CHINA: TIMELY RAINFALL BENEFITS NORTH CHINA PLAIN CROPS
During April 1998, rainfall remained above normal across the North China Plain, benefitting winter wheat and germinating summer crops. Near- to slightly below-normal rainfall maintained irrigation supplies for rice across southern China. During the first week of May 1998, unseasonably moderate rainfall covered north-central China (southern Gansu eastward into Henan and southern Hebei). The rain benefitted reproductive winter wheat and germinating summer crops. In Shandong, rainfall ranged from 5 to 18 millimeters. In Manchuria, scattered light rain moistened topsoils for summer crop germination. Heavy rain erased lingering dryness in the Sichuan Basin. During May 10 - 16, light to moderate rain across the North China Plain benefitted reproductive winter wheat and germinating summer crops. In Manchuria, seasonably light rain helped offset warm weather, with highs ranging from 28 to 32 degrees C (4 to 8 degrees C above normal). Cooler weather was needed across Manchuria since rainfall is typically light during May. Moderate rain covered central and southern China, maintaining adequate moisture supplies for rice. Excessive showers caused local flooding in southeastern China (Fujian). From May 17 - 23, unseasonably heavy rain covered the North China Plain (25 to 60 millimeters), aiding filling winter wheat and germinating to vegetative summer crops. During late May, rainfall typically averages about 10 millimeters per week in this region. Rain (10 to 20 millimeters) covered Manchuria, aiding germinating summer crops. Widespread showers (25 to 100 millimeters) maintained rice irrigation supplies across central and southern China. During May 24 - 30, in the North China Plain and Yangtze Valley, drier weather favored late summer crop planting and winter wheat harvesting. Moderate rain aided germinating summer crops across Heilongjiang, Manchuria. Showers fell across southern China, maintaining irrigation supplies for rice. Torrential rain caused flooding in a limited area of southwestern Guangdong Province. From May 31 through June 6, in the North China Plain, widespread rain benefitted emerging corn, soybeans, and cotton but slowed winter wheat maturation and harvesting. The rain (10 to 50 millimeters) extended into the Sichuan Basin and the Yangtze Valley. Light rain (less than 15 millimeters) kept topsoils moist for emerging summer crops in Manchuria. Southern China received moderate showers, maintaining favorable moisture supplies for rice.
SOUTHEAST ASIA: SEASONAL SHOWERS INCREASE ACROSS THE PENINSULA
During April 1998, near- to above-normal rainfall maintained moisture supplies for main-season rice and second-season crops in southern Sumatra and Java. Drought continued across the eastern Philippines, with only minor relief during early May. Below-normal April rainfall stressed oil palm in peninsular Malaysia and rice and coffee in southern Vietnam. Seasonal showers increased moisture supplies in Thailand. During the first week of May, variable showers in Java and southern Sumatra, maintained adequate moisture supplies for main-season rice and increased supplies for second-season crops. Moderate showers eased drought across the eastern Philippines. Showers increased moisture supplies for rice transplanting across Thailand and northern Vietnam. During May 10 - 16, light to moderate showers covered most of Thailand, signaling the start of the rainy season. Showers eased dryness across southern Vietnam and eased drought in the northern and eastern Philippines. Moderate to heavy showers prevailed over peninsular Malaysia, favoring oil palm, but flooding was possible along the western coast. In Java and southern Sumatra, showers maintained adequate moisture supplies for second-season crops, as early main-season rice harvesting began. During May 17 - 23, moderate showers covered most of Thailand, increasing moisture supplies for main-season rice. Moderate to heavy showers continued to ease dryness across southern Vietnam and most of the Philippines. Showers aided oil palm across western peninsular Malaysia, but lesser amounts prevailed across the eastern peninsula. In Java and southern Sumatra, precipitation diminished across the region. Typically, the rainy season wanes across Java during May to October. During the last week of May, widespread showers covered Thailand and Vietnam, increasing moisture supplies for main-season rice. Heavy showers signaled the start of the southwest monsoon across most of the western Philippines. Showers, however, remained unseasonably light across western Mindanao. Scattered showers aided oil palm across peninsular Malaysia, but moisture is still needed across the east. From May 31 through June 6, seasonal showers covered Thailand and most of Vietnam. Sparse rainfall prevailed across southern Vietnam during the past 2 weeks, reducing moisture for coffee and rice. Mostly dry weather also reduced moisture for oil palm across the eastern Malay Peninsula. Moderate showers provided adequate moisture for oil palm in the west. Monsoonal showers lessened across the Philippines. Unseasonably heavy showers boosted irrigation supplies for second-season crops across Java.
