SOUTH AFRICA: MOSTLY DRY IN CORN BELT
Rainfall was near to below normal across the corn belt of
South Africa in February, reducing moisture available to
reproductive and filling crops. In the east, some of the nation's
highest yielding areas were hit hard by the dryness, although the
lack of excessive heat and favorable long-term moisture reserves
mitigated the impact. Further west, timely, albeit
lighter-than-normal showers early in the month gave way to
warmer, drier conditions by month's end. The February drying
trend set the stage for the damage caused by stressful heat in
early March. During the week of February 28 through March 6,
South Africa was gripped by hot, dry weather, which stressed corn
and other summer crops while accelerating crop development.
Temperatures averaged 3 to 5 degrees C above normal across the
corn belt, with highs hitting the middle 30s at many locations.
This was the warmest week of the season and, while most summer
crops had advanced past the high moisture and
temperature-sensitive reproductive stages of development, corn
was still vulnerable to heat and moisture stress. From March 7 to
20, light rainfall and more seasonable temperatures were reported
in the eastern summer crop areas. In western crop areas,
below-normal rainfall and late summer warmth enhanced crop
development and favored maturation and dry down. Scattered
showers continued during March 21 to 27 across the eastern half
of the country, providing localized drought relief, mainly to
sugarcane. The heaviest rain fell from the northern and central
sections of the corn belt to the main coastal sugarcane areas.
While the rain stabilized immature corn and other summer crops,
the moisture came too late in the growth cycle to significantly
improve overall yield prospects. From March 28 through April 3,
dry and warm weather dominated the region. At this late stage in
the growing season, additional rainfall would improve wheat
prospects but provide little benefit to other summer crops.
ARGENTINA: MODERATE SHOWERS FAVOR SECOND-CROP SOYBEANS
During March, moderate to heavy showers favored second-crop
soybeans, but damaged first crop soybeans and slowed corn and
sunflower harvesting in central Argentina. Isolated heavy showers
from 100 to 200 millimeters during March 21 - 27, not only slowed
harvest but caused flooding in some crop areas. Warm and dry
conditions had already stressed summer crops, especially
second-crop soybeans in mid- to late-February. Moderate to heavy
showers during mid- to late-March, slowed cotton harvest in
northern Argentina. Heavy showers during March 28 to April 3 from
80 to 140 millimeters caused cotton harvest delays and raised
concern for cotton quality.
SOUTHERN BRAZIL: DRYNESS AFFECTS RIO GRANDE SOYBEANS
During March, a drying trend across Rio Grande do Sul caused
stress to filling soybeans. Rainfall averaged 42 percent of
normal across the soybean-producing areas of Rio Grande do Sul
from March 1 to 27. During March 28 through April 3, moderate
showers of 30 to 70 millimeters alleviated dryness for filling to
maturing soybeans. The rains increased soil moisture for winter
wheat planting. Showers slowed soybean harvesting, especially in
Mato Grosso. By the beginning of April, seasonably lighter
showers allowed for closer to normal harvesting progress.
SRI LANKA: RICE CROP NEAR RECORD LEVEL FOR 1998/99
Sri Lanka's 1998/99 rice harvest is estimated at 1.8 million tons (milled basis), up 0.2 million this month and slightly above last year's production level, but still below the record 1.9 million set in 1984/85. According to the U.S. agricultural counselor in New Delhi, the "yala" crop (harvested in the fall of 1998) is about 17 percent greater than last year's crop, while the "maha" crop (now being harvested) is estimated about 3 percent lower than last year. This year's maha would have been larger were it not for heavy rains which caused extensive damage to the ripening grain. The recent heavy rains, however, have helped replenish most irrigation tanks and wells which augurs well for the about-to-be-seeded 1999/2000 yala crop.
