down 14 percent from last year's record crop of 127.5 million. Corn area was down 4 percent in 1997, and the drought in northern China resulted in below-average yields. No official Chinese Government estimates of corn production by province are currently available, but preliminary reports indicate the largest year-to-year production declines occurred in Shandong, Liaoning, and Jilin provinces. The estimate for China's 1997/98 peanut crop was raised to 8.8 million tons, up 0.8 million or 10 percent from last month, but down 13 percent from last year's near-record crop. Although peanut area increased by an estimated 3 percent in 1997, the drought hurt yields in the main peanut-growing provinces of northern China.
INDONESIA: CORN AND RICE OUTPUT REVISED LOWER
Staff from the USDA agricultural counselor's office at the American Embassy in Jakarta traveled to the food crop production areas in East, Central, and West Java. Corn production, especially in the major producing areas in East Java, have been seriously affected by extended drought. Indonesia's corn output for 1997/98 is estimated at 5.7 million tons, down 0.8 million from last month and down 0.3 million from a revised 6.0 million in 1996/97. The El Nino-induced drought during the latter half of 1997 (affecting the 1996/97 crop) reduced harvested area to 3.2 million hectares, down nearly 0.4 million from last month's estimate. The drought continued to have a severe impact on the 1997/98 crop, which has led to a further reduction in output from last year to 5.7 million tons. Harvested area for 1997/98 is unchanged from last season at 3.2 million hectares. Hybrid corn accounts for an estimated 20 percent of the total corn produced on Java and has an average yield of 7 tons per hectare. Farmers are somewhat reluctant to plant hybrid corn due to the higher cost of production even though revenues can triple.
Rice production for 1997/98 is estimated at 30.9 million tons (milled basis), down 0.1 million from last month and 4 percent from last year. The 1996/97 crop is revised upwards this month by 1.0 million tons to 32.5 million. Preliminary data recently released from the Government of Indonesia indicate that the 1996/97 rice area decline was more than offset by an increase in yield. The drop in area, to 11.1 million hectares, was directly related to El Nino and the resulting drought that began affecting the crop in late 1997.
A further area decline is estimated for the 1997/98 rice crop, to 10.8 million hectares, due to below-normal rainfall that resulted in late planting. Rice yield is estimated to fall to 4.40 tons per hectare, down from last season's record of 4.47. Yield reductions in key growing areas of Java, Sulawesi, and southern Sumatra are the result of cumulative rainfall from October through mid-February that were 40 to 60 percent of normal. In addition, the delayed harvest of the first crop will push back the planting of the second crop into the May/June period. If monsoon rains end as normal around April, the second crop will be largely limited to irrigated areas--indicating a further decline in rice production. The first rice crop accounts for about 50 percent of the total rice crop; the second 30 percent; and a third crop of 20 percent.
EUROPEAN UNION: WHEAT CROP REVISED LOWER; COARSE GRAIN HIGHER
Wheat production for 1997/98 in the European Union (EU-15) is estimated at 94.5 million tons, down 0.7 million from last month and down 4 percent from last year's record. This month's reduction is a result of post-harvest reports from Italy, Netherlands, and Ireland that indicated reduced yields. However, this season's crop has produced the second highest yield and production for the EU-15. Harvested area is estimated at 17.1 million hectares, up 0.4 million from 1996/97 and the highest since 17.4 million in 1992/93.
Total coarse grain production for 1997/98 is estimated at a record 109.2 million tons, up 0.5 million from last month and up 5 percent from last year. Most of the increase is due to corn harvest results from France and Italy that indicated increased yields. Owing to favorable weather and increased area, France and Italy are estimated to produce record corn crops of 16.8 and 9.8 million tons, respectively. Total EU-15 corn production is a record 38.4 million tons. Barley output is estimated at 52.7 million tons, the highest level since 56.9 million in 1991/92.