CANADA: COLD, DRY WEATHER RESULTS IN LOCALIZED DAMAGE
During April 1998, beneficial rainfall improved planting prospects over much of Alberta and southern sections of Saskatchewan and Manitoba as Prairie-wide, above-normal temperatures warmed topsoils. Precipitation remained below normal from Alberta's northeastern crop areas to Manitoba's Interlake region, exacerbating unfavorable topsoil dryness. During the first week of May 1998, spring planting made good early progress. In the Prairies, dry mild weather continued to favor rapid fieldwork in all provinces. Moisture reserves, however, were not nearly as favorable as last season. In addition, early development was restricted by temperatures that continued to dip below freezing. During May 10 - 16, field work and crop development in the western prairies slowed due to low surface moisture and persistent cold and sometimes sub-freezing temperatures. Rain maintained generally favorable moisture levels for grain and oilseed establishment in Manitoba and improved the situation from south-central to northeastern Saskatchewan. From May 17 - 23, beneficial rain improved spring grain and oilseed prospects over sections of Alberta and Saskatchewan. The highest amounts were recorded in the southwest. In contrast, dry pockets lingered in the northwestern growing districts. The dry spell across the Prairies allowed spring plantings to approach completion at a pace well ahead of both last year and the 5-year average. However, moisture reserves were unfavorably low at many locations, and, given the unseasonably dry winter, few areas would be able to withstand a prolonged spell of heat and dryness. During May 24 - 30, temperatures fell below freezing late in the week throughout most of Manitoba and in sections of Saskatchewan, mainly in the northern and eastern agricultural districts. The duration of the freeze was reportedly sufficient to cause minor damage to emerged spring grains and oilseeds, especially in the Prairies' northeastern crop areas. Replanting in some canola fields was a possibility. The accelerated development of this season's crop and the relative lateness of the freeze combined to make this an unusual event prior to the cold outbreak. Scattered showers brought some relief to grains and oilseeds in the southern Prairie crop areas. Unfavorable dryness continued to plague the northwest. From May 31 through June 6, the cold air mass expanded westward into Alberta. Temperatures averaged 6 to 8 degrees C below normal in the eastern Prairies, where the duration of the event was the longest, and 2 to 4 degrees C below normal over much of Alberta. The lowest temperatures were recorded over western Manitoba, northeastern and southwestern Saskatchewan, and southernmost Alberta. The cold reportedly burned back spring grains and, in local areas, irreversibly damaged canola. Canola fields may be replanted with other crops. Precipitation was light in most areas, but sections of the west received well over 10 millimeters. The rainfall was especially welcomed in northwestern Prairie crop areas for germination, but long-term moisture reserves remained unfavorably low.
ARGENTINA: SOYBEAN OUTPUT UP ON GOOD RAINS AND INCREASED INPUTS
Argentina's 1997/98 soybean production is estimated higher this month at a record 17.0 million tons, up 1.0 million or 6 percent from last month, and up 52 percent from last year. Harvested area is forecast at a record 6.8 million hectares, up 10 percent from last year. The year-to-year increase in total soybean area is due to lower wheat area and higher expected returns for soybeans. Late harvesting of the wheat, however, delayed the planting of second-crop soybeans which are planted after winter wheat harvesting. As a result, second-crop soybeans are estimated to make up only about 30 percent of total soybean area, compared with 40 to 45 percent last year. Yield is forecast at a record 2.50 tons per hectare due to excellent weather and the higher proportion of single-crop soybeans, which have a higher yield potential than second-crop soybeans. Also, increased use of agricultural inputs and better management practices have boosted yield. This year's abundant rainfall is similar to that of 1990/91 when the previous record yield was achieved. Specifically, the main soybean-growing areas of Santa Fe and Cordoba Provinces appear to have done much better than last year, while northern Buenos Aires Province appears similar to last year. As of June 5, harvest was 86 percent complete compared with 97 percent a year ago, but dry weather since then should have allowed for good progress in harvesting the remaining crop.
CHINA: HIGHER SOYBEAN AREA AND YIELD ESTIMATED FOR 1997/98
China's 1997/98 soybean crop is estimated at 14.7 million tons, up 0.9 million or 7 percent from last month and up 11 percent from last year. The year-to-year increase was due to higher estimated planted area and record yields. A record corn harvest in 1996/97 led to lower corn prices, which encouraged farmers to shift from corn to soybeans the following year. Soybean area reached an estimated 8.3 million hectares in 1997/98, up 10 percent from last year and close to the 5-year average. Estimated yield, at 1.78 tons per hectare, is a record slightly above 1996/97. Hot, dry weather in June and July 1997 stressed soybeans and other crops in parts of the Northeast and the North China Plain. Some of the driest conditions were reported in Shandong, China's second largest soybean province. However, moderate-to-heavy rain in late-July and early-August helped alleviate the drought and prevented further crop losses. In Heilongjiang, China's largest soybean producer, summer rainfall was adequate and growing conditions were favorable.
The larger-than-expected soybean crop, weak demand for soybean products, large local stocks, and the continued arrival of imports, have caused downward pressure on the domestic soybean market. Many oilseed crushers in the Northeast have stopped operations because of poor profits, and farmers are likely to reduce soybean area in 1998/89 and shift to alternatives such as grain or horticultural products.
CHINA: 1997/98 COTTON PRODUCTION REVISED HIGHER
China's 1997/98 cotton production estimate was raised this month to 21.1 million bales (4.6 million tons), up 7 percent from last month and up 9 percent from last year. Area is estimated at 4.5 MHa, down 5 percent from last year and the lowest planted area since 1986. Estimated yield, at 1022 kg/Ha, is 13 percent higher than the previous record yield of 903 kg/Ha set in 1984/85. A record crop was harvested in Xinjiang, which has become the most important cotton-growing province in the country, accounting for almost 25 percent of China's total output. Favorable late-summer and autumn weather in central China led to very high yields in Hunan, Hubei, and other provinces in the Yangtze River basin. The impact of last summer's drought on cotton output on the North China Plain was minor. Production in Hebei, Shandong, and Henan provinces matched the good yields reported in 1996/97, but output dropped in the minor producing provinces of Shanxi, Shaanxi, and Sichuan.