In spite of shortages of labor, growing labor costs, and
ethnic violence in the Northeast, the 1998/99 Sri Lankan rice
yield is at a record 3.70 tons per hectare (rough basis) due to
the greater availability of irrigation, introduction of nitrogen
responsive varieties, and increased fertilizer use. While further
yield increases are possible, there are constraints such as the
high cost of labor; high fuel costs which have slowed farm
mechanization; and government fertilizer subsidies that are now
confined to nitrogenous fertilizers, resulting in unbalanced
SOUTH AFRICA: DROUGHT CONTINUES TO PLAGUE CORN
South Africa's corn production estimate for 1998/99 is reduced
to 6.0 million tons, down 1.0 million or 14 percent from last
month and down 20 percent from last year due to lower forecast
yield. The crop was planted under favorable conditions, and
above-normal rainfall in December led to expectations of a good
yield. However, the weather became increasingly dry in January
and February causing stress for corn in the reproductive to
grain-fill stage. Rainfall was 50 to 70 percent below normal in
many areas during February, and unusually hot temperatures in
early March increased the impact of the dryness, particularly in
the eastern Maize Triangle. Northern and eastern crop areas
received scattered light showers in mid-March which provided
local relief from the drought and prevented further yield losses,
but other areas remained unfavorably warm and dry through early
April. The crop is now maturing and harvest will begin in May.
AUSTRALIA: RAINS LOWER COTTON OUTPUT
Cotton production for 1998/99 is estimated at 3.2 million bales down 0.2 million from last month, but still a record. The area estimate is reduced from 550,000 to 525,000 hectares based on lower seed sales and abandonment due to a February hail storm. In addition, cotton yield is reduced to below average levels because of heavy insect infestation throughout the cotton area and recent heavy rains in the major growing area of northeast New South Wales. This area received from 90 to 130 mm of rain over the April 1-5 period, damaging the crop as 80 percent of the bolls were open. Quality will also be reduced because of the intense rain event.
UNITED STATES: 1999/2000 CROP PROSPECTIVE PLANTINGS
On March 31, the United States National Agricultural Statistics Service released the Prospective Plantings report for 1999/2000. The report indicated that U.S. corn growers intend to plant 78.2 million acres of corn for all purposes in 1999/2000, down 2 percent from both 1998/99 and 1997/98. If these intentions materialize, this would be the lowest planted acreage since 1995/96. Expected corn area is down in the upper Midwest, Southwest, Texas, and Southeast due to a shift to other crops. Intended acreage is up slightly in the central Corn Belt, due in part, to land coming back into production after flooding in 1998. Sorghum plantings are expected to total a record low 8.8 million acres, down 9 percent from 1998/99 and 12 percent below the 1997/98 total.
Soybean producers intend to plant 73.1 million acres in 1999/2000, up 1 percent from 1998/99. If realized, this will be the largest planted area for soybeans on record. Of the 30 soybean producing states, producers in 10 states intend to plant more acres this year, while producers in 14 states are indicating fewer acres to be planted in 1999. Six states are unchanged from last year.
All wheat planted area is expected to total 63.0 million acres in 1999/2000. This is down 4 percent from 1998/99 and the lowest level in 26 years. Area planted to Durum wheat is intended to increase to 4.3 million acres, up 12 percent from 1998/99. This will be the largest Durum area since 1982. The 1999/2000 other spring wheat planted acreage is placed at 15.4 million acres, down 2 percent from 1998/99. If realized, this will be the smallest area since 1988/89. Of the total, about 14.5 million acres are Hard Red Spring wheat.
All cotton plantings for 1999/2000 are expected to total 13.9
million acres, 4 percent above 1998/99. The Delta shows a 9
percent increase, while the Southeast region expects a 7 percent
increase from 1998/99. Producers in Texas and Oklahoma intend to
plant 2 percent more acreage than in 1998/99. Although California
growers intend to plant 50,000 more acres of American-Pima cotton
in 1999/2000, the U.S. acreage is down 7 percent, at 305,200
PAKISTAN: COTTON GIN ARRIVALS INDICATE LOWER OUTPUT
Cotton production for 1998/99 is estimated at 6.5 million
bales, down 0.4 million bales from last month. Cotton gin arrival
data reveals a 13 percent lag behind last season's arrivals for
the same March through April period. This suggests late-season
production losses were greater than expected, though under
reporting by gin operators has contributed to the reduction in
arrivals. The 1998/99 estimate is 0.7 million bales less than
last year and is the lowest production since 1994/95 of 6.3
million bales when the crop was reduced by leaf curl virus and
white fly. USDA reduced its initial production estimate of 7.5
million bales over the past three months by a total of 1.0
million bales as reports confirm continued yield losses because
of crop disease and insect problems.