AUSTRALIA: COARSE GRAIN PRODUCTION DOWN
Australian coarse grain production for 1997/98 is forecast at 8.9 million tons, down 0.4 million form last month and down 12 percent from 1996/97. The 1997/98 Australian barley crop is estimated at 6.0 million tons, 12 percent smaller than last year. A drier growing season and smaller planted area contributed to lower production. Sorghum production for the 1997/98 crop is forecast 1 percent lower than in 1996/97 at 1.2 million tons. The production of oats in 1997/98 is forecast at 1.2 million tons up 0.1 million tons from last month, but down 23 percent from last year. The area planted to oats has decreased from last year due to the relative attractiveness of wheat production. In 1996/97, about 1.1 million hectares were planted to oats, in contrast to this year's area of 850,000 hectares.
INDIA: RICE PRODUCTION FORECAST AT A RECORD
Rice production in India for 1997/98 is estimated at 82.0 million tons (milled basis), 0.5 million higher than last month and 1 percent higher than the record crop of 81.2 million produced in 1996/97. Area is forecast at 42.2 million hectares unchanged from last month, but 1 percent less than the record area of 42.7 million hectares in 1996/97. Yield is forecast at a record 2.92 tons per hectare. Production reached record levels in the major surplus rice producing states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, however some qualitative losses occurred due to heavy rains at harvest time. Also, higher production is reported in the larger non-irrigated rice growing states of Orissa, Bihar and West Bengal due to well-distributed kharif-season rains. In Andhra Pradesh, early-season drought and untimely heavy rains at harvest time constrained yield potential.
MEXICO: SORGHUM ESTIMATE REDUCED DUE TO MOISTURE CONCERNS
Mexico's 1997/8 sorghum production estimate was reduced this month from 6.2 million tons to 5.8 million, a month-to-month change of 6 percent. Area was reduced from 1.8 million hectares to 1.7 million, also a month-to-month change of 6 percent. The changes were due to less than anticipated summer production and reduced planted area for the winter crop. Mexico moisture reserves have not yet recovered from the 3-year drought of the mid-90s, and the recent El Nino event of lower-than-normal precipitation has exasperated that recovery.
UNITED STATES: CROP CONDITION AND PROGRESS
A wet weather pattern that began last October continued in the Gulf and Atlantic Coast States. Field activities in the Southeast were often halted by rainfall and soils too saturated to support equipment. Some cotton and soybean fields remained unharvested in the Southeast and may be abandoned if wet weather continues. In Florida, frequent rains delayed the sugarcane harvest and other fieldwork. Harvesting of vegetable crops, strawberries, and citrus was active throughout the month when weather conditions permitted.
Unseasonably mild temperatures and adequate soil moisture conditions were reported over the major winter wheat-producing States. Snow cover protection was mostly adequate in the northern High Plains, but light or nonexistent elsewhere, leaving much of the crop susceptible to harsh weather. However, only small amount of wind and freeze damage have occurred to the wheat crop so far. By the end of the month, the winter wheat crop had begun to break dormancy in Kansas and the eastern Corn Belt States. Farther south, the crop was jointing in Oklahoma and heading in southern Texas.
Mild weather in the Corn Belt permitted some tillage and other field preparation activities in isolated areas, but in most areas the ground had thawed and too muddy to support heavy equipment. Lack of frost left feedlots and pastures muddy as well. Farmers were concerned about the effects of the mild weather on insect populations, weed pressures, and disease problems for the upcoming growing season.
In the Northeast, maple producers began tapping trees. Although the warm weather did not adversely affect fruit trees during February, growers were concerned that tender buds could sustain damage later, if the weather suddenly turned colder. Farmers were still assessing damage from the storm, but some damage to alfalfa fields and sugar bushes was noted from the January ice storms.
In California, record rainfall in many areas hampered vegetable harvests, curtailed field preparation activities, and postponed tomato planting. Standing water in low-lying areas stressed crops. In the Pacific Northwest, warm weather was bringing fruit trees out of dormancy earlier than normal.