China: Cotton Production
Source: State Statistical Bureau
UNITED STATES: CROP CONDITION AND PROGRESS
As the month began, dry weather settled into the western Corn Belt, allowing planting activity to accelerate to a near-record pace. Farmers in the central and northern Great Plains also made rapid progress planting corn and small grains. Frequent rains in the eastern Corn Belt limited planting progress until mid-month. As farmers finished planting corn, they immediately began planting soybeans, which also progressed well ahead of the normal pace in the western Corn Belt. Crop emergence and development were aided by above-normal temperatures and timely showers.
The winter wheat crop developed ahead of normal as the month began. In the southern Great Plains, hot weather caused the crop to rapidly mature, but also caused conditions to steadily decline as the month progressed, especially in Texas. From the central Great Plains northward, above-normal temperatures, combined with timely rains, kept development well ahead of normal and conditions remained mostly good. Warm weather also promoted rapid growth in the eastern Corn Belt, but crop conditions declined slightly due to diseases caused by excessive rainfall early in the month. In Montana, excessively dry weather for most of the month caused conditions to decline.
Unlike the East, the Southwestern States recorded below-normal temperatures during most of the month, slowing many field operations. In California, farmers struggled to plant cotton and rice during brief dry periods. By month's end, most of the cotton was planted in the Southwest despite the poor planting weather. However, emergence was slow due to cool soils and crusting that occurred after frequent rains.
Cotton planting in the Mississippi Delta and Southeastern States was delayed by rains early in the month. Drier weather allowed progress to accelerate near mid-month, with many areas moving ahead of the 5-year average. Nationally, the crop was rated mostly good as the month ended, but hot, dry weather in Texas and cool, wet weather in California were detrimental to conditions in those States.
FORMER SOVIET UNION: WEATHER AND CROP DEVELOPMENTS
In crop areas west of the Urals, weather conditions in May were generally favorable for winter grain development and spring crop planting. Near- to above-normal precipitation maintained adequate moisture for crops in Ukraine, most of Russia, the Baltics, Belarus, and Moldova. The precipitation that fell during the month was interrupted by periods of dry weather, helping spring grain and summer crop planting. Well-below-normal precipitation in southeastern Russia (extreme eastern North Caucasus and the lower Volga Valley) in May caused a reduction in soil moisture. Monthly temperatures averaged near normal during May in most areas, allowing crops to grow and develop at a normal rate. Winter grains entered the heading stage in Ukraine and southern Russia during the month, and were progressing through the jointing stage farther north in the Baltics, Belarus, and northern Russia. There was a brief episode of unusual cold that occurred in most areas from May 24-26. Lowest temperatures were observed in Lithuania, where minimum temperatures fell at or below freezing (0 to -1 C) on May 25. Overall, the freeze was not severe enough to threaten grain crops but may have hurt tender vegetables. Since early June, scattered showers and mild weather maintained generally favorable growing conditions for crops in Ukraine, the Baltics, Belarus, and most of Russia. However, continued below normal rainfall along with hot weather in the Volga Valley stressed winter grains advancing through reproduction and lowered topsoil moisture needed for germination and early establishment of spring-sown crops.
In crop areas east of the Volga Valley, the bulk of spring grains (spring wheat, spring barley, and oats) are typically planted in May. A late arrival of spring warmth along with widespread rain the first half of May caused significant planting delays in both Russia and Kazakstan. By May 20, the progress of spring grain planting in Russia was the slowest in a decade, with reports indicating that spring grains and pulses, excluding corn, were about 40 percent planted. This compares with 60 percent on the same date the previous year. On May 20, rapid warming along with drier weather began in Russia and Kazakstan and continued throughout the rest of the month, helping spring grain planting to swiftly advance. Maximum temperatures rose into the low 30's in most of Kazakstan and adjacent areas in Russia, promoting rapid germination but reducing topsoil moisture. Since early June, warm and generally dry weather allowed spring grain sowing to progress to completion in Russia and Kazakstan. Although scattered showers recently provided some topsoil moisture for germination in these areas, additional moisture will be needed in upcoming weeks to ensure a favorable start to this year's growing season.
Tom Puterbaugh (USDA/WAOB/JAWF)
FEATURE COMMODITY ARTICLES
WORLD RAPESEED PRODUCTION
World rapeseed production (image1 and image2) for 1997/98 is estimated at 33.9 million tons, up 2.3 million or 7 percent from 1996/97, but down from the record 34.5 million produced in 1995/96. Price ratios with competing crops returned to more normal levels in 1997/98 after favoring the production of wheat and other small 1996/97. Rising world demand for edible oils is helping stimulate a grains in general trend of rising world rapeseed production. Poor weather conditions in India reduced output there.
China: China's 1997/98 rapeseed crop is estimated at 9.54 million tons, up 4 percent from last year and second only to the record crop of 1995/96. Area dropped 6 percent in 1997/98, but favorable weather boosted yields 10 percent to a record 1.5 tons per hectare. Planting conditions were excellent in fall 1996 for the 1997/98 winter rapeseed crop, and the weather was beneficial throughout the growing season.