UNITED STATES: CROP CONDITION AND PROGRESS
March began with dry, windy conditions in the Great Plains
that depleted soil moisture reserves and hindered winter wheat
development. The dry weather aided field preparations, and
planting was active in southern and eastern Texas and the Gulf
Coast States. Some earlier-planted corn and cotton fields emerged
along the western Gulf Coast despite soil moisture shortages. Wet
and cool weather emerged over the southern and eastern third of
the Nation during the second week of the month and prevailed for
most of the remainder of the month. The wet weather aided crop
emergence, but periodically halted fieldwork in the southern
Plains, lower Mississippi Valley, and adjacent areas of the
Southeast. The rain also boosted winter wheat development in most
areas of the southern Great Plains, but vegetative growth was
limited by below-normal temperatures. In Oklahoma and the central
Great Plains, mid-month snowfall rejuvenated soil moisture levels
and curbed insect activity. In the northern Great Plains, dry
conditions continued to persist, but winter wheat was aided by
mild temperatures and wind, disease, and insect damage remained
light. Warm, dry weather aided tillage and fertilizing activities
in the western and central Corn Belt. Fieldwork was less active
in the eastern and southern Corn Belt during the first half of
the month due to muddy field conditions. In the Great Plains and
western Corn Belt, small grain seeding progressed well due to
mostly dry conditions. Temperatures averaged below normal in most
of the Southeast and fell below freezing as far south as northern
Florida early in the month. Frost damage to fruit and vegetable
crops was limited due to the short duration of sub-freezing
temperatures. Mostly dry weather aided fieldwork in the Atlantic
Coastal Plains, while fieldwork was slowed in parts of the Ohio
and Tennessee River Valleys and Appalachians by a mixture of
heavy rain, freezing rain, and snow. In the eastern Corn Belt and
Northeast, most precipitation came as snow. Coastal areas of the
Pacific Northwest and northern California remained rainy. In
inland areas of California, where dryer conditions prevailed,
field preparations and planting were active. Gradual warming
promoted growth of small grains, winter forages, and sugar beets.
A few cotton fields were planted in the northern valleys, but
warmer soil temperatures were needed. In southern areas of the
State, small grains were irrigated to sustain growth. By the end
of the month, winter wheat was heading and cotton was developing
squares in the Imperial and San Joaquin Valleys.
FORMER SOVIET UNION: WEATHER AND CROP DEVELOPMENTS
In March, unseasonably mild weather prevailed over Russia, Ukraine, the Baltics, and Belarus. The mild weather pattern melted the unusually deep snow cover in northern Russia and raised soil temperatures to high enough levels for early spring grain planting in southern Ukraine and the North Caucasus region in Russia. Reports indicated that spring grain planting began about 2 weeks earlier than usual in these areas. Near- to above-normal precipitation fell in Ukraine, North Caucasus, Belarus, and Lithuania, increasing topsoil moisture for spring grain emergence. Below-normal precipitation fell in the Volga Valley and Volga Vyatsk regions in Russia.
Since April 1, several days of warm, dry weather favored rapid fieldwork for spring grain planting in Ukraine and southern Russia. The bulk of spring grains are planted in these areas in April. In Ukraine, reports as of April 2 indicated sugar beet planting began about 1 week earlier than usual. Regarding the winter grain crop, winter wheat resumed spring tillering in most of Ukraine and the North Caucasus. Winter grains remained dormant in northern Russia, Belarus, and the Baltics. Although much above normal temperatures rapidly melted snow cover in northern Russia, continued dry weather lessened the potential for widespread flooding.