FORMER SOVIET UNION: WEATHER AND CROP DEVELOPMENTS
In February, overwintering conditions continued mostly favorable for winter grains in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and the Baltics. In early February, bitterly cold weather was accompanied by light to moderate snow in most areas. Minimum temperatures ranged from -15 to -30 degrees Celsius 8 as far south as southern Ukraine and the North Caucasus region in Russia. A fresh snow cover in most areas protected winter grains from potential widespread damage. On February 9, a warming trend began in winter grain areas in Ukraine, the North Caucasus region in Russia, Belarus, and the Baltics and continued until month's end. The warmer weather improved overwintering conditions for winter grains, but melted protective snow cover. In most of Russia, although temperatures fluctuated widely during February, a moderate too deep snow cover protected winter grains from potential damage. Above-normal precipitation fell in Russia, Belarus, and the Baltics in February, boosting potential moisture reserves. More than twice the normal amount of moisture fell in the North Caucasus region in Russia. Winter grain areas in Ukraine continued to receive below-normal precipitation in February. The lack of snow cover and generally dry weather in Ukraine favored early season fieldwork, including early spring fertilizer applications. In early March, unusually mild weather prevailed over most of the region, causing a further loss of protective snow cover. Furthermore, the mild weather caused winter grains to lose cold hardiness, leaving them highly susceptible to potential extreme cold. Recently, cooler weather prevailed in the western Ukraine, Belarus, and the Baltics, accompanied by light snow. Rain in central and eastern Ukraine boosted moisture reserves.
Tom Puterbaugh 720-2012 (March 1998)
FEATURE COMMODITY ARTICLES
RUSSIA AND UKRAINE 1998/99 WINTER GRAINS
The outlook for 1998/99 winter-grain production in Russia and Ukraine is mixed, as usual. October rainfall caused disruptions in fall planting and resulted in year-to-year reductions in sown winter-grain area in Ukraine and southern Russia. Establishment conditions, however, were favorable, and winterkill is lower than normal in both Russia and Ukraine.
Typically, Russian winter grains comprise 25 percent of total grain area but account for 40 percent of total production. In 1997/98, winter-wheat area dropped 0.8 million hectares to an estimated 8.5 million. Wheat is Russia's predominant winter grain, and is sown primarily in the fertile chernozem (black soils) zone. Rye is the other major winter grain; estimated 1997/98 area is 4.0 million hectares, down only slightly from the previous year. A relatively small amount of winter barley, roughly 0.4 million hectares, is sown in the extreme southern fringe of Russia's winter-grain region.
Total Russian winter-grain area on State enterprises for 1998/99 reached 12.8 million hectares, according to SovEcon, an independent Moscow-based agriculture research organization. Although the total nearly matched last season's 13.0 million hectares, plantings fell nearly 20 percent in the key North Caucasus region where wet weather interfered with the final stages of the fall sowing campaign. Meanwhile, winter-grain sowings in the Volga Valley reached 3.4 million hectares and, for the first time in recent years, the Volga Valley surpassed the North Caucasus in winter-grain area.
In Ukraine, wheat comprises nearly 90 percent of winter-grain area. Although reports from the State Statistical Committee indicate that 7.5 million hectares of winter grains were sown for 1998/99, some independent observers estimate that only 6.9 million hectares were planted, down 0.6 million from last year and substantially short of the official target of 7.9 million hectares. The lower sown-area estimate is supported by the occurrence of untimely October rains and the delayed harvest of a bumper corn crop which combined to impede sowing progress.
Establishment conditions were generally favorable for establishment of winter grains throughout the western portion of the former Soviet Union. The October rainfall that hampered fall sowing in southern Russia and Ukraine provided beneficial moisture for emerging winter crops. Winterkill was relatively low for the second consecutive year in both Ukraine and Russia. There was a brief episode of bitterly cold weather in mid-December in eastern Ukraine, the lower Volga Valley, and the northern tip of the North Caucasus, during which temperatures in dipped to nearly -30 degrees Celsius. In most key winter-wheat areas, snow cover was adequate to protect crops from the low temperatures, but in parts of southern Ukraine and the North Caucasus where snow cover was patchy, the frigid weather reportedly caused damage to winter grains, especially winter barley, which is less resistant than other winter grains to extreme cold.