Rapeseed output is expected to decline in 1998/99, as a lower yield offsets a moderate increase in planted area. Dry weather in the fall of 1997 adversely affected winter rapeseed planting and germination, and cold weather in March reportedly caused significant crop damage, especially in Anhui, Jiangsu, and Hunan Provinces. Unusually heavy spring rain also caused problems for the maturing crop and interfered with harvesting in some areas. The area planted to summer rapeseed (less than 10 percent of the total crop) is expected to increase in 1998/99, and yield prospects are currently normal.
Canada: Rapeseed production for 1997/98 is estimated at 6.2 million tons, up 23 percent from a year earlier, but down 4 percent from 1995/96. Weakening wheat prices in 1997 prompted Canadian growers to increase their plantings of rapeseed. Additionally, farmers had more flexibility (from a crop rotation perspective ) to move into rapeseed given the much reduced area planted in 1996/97. The normal (recommended) field rotation for rapeseed is planting every four years in rotation with wheat (2 years) and barley/oats (1 year). Strong price expectations can keep canola in the same field for two, or even three years, but with increased risk of fungal diseases such as sclerotinia and blackleg, and increased chemical cost to combat the diseases.
For 1998/99, sluggish demand in world markets and poor price prospects for spring wheat are expected to result in increased plantings of rapeseed. Statistics Canada in March estimated rapeseed planting intentions 7 percent higher than seeded area in 1997/98; however, since then dry weather in the Prairie Provinces, especially in northern and central Saskatchewan, and frost have not been favorable for the crop.
India: Rapeseed production for 1997/98 is estimated at 5.9 million tons, down 15 percent from 1996/97. The lower output is attributed mostly to adverse weather during the growing season. The 1997/98 season experienced excessively heavy rains during December and January in major rapeseed growing states which coincided with flowering. In parts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar there were damaging cyclonic storms and hail during December. The wet, cloudy conditions resulted in increased disease and insect pressures, with serious infestations reported in some locales. In the State of Uttar Pradesh, the second largest rapeseed growing state, crop damage was reported in 50 percent of the planted area. In some areas farmers abandoned their crop and replanted the fields with wheat. Some decline in area and production is reported in Rajasthan, the largest rapeseed growing state.
France: French 1997/98 rapeseed production is estimated at a record 3.4 million metric tons, up 0.5 million or 18 percent from 1996/97. Area harvested, at 1.0 million hectares for 1997/98 was also a record, up 12 percent from 1996/97 due in part to higher rapeseed prices in 1996/97. Export demand increased in 1996/97 in Poland, Denmark, and Germany which had poor harvests that year. The 1997/98 French crop overcame drought in April 1997 and excessive rain in June to yield 3.5 tons per hectare, the highest since 1987/88.
French rapeseed plantings increased for 1998/99 because of favorable prices. Overwintering conditions were favorable and widespread spring rainfall has been beneficial to the crop. Harvest normally occurs in the months of June and July.
Germany: Rapeseed production in Germany in 1997/98 suffered again from winterkill, but damage was not as widespread as the previous year and the overall yield was above average. Output is estimated at 2.9 million tons, up 0.7 million or 33 percent from 1996/97. Yield in 1997/98 is estimated at 3.14 tons per hectare, up 25 percent from the year before when winterkill was severe.
For the 1998/99 crop, winter weather was mild and precipitation in the spring has been sufficient for the major rapeseed growing areas. Rapeseed was reportedly developing well this growing season in advance of harvest. Harvest normally occurs in June and July, but started early this year because of mild winter conditions.
United Kingdom: Production in 1997/98 is estimated at a record 1.5 million tons, up 6 percent from 1996/97 due to an area increase of 7 percent, to 0.4 million hectares. Increased plantings resulted from a lower set-aside rate (5 percent, down from 10 percent in 1996/97) and relatively high world oilseed prices in late 1996. Rapeseed yield is estimated at 3.39 tons per hectare, well above average, but short of the record 3.49 tons set in 1987/88.
For the 1998/99 crop, planted area increased 13 percent from a year earlier with most of the change coming from a shift away from barley. The increase in rapeseed area was influenced by favorable prices at planting. Rapeseed yield for 1998/99 is projected to be similar to the 1997/98 level. Crop quality is expected to be good, if favorable weather continues through the harvest.
United States: Though still a minor producer of rapeseed, the United States increased its production in 1997/98 by 90 percent, to 416,000 tons. The rise in production came from an increase in area from 142,000 hectares in 1996/97, to 283,000 in 1997/98. Yield during that period declined 5 percent, to 1.47 tons per hectare. High rapeseed prices relative to wheat plus wheat disease problems induced farmers to switch to rapeseed. North Dakota is the largest producer, with approximately 65 percent of U.S. output in 1997/98. Rapeseed has been gaining steadily in popularity over the last decade as only 17,000 hectares were harvested in 1987/88 compared to 283,000 in 1997/98. During the decade, low acid varieties have become increasingly available and potential for area expansion in Canada is limited by the crop's rotational requirements.