Tom Puterbaugh (202) 720-2012
FEATURE COMMODITY ARTICLES
WINTER GRAIN PROSPECTS IN THE NORTHERN HEMISPHERE
OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES
This article presents early indications of Northern Hemisphere winter grain prospects outside the United States based on reports from U.S. agricultural attaches stationed overseas and analysis by Washington-based USDA personnel. A special thanks goes to the World Agricultural Outlook Board/Joint Agricultural Weather Facility who have continually supplied FAS with world agricultural weather information and analyses. The first forecast of 1999/2000 area, yield, and production for wheat and coarse grains will be released May 12.
Summary: Total- foreign winter grain area for 1999/2000 most likely will be below the level achieved last season; however, there are regional differences. In the European Union (EU), area is expected to be lower for the winter grain crops (mainly, wheat, rye, and barley) due to relatively weaker prices, weather difficulties, and increased set-aside. Generally, crop prospects are favorable, but below normal rainfall in Portugal and Spain and excessive rainfall in northern Europe delayed or prevented planting. For Eastern Europe, area is projected lower as rain and snow along with cold weather in late-October and early-November delayed winter grain plantings in southeastern Europe. Initial crop prospects are below last season's level, but above average. In Russia, winter grain area is reported to be lower than last season's level as below-normal precipitation last fall in southern Russia hampered plantings. A mild winter has improved conditions for winter grains. In Ukraine, winter grain area is expected to only match last season's reduced level due to a drought that persisted through the middle of October in the eastern growing regions. The crops went into dormancy poorly established, but overwintering conditions were favorable for winter grains. For India, favorable weather pushed projected area above last season's level. Mild weather across the main northern growing areas boosted crop prospects. In Pakistan, area is reportedly near last season's level and crop prospects are favorable. In spite of excessive rainfall at planting which caused localized flooding, the crop benefitted from timely rains. The crops in India and Pakistan are harvested during April through June. In China, based on planting intentions reported by the State Statistical Bureau, winter grain area is expected to be lower than last season, but winter wheat is projected slightly higher. The fall of 1998 and winter of 1999 are one of the driest on the North China Plain, but irrigation aided winter wheat. Crop prospects are guarded at this time as April and May rainfall are critical in determining yield potential. In the Middle East, grain area is projected to be similar in Saudi Arabia, lower in Syria, but larger in Turkey. Crop prospects are generally favorable in most of Turkey, but poor from Syria east to Iran. In Northwest Africa, area is projected below last season's level due to fall dryness in Morocco, reducing planting intentions. Rainfall in January improved crop prospects in Morocco. However, in Algeria and Tunisia area is projected to be similar to 1998/99 due to favorable planting conditions. Crop prospects across the region are guarded and timely rainfall is needed for the remainder of the growing season to improve crop conditions. In Canada, winter wheat area is similar to the previous year. Crop prospects are favorable for winter wheat due to a mild winter. In Mexico, winter wheat area is projected slightly higher than last season and irrigation supplies continue to be low.
European Union: Winter grain area for 1999/2000 in the EU is projected to be slightly lower than last season. Yield prospect for winter crops are generally favorable except in Spain and Portugal where prolonged dryness since the fall has negatively affected crops. In northwestern and southeastern Europe, the unseasonably mild weather caused winter wheat to break dormancy one to three weeks early. In the United Kingdom, winter grains are expected to decline sharply because of the increase in the set-aside rate and the wet weather conditions during planting. After the wet fall, normal rainfall returned and above average temperatures prevailed during the winter and early spring. France's winter grain crop area is projected to be down slightly from last year. The planting conditions were unfavorable at the beginning due to wet weather, but mild weather aided late-season field work. In January and February, northern France experienced excessive rainfall; however, rainfall returned to normal levels in March. While the North has excess moisture, southwestern France is doing well and southeastern France is trending dry. Germany's winter grain area is down following well above average precipitation (second wettest fall in the past 49 years) and an unusually early winter in November that hindered planting. Since then, Germany has continued to have above average precipitation throughout the winter and early spring. The Netherlands had so much rain and flooding during the autumn of 1998 that area seeded to winter wheat is reduced greatly and above average precipitation continues to impede crop development and spring planting. In Spain and Portugal, winter grain area is up from last year's drought reduced level. However, crop prospects for 1999/2000 are guarded since southern Spain and Portugal are again suffering from a dry fall and winter. March rainfall continues to be below normal and southern Spain received much less rain than in the north. Since a large portion of durum wheat is produced in southern Spain, the decline in yield prospects for durum wheat are expected to be greater than those for the soft winter wheat which is grown throughout the country. Italy's winter grain area is expected to increase slightly over last year and the weather has been favorable throughout most of the growing season. However, dry weather during the winter in the Po Valley limited subsoil moisture recharge and additional precipitation will be needed during the growing season to maintain favorable crop prospects.