Mark Lindeman, Regional Analyst
Phone: (202) 690-0143
PARAGUAYAN COTTON SITUATION
Paraguay, South America's third largest cotton-producing country, is estimated to produce 500,000 bales of cotton for 1997/98, well above the poor crop of 207,000 bales last year, when area was the lowest since at least 1980/81. Harvest operations are now underway in the northern cotton growing regions. New area surveys show that the actual harvested area will total about 220,000 hectares, down from the 275,000 previously estimated, and just more than one-half planned by the Government's Agricultural Sector Reactivation Program. Despite this gap between early-season expectations and projected final output, this year's crop should be more than twice as large as that of 1996/97, representing an important rebound for the nation's cotton industry.
Growing conditions for cotton were good this year, as indicated by exceptionally high early-yield results. The improved yields are due in part to generally favorable growing conditions without planting delays, better seeds and other inputs such as pesticides, and government-supplied technical assistance which resulted in more widespread adoption of improved cultivation methods. Some dry spells were recorded, most notably in the Provinces of Chaco and Concepcion where lower yields are projected. Boll weevils were observed, but reportedly attacked at a time when their impact were not highly detrimental to the plant.
In recent days, rainfall has been heavy and humidity high. If this climactic pattern continues, fiber quality and yield, which has been good so far this season, could be reduced. With expected lower Brazilian demand, higher Argentine production and greater world stocks market opportunities may contract for Paraguayan cotton. The local currency has been weaker, which could provide some support for cotton exports. The Government has not (and may not) set a reference cotton price despite calls by some groups concerned about low cotton prices. Thus, gin owners are now offering a somewhat wide range of prices to the farmer. In response, some cotton producers are calling for direct sales to Brazil to bypass the local gins and take advantage of reported higher prices in that country. However, competition from Argentina may restrict this option. Although there are some efforts to promote spinning of cotton domestically, the majority of Paraguay's output will again be exported as fiber.
The cotton industry in Paraguay has declined in recent years, as several negative factors have concurrently reduced profitability and output. Principle among these have been the inability of lower income farmers to obtain sufficient credit, lack of quality inputs such as good seed, lack of mechanization, and adverse weather. This year's turnaround may signal a reversal of the trend for several reasons. The first of these is an increased role of the government in providing technical assistance and credit to farmers. This has resulted in widespread adoption of improved cultural practices. Such efforts reflect the government recognition of the importance of cotton production as income for small farmers since 20 percent of the population depends on cotton for their livelihood. Second, increased emphasis is being placed on mechanizing cotton production, a method which has demonstrated significantly higher yields. About 10 percent of cotton area is currently under this type of production, with a goal of an additional 2-5 percent increase per year. Although all cotton area in Paraguay is not well suited for mechanization, this program should prove to notably increase output. Third, high quality seeds were generally more available this year than in previous years and other input use was reportedly up. Still, improvements are likely to come slowly as many small farmers do not have the means or the credit to adopt new production methods, and many of the fields are too small for efficient use of mechanization.
John Turner, Regional Analyst
Telephone: (202) 690-0138
NORTHWEST AFRICA WINTER GRAIN SITUATION
This article presents early indications of Northwest African ( Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia ) winter grain prospects based on reports from U.S. agricultural attaches and analysis by Washington-based USDA personnel. The first forecast of 1998/99 area, yield, and production for grains will be published in the May World Agricultural Production circular.