Paul Provance, Oilseeds Chairperson
Telephone: (202) 720-0882
Paulette Sandene, China Analyst
Telephone: (202) 690-0133
Jim Crutchfield, India Analyst
Telephone: (202) 690-0135
FOREIGN RICE CROP OUTLOOK FOR 1998/99
This article presents early indications of the 1998/99 rice crop prospects in several major countries outside the United States. Information in this article is based on field reports received from U.S. agricultural counselors/attaches stationed overseas as well as analysis from Washington, D.C.-based USDA staff. The first official USDA forecast of individual countries' area, yield, and production will be released July 10, 1998. Currently, the 1998/99 total foreign production is forecast at 381.0 million tons (milled-basis), up 3.7 million or 1 percent from 1997/98.
China: Although the Chinese government continues to strive to maintain a high level of grain production, rice area in 1998/99 is likely to be down slightly from the 31.8 million hectares harvested last season. In some provinces, area may decline as profits from grain production fall due to last summer's record harvest and subsequent low prices. The greatest reduction will be in the early-rice crop, while the northern crop, which is a premium rice, will expand slightly. Most rice is planted in the Yangtze River Valley and in southern China. Some single-crop rice is produced in the northern provinces. China produces three rice crops annually; early rice is planted in April and harvested in July; single-crop rice is planted in May and harvested in September; and, late double-cropped rice is planted in June and harvested in October. Precipitation over central and southern China has been adequate favoring the vegetative early-season rice and replenishing irrigation supplies.
India: Total rice area in India has remained relatively stable in recent years and no significant shift from this year's 42.2 million hectares is expected in 1998/99. In recent years, the increase in rice production has resulted from increased yield rather than area expansion. However, the primary determinant of production is the performance of the monsoon. Normally, planting of the rice crop begins in June, at the start of the monsoon season. More than 85 percent of the rice crop is planted during the monsoon season because the majority of the crop is not irrigated. In the three states of Punjab, Haryana, and Andhra Pradesh, over 95 percent of the rice crop is irrigated and accounts for approximately 25 percent of total production. Use of fertilizer and high-yielding varieties is extensive in these states, although, for the nation as a whole, usage is limited. Over the past 7 to 8 years, it appears that the annual marginal yield gains from better inputs have begun to slow and the intensive rice/wheat rotation is beginning to cause soil problems in northern India.
Bangladesh: Rice area in Bangladesh is projected higher than the 10.8 million hectares harvested in 1997/98. The prevailing higher prices for rice vis a vis jute, the major competing crop, is expected to increase plantings. About 70 percent of the crop is non-irrigated and dependent on the monsoon rains. Rice area has declined slightly over the last ten years due to crop diversification. Two rice crops are grown in Bangladesh: the Aus crop, which has lost nearly 1.5 million hectares over ten years; and, the Boro crop, with a gain of about 1.0 million hectares.
Pakistan: Rice area in Pakistan for 1998/99 is likely to be similar to the 1997/98 level of 2.3 million hectares. IRRI rice in Sind Province is not expected to experience pest or weather damage as occurred last year. Nearly all rice is irrigated, drawing on both surface and groundwater resources.
The government of Pakistan has been trying to increase rice production through price incentives, ensuring timely availability of inputs, and dissemination of technical knowledge among farmers. In addition, Pakistan has a producer price-support system. The 1997/98 price support for paddy rice increased 16 to 21 percent for different varieties. The 1998/99 price support levels are not expected to increase significantly because of the substantial increases in 1997/98.
Thailand: Rice area for 1998/99 in Thailand is likely to be similar to that of 1996/97 due in part to current attractive price of the main crop, especially jasmine/fragrant. For the first time, Thailand's Department of Agriculture has made two short-maturity (115 to 120 days) second-crop varieties available to farmers. These varieties are non-photo-period sensitive that can be planted at any time of the year. The current high prices should encourage farmers to take good care of their crops, which may keep yields trending higher. The main-season (rainfed) crop comprises about 85 percent of total production and is planted from May through August and harvested from mid October to late January. The second-season crop is planted in January - February and harvested from June - August.
Burma: Rice area in Burma is likely to be up from the 1997/98 level of 5.6 million hectares. Rice area in 1997/98 was negatively affected by heavy flooding during the monsoon season and a delayed second-crop planting due to a late main-season harvest. The second crop is mostly irrigated and comprises about 20 percent of the total rice area, while 10 percent of the main crop is irrigated. Yield for the coming season will be constrained by inferior seed quality and the shortage and high price of inputs. Spring-rice planting commenced in May with the arrival of the rainy season.
Indonesia: Rice area in Indonesia is projected to expand in 1998/99 as area rebounds from the El Niņo-related drought. Assuming normal rains, reservoirs are expected to be partially replenished. Although investment funds are tight, the government is expected to continue its effort to increase production by developing new rice fields in Central Kalimantan and expand the irrigation network, albeit at a reduced rate. About 55 percent of the total crop is taken off Java and nearly 25 percent off of Sumatra. Although producers are increasing their use of high yielding varieties, rising prices for inputs such as fertilizer and agricultural chemicals will be a factor in planting decisions and eventual yield. Planting of the 1998/99 crop begins in late-October.
Vietnam: Vietnam's three rice crops are expected be similar to those harvested in 1997/98. Harvested area is likely to remain unchanged as the government tries to maintain the production base in an effort to encourage exports. Actual yields will depend upon the level of input use and the performance of the monsoon rains.