Total winter grain (wheat and barley) production in Northwest Africa for 1997/98 was 5.5 million tons, down dramatically from the record 16.0 million in 1996/97. Generally, winter grain planting begins in November with the onset of seasonal rains, and can continue until the beginning of January. The crop is in the heading stage during March and April, with harvest underway in May and finishing in June. Rainfall is the primary factor affecting winter grain yields. Drought during the 1997/98 season led to significantly reduced production in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. For the 1998/99 crop, early-season rains were timely and adequately supported planting and crop establishment. Currently, soil moisture reserves are unfavorably low in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, necessitating timely rains during the remainder of the growing season to prevent declines in yield prospects.
Morocco: Arable land in Morocco accounts for roughly 20 percent of total area, more than half of which is devoted to winter grains (wheat and barley). Farmers will plant more winter grains if there are good rains at the beginning of the planting season. Although wheat and barley planting operations may start as early as September, many farmers wait until after the first rains in October/November before planting. Durum tends to be produced in the North, where there is more rainfall. Barley, because of its hardiness, is primarily grown in the more marginal areas and in the dry southern growing regions. Grain production depends heavily on rainfall because little is irrigated. Moroccan rainfall is characterized by wide fluctuations, which impact grain supplies and ultimately the Moroccan economy.
For 1997/98, winter grain production was 3.4 million tons, down from the 1996/97 record of 9.7 million. For 1998/99, growing conditions were dry in most producing regions during October, however above-normal rainfall in November allowed widespread sowing of the crop in northern areas. In December and January, northern growing areas have experienced excellent weather, providing optimal conditions for emergence, tillering, and jointing. In the southern growing regions adequate autumn rainfall levels provided sufficient topsoil moisture for land preparation and planting; however, precipitation levels lessened in some areas during December and January. Dry weather since early-February has diminished soil moisture levels for crop development. Final output will be dependent on rains in March and April, when the crop advances through the reproductive and filling stage.
Algeria: The primary winter grain crops, wheat and barley, are planted on about 40 percent of Algeria's available agricultural land and contribute roughly 25 percent of the value of total agricultural output. Agricultural production is hampered by numerous problems including civil strife, shortage of inputs, a poorly educated rural population, and an underdeveloped infrastructure. The agricultural sector has suffered neglect in favor of the industrial sector, thwarting the development of irrigation systems and leaving the agricultural sector highly dependent on rainfall. The best crop conditions are in areas where farmers use advanced planting techniques such as adequate plowing and mechanical seeders (versus manual seeders). Nearly half of the country's winter grain crop is grown in the eastern portion of the country, more than a third is produced in the west, and the remainder is grown in the central region.
For 1997/98, winter grain production is estimated at 1.1 million tons, down from the bumper 1996/97 crop of 3.5 million. For 1998/99, the growing season began with substantial rains in October, prompting early planting in some northeastern growing areas. However, rainfall became scarce over the next several months, taxing soil moisture reserves. In February, occasional showers eased the persistent dryness. Additional moisture is needed for the winter grain crop as it reaches heading and continues into grain fill, especially in the central and western regions where moisture has been most scarce.
Tunisia: Total cultivated area in Tunisia accounts for 25 percent of total land area, over a third is devoted to cereals. Winter grains are grown in the northern portion of the country, with seasonal rainfall serving as the primary factor influencing productivity. Production during the 1997/98 crop year was drastically reduced by drought. The crops are grown on the northern tip of the country with wheat occupying the better soils. Barley area can be expanded southward if the area receives sufficient precipitation at planting.
For 1997/98, winter grain production is estimated at 1.1 million tons, down from the 1996/97 record crop of 2.9 million. For the 1998/99 season, widespread rainfall in October provided sufficient topsoil moisture, encouraging land preparation and early planting of winter grains. Rainfall in November supported emergence and establishment of the wheat and barley crops. In some localized areas excessive rains impeded sowing. However, farmers reportedly planted at night when the rains stopped or planted by hand when fields were too wet for access with machinery. The Tunisian government provided farmers with the incentive to plant as much area as possible by fixing fertilizer prices at last year's levels and providing subsidies, credits, and other benefits.
Brenda Presnall, Regional Analyst
Telephone: (202) 690-0139