Japan: Rice area in Japan is likely to decrease from the 2.0 million hectares harvested in 1997/98 as producers respond to the Government's rice diversion program. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries announced that it would expand its rice diversion program from the target of 787,000 hectares, to 963,000, in order to reduce Japan's huge domestic rice stocks (effective April 1998 - March 1999). In 1997/98, favorable weather throughout the growing season allowed the producers to harvest their third- highest- yielding rice crop.
Timothy Rocke, Grains Chairperson
Phone: (202) 720-1572
NORTHERN MEXICO TRIP REPORT AND CROP ASSESSMENT
A Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) analyst traveled to the southwestern United States and the Mexican state of Tamaulipas in late-March to meet with water management officials in the Rio Grande Valley and to assess crop condition and production outlook. Meetings were held with officials from the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), Comision Nacional del Aqua (CNA), and farmers.
The IBWC exists as a result of a series of treaties between Mexico and the United States (beginning in 1848) to reach agreement on issues such as the establishment of the international boundary locations, water salinity, and erection and operation of water management systems. IBWC is unique in that it is under the direction of the two sovereign governments. The U.S. Section is an arm of the Department of State, with offices in four states, and wherever there is a U.S. Section office along an international boundary, the Mexican Section (Comision Internacional de Limits y Aquas, CILLA) generally has an office across the border. IBWC has jurisdiction for over 1,250 miles of the Rio Grande as it separates the two countries from El Paso/Ciudad Juarez to Brownsville/Matamoros.
The CNA is an arm of the Government of Mexico, with offices throughout the country. It is responsible for management and preservation of water and the infrastructure associated with it throughout the country. In Mexico, nearly all water is under federal government control, with authority flowing from the national director general down to the regional, state, and district offices. The CNA makes the final decision on the timing, purpose, and volume of water usage. This action directly effects which crops are produced in the Mexican states.
Mexican's sorghum production for 1997/98 is estimated at 5.8 million tons from 1.7 million hectares, while the 1998/99 crop is forecast at 6.3 million tons from 2.0 million hectares. Mexico is able to grow grain year-round, and the special circumstances of each region determines when a particular crop is in season. The spring/summer sorghum season contributes 70 percent of the annual production total. The spring/summer 1997 crop added with the fall/winter 1998 harvested crop is counted as USDA's 1997/98 marketing year. The spring/summer crop is planted in late-April/May, and harvested October/November in the Central Plateau states. The state of Tamaulipas devotes more acreage to sorghum than any other Mexican state, and more than 90 percent of Tamaulipas sorghum is planted in February/March and harvested June/July. Higher production farms are south of El Control, which is near the Rio Grande. Sorghum is mostly a dryland crop in Tamaulipas, the exception being those areas bordering on major irrigation sources such as the Rio Grande. The Central Plateau is more reliant upon irrigation.
Mexican cotton production for 1997/98 is estimated at 900,000 bales from 200,000 hectares, while the 1998/99 crop is forecast to be near the 1997/98 level. Cotton production in northern Tamaulipas has switched from being an irrigated crop to more dryland production in recent years, and spring/summer production has declined such that the fall/winter season provides a larger share of the state's annual total. The switch appears to have been prompted by a combination of better market prices for other commodities, the absence of a government-sponsored program that farmers feel met all their needs, and restricted water availability. Unusual weather has negatively affected fields in recent years such that it is difficult to accurately calculate overall percentages of cotton production for Tamaulipas. The spring/summer crop, planted February/June and harvested September/February, is much larger in good years than the fall/winter crop, which is planted November/February and harvested June/September. Matamoros, on the coastline, is the most productive northern region for cotton in Tamaulipas, with an area equaling the productivity further south. Corn, soybeans, and other grains are present in Tamaulipas, but in much smaller quantities than sorghum and cotton.
Rainfall was generally normal to below-normal in the months leading up to planting time in northern Tamaulipas. While there was light early-March precipitation that spurred some farmers to plant, the soil by late-March was dry to a depth of a half-inch or more. The absence of moisture reserves in the soil and limited water availability from CNA made the timely arrival of seasonal rains a priority for farmers in this region. Sorghum was thought to be the best chance for farmers to break even if below-normal moisture conditions persisted. Alternatively, cotton was said to be less attractive because of the need for moisture at specific times during plant development, and the less than favorable market conditions. Soil condition steadily deteriorated after early March. Rainfall was sparse during April and May, and the seasonal showers that normally arrive from the south by late-May were delayed over Central America.
According to IBWC statistics, average rainfall for northern Tamaulipas from January through March is less than 5 inches in most years, and less than 12 inches from April through July. Farmers were in a positive mind set about the 1998 spring/summer season despite having received little rainfall this year.
A successful crop season always depends upon the availability of water, and the ability of the plant varieties to endure the summer heat. A single release of water for agricultural purposes was announced by CNA for mid-April, and subsequently did take place, starting on April 15 from Falcon Dam. For northeast Tamaulipas farms, the Anzalduas Canal near Reynosa was the diversion point, and the discharge continued from the Rio Grande into Anzalduas until May 20.
1998/99 ESTIMATES FOR SELECTED MEXICAN CROPS
Ron White, Mexico Analyst
Phone: (202) 690-0137
FSU TRIP REPORT: 1997/98 GRAIN QUALITY IN RUSSIA AND UKRAINE
Analysts from USDA/FAS traveled to Russia and Ukraine from April 11 to May 1, 1998 to examine the problem of low 1997/98 grain quality. The team met with researchers, republic- and oblast-level officials, crop forecasters, and independent agricultural observers in Moscow, Kiev, and western Ukraine. These interviews and meetings with FAS personnel in Moscow and Kiev yielded the following information on 1997/98 grain quality, the prospects for improvement in quality for 1998/99, and 1998/99 winter-grain production prospects.
Low grain quality is arguably the most critical problem facing grain producers in the former Soviet Union. Although 1997/98 grain production in Russia and Ukraine rebounded significantly from the previous year, a substantial portion of the wheat crop did not meet the minimum standards for milling-grade wheat. In Russia's Volga Valley, three-fourths of the bumper wheat crop was unfit for human consumption. In Rostov oblast, situated in Russia's prime winter-wheat zone, over 80 percent of the 1997/98 grain crop suffered from insect damage resulting from inadequate pest control. In Ukraine, 80 percent of the 1997/98 wheat crop was graded as fifth class--the lowest class, suitable only for feed and industrial use. According to the U.S. Agricultural Minister-Counselor in Moscow, grain quality remains low in most territories, and production increases will not compensate for a loss in quality.
The poor quality of the 1997/98 crop was due in large part to unfavorable weather. Throughout the winter-wheat region of Russia and Ukraine, June precipitation ranged from two to four times above normal. This unusually wet weather during the grain-fill stage resulted in plump, starchy kernels with low gluten content. The amount of gluten in the kernel determines the grain's protein content. Unfavorable weather returned during October in eastern Ukraine and southern Russia--again, from two to four times the normal amount--delaying harvest and further reducing gluten content.
Unfavorable weather was the main reason, but not the only reason, for the sharply reduced quality of the 1997/98 crop. The agricultural sector continues to struggle with severe financial constraints which restrict the use of critical inputs. High gluten content depends on adequate nitrogen fertilization, but soil fertility has been depleted following a seven-year decline in fertilizer use and application rates remain far below State-recommended levels. According to the U.S. agriculture counselor in Kiev, 1.2 million tons of mineral fertilizers will be supplied to Ukrainian farmers this year against the recommended amount of 6.5 million, marking the second consecutive year that fertilizer application will reach only 20 percent of the target dose. The use of plant-protection chemicals has also fallen. In 1997, for example, Russian farms were able to purchase only one-quarter of the necessary amounts of insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides. One of the reasons for the cash shortfall preventing proper fertilizer and pesticide use this year, ironically, is last year's relatively abundant grain harvest. The 30-40 percent increase in 1997/98 grain output in Russia and Ukraine led to a decrease in prices and lower income for producers. As a result, many farms were unable to repay debts owed to Western chemical suppliers, who manufacture the majority of plant-protection chemicals used in the former Soviet Union.
Discussions with some agricultural officials and independent analysts in Russia indicate that regional differences in grain quality have emerged, depending on the financial situation of the farms within the region. In 1997, quality in Krasnodar and Stavropol oblasts (in the North Caucasus region) was better than in 1996 due in part to greater financial support from State and regional authorities. When faced with an outbreak of the insect pest Diabrotica euregasta in 1996, farms in Krasnodar Kray sprayed insecticides in the forests where the pest over-wintered. Meanwhile, farms in neighboring Rostov oblast lacked funds to obtain adequate plant-protection chemicals to combat the problem. As a result, over 80 percent of the 1997/98 Rostov grain crop suffered insect damage while damage in adjacent Krasnodar was limited to 45 percent.
The jump in the price of inputs in the early 1990's sparked a renewed interest in wheat varieties that are designed to provide acceptable yield under less-intensive management--the so-called "plastic" varieties. Many farmers, however, are unable to afford certified seed year after year, and plant non-certified seed reserved from the previous year's harvest with a predictable loss in yield and quality.
The deteriorating state of agricultural equipment has also played a role in reducing grain quality. A senior Ukrainian agricultural expert described the problem in the following terms: in 1990 there were 120,000 combines on Ukrainian farms, and each combine was expected to harvest roughly 80 hectares of grain per day. By 1997, the number of harvesters had fallen to 80,000, and nearly half of those machines were not fully operational due to a lack of spare parts. As a result, the "hectares-per-combine" ratio had ballooned to 150, and the overall condition of the machinery was substantially worse. Ten years ago, the winter-grain harvest in Ukraine typically could be completed in 20 days, barring unusually wet weather. Harvest now requires 50-60 days, increasing the likelihood of quality-damaging rain prior to completion of harvest.
Further exacerbating the quality issue in 1997 was the problem of grain storage. Farms typically store most of their output at State elevators, but faced with relatively low prices and high storage fees in 1997 many farms elected to store grain themselves. Inadequate on-farm drying and storage facilities contributed to high waste. According to a Ukrainian agricultural analyst, 10-15 percent of stored grain sprouted, compared to an average of 4 percent, because it was stored too moist.
The prospects for increased use of fertilizer and plant-protection chemicals in 1998 are mixed. In Russia, on-farm supplies of mineral fertilizers for 1998 were down 30 percent from last year, but supplies of plant-protection agents were up 35 percent, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. In Ukraine, reports from the Ministry of Agriculture indicated that fertilizer use will increase 2-3 times from last year's levels. Other observers are less optimistic, suggesting that application rates will remain stable. Pesticide application, however, could drop by as much as 15 percent from 1997 levels, according to independent analysts in Kiev. Although grain quality for 1998/99 is almost certain to improve from last year's extremely low level because of the likelihood of more favorable weather, most observers agree that every step in the grain-production process--the poor-quality seed used for planting, the lack of fertilizers and plant-protection agents, the decrepit machinery, and inefficient storage methods--will seriously hamper progress in the drive to increase production of food-grade wheat in Russia and Ukraine.
Winter-grain conditions were generally favorable while the team was conducting crop-assessment travel, and conditions remained favorable through late-May. In Russia, sown 1998/99 winter-grain area was approximately the same as last year at 13.0 million hectares. Cold, wet weather in late-March and early-April slowed crop development, but crops reached normal development by late-April following a warming trend. On-farm supplies of fertilizers were down from last year, and nitrogen top-dressing of winter grains proceeded at a slower pace, due in part to fuel shortages. In Ukraine, sown 1998/99 winter-grain area totaled 6.9 million hectares, down from 7.5 million in 1997/98. Despite below-average winterkill, adequate soil moisture, relatively good spring weather, and official reports of increased use of mineral and organic fertilizer, Agroresources (the main Ukrainian crop-forecasting agency) predicts that winter-wheat yields will barely surpass last year's level because of below-optimal use of fertilizers and pesticides.
Mark Lindeman, Regional Analyst
Phone: (202) 690-0143
MEXICO OILSEEDS PRODUCTION
Production of oilseeds in Mexico for l997/98 is estimated at 843,000 tons, an 11-percent increase over 1996/97. Mexican oilseeds production includes soybeans, cottonseed, peanuts in the shell, sunflowerseed, copra, and palm kernel. Mexico also will produce an estimated 16,000 tons of palm oil in 1997/98. Excluding copra and palm oil, area is projected to increase 8 percent to an estimated 405,000 hectares. The recovery of Mexico's oilseed industry since the mid-1990s drought has encountered several impediments, including unattractive international prices, the vagaries of weather, and government support programs that some farmers say are inadequate. The situation should continue to improve in 1998/99, assuming normal weather, but some difficulties remain.
Mexican oilseed growers have found it increasingly difficult to maintain their traditional markets. The Mexican livestock industry has not been as good as had been hoped for oilseed meals. Cattlemen are beset by the same weather problems as crop producers, and while the hog and poultry industries continue to expand, their growth is expected to moderate in 1998/99. Soybeans are predominately an irrigated crop in Mexico, which has placed it at a competitive disadvantage to more drought-tolerant crops such as sorghum. Cottonseed output has been hurt by low prices, and the fledgling palm oil program will have to survive amid government efforts at fiscal restraint. The peanut industry has a window of opportunity to offset weather-impacted U.S. production, but it must first overcome weather problems of its own.
Cottonseed: Output from the 1997/98 Mexican cottonseed crop is estimated at 329,000 tons from 200,000 hectares, nearly an 11-percent decline in production from a year ago, and a 19-percent decline in area. Still, the 1997/98 estimate is significantly higher than the 5-year average, indicative of the instability that farmers are faced with from the perspective of relative cost of production as well as growing conditions.
Historically, Mexican cottonseed ranks among the top five producers in the world in terms of yield, though area and total production are comparatively small.
Cottonseed is the largest oilseed crop in Mexico today in terms of harvested area and production, and farmers are hopeful that cotton will return to its former level of importance. However, the international price of cotton likely will not encourage expansion of the Mexican cotton industry in 1998/99 to pre-1990s levels. The major production areas are in the north (primarily Baja California, Sonora, Coahuila, Chihuahua, and Tamaulipas), where irrigated fields in the summer provide 85 percent of the annual output.
Soybeans: Output from the 1997/98 Mexican soybean crop is estimated at 175,000 tons from 119,000 hectares. This represents a 187-percent production increase over 1996/97, but 110 percent below the 5-year average. Harvested area is likewise up 129 percent over last year, yet far below the 5-year average of 203,000 hectares. Prior to the 3-year drought of the mid-90's, soybean output was approximately half of the country's total oilseeds production. Diminished moisture supplies in recent years encouraged farmers to switch to other crops. A new government support program intended to spur increased planted acreage probably will not show positive results before next year. The top producing states presently are Sinaloa and Sonora in northwest Mexico, and Tamaulipas in the northeast, where irrigated fields in the summer provide 80 percent of the annual output. The southeastern state of Chiapas is a major summer soybean producer on dryland fields.
Peanuts: Output from the 1997/98 Mexican peanut crop is estimated at 120,000 tons from 80,000 hectares. This represents a 7-percent production increase over last year and19 percent above the 5-year average. The 5-year average for harvested area is 77,000 hectares. Mexican peanuts are mostly a summer dryland crop grown in the southern States of Puebla, Oaxaca, Chiapas, Guerrero, and the northwestern States of Chihuahua and Sinaloa.
Palm Oil: Output from the 1997/98 Mexican palm oil crop is estimated at 16,000 tons, compared to 12,000 tons a year ago. The official program to develop production of African palm oil in the states of Tabasco, Veracruz, Campeche, and Chiapas has continued despite budgetary problems and palm oil area is expected to increase for 1998/99.
1997/98 ESTIMATES FOR MEXICAN OILSEEDS
Ron White, Mexico Analyst
Phone: (202) 690-0137