Eastern Europe: Overall winter grain sowings for 1999/2000 are projected to be significantly lower than last year. Individually, planted area is lower in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, former Yugoslavia, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. Farmers across the region are planting less area due in part to low prices for last year's crop. In some cases, farmers are still awaiting payment for last year's crops from their governments or from food distributors. Input prices are rising across the region, so that farmers have difficulty obtaining farm machinery and good quality seeds. Yields are expected to decline this year as farmers are using less fertilizer and pesticide due to increased input costs. In addition, heavy fall rains delayed or prevented planting in many Eastern European countries, and above average precipitation continued throughout the winter. Bulgaria had its wettest fall in the past 49 years, and Romania and Hungary had their second wettest fall in 49 years. In November, temperatures in southeast Europe dropped well below normal, causing the crops to go dormant one to three weeks earlier than usual. Snow melt at the end of winter combined with continued rain caused record flooding in the agricultural lands in northwestern Romania and eastern Hungary. The Czech Republic also experienced well above normal precipitation during the winter. By late March, precipitation in these countries returned to normal levels, allowing the soil to begin drying out. Above average temperatures brought the winter wheat out of dormancy one to three weeks earlier than usual. Slovakia's winter grain area is expected to decrease from last year due to excessive rainfall. At planting, above normal rainfall hampered field work and prevented farmers from achieving their planting intentions. After a mild winter, the soils were saturated and rapidly melting snow cover caused another flood in the same area. The exception to the expected decreases in winter grain areas is Poland. In Poland, winter grain area is projected be about the same as in 1998/99. Favorable fall weather allowed most winter grains to be planted at the optimal time and temperatures and precipitation have been generally favorable to-date.
Russia: The government indicated winter grains were sown on approximately 12.3 million hectares for 1999/2000, down from 12.8 million last year based on agricultural ministry data from Moscow. Drought conditions that continued through the summer and into autumn delayed plantings and hampered crop germination and establishment throughout the prime winter-wheat region of southern Russia (northern North Caucas, southern Black Soils, and Volga Valley) . However, abundant precipitation during the winter and mild early-spring weather stabilized crop conditions and improved yield potential. According to the Federal Weather Center, the agency chiefly responsible for monitoring Russia's winter-crop conditions, winter grains will need to be re-planted on 1.8 to 2.2 million hectares. Fall drought in the south, possible snow mold in the north, and frequent freezing and thawing caused the potential for above normal winterkill. Last season, Russia replanted about 1.6 million hectares, mostly with spring barley. Temperatures plunged to as low as -20 degrees Celsius in southern Russia in early February, but the cold weather did not persist long enough to cause damage. A mild spring has promoted early greening and planting of spring grains is about 2 weeks early, although a recent cold snap in late March slowed planting progress.
Despite the recent improvement in conditions, however, the current outlook for 1999/2000 winter-grain production in Russia is guarded. Farms continue to operate under severe financial constraints and soil fertility has been depleted following years of inadequate fertilizer applications. Herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides are prohibitively expensive, while agricultural machinery and fuel remain in short supply.
Ukraine: Sown winter-grain area for 1999/2000 nearly matched the previous year's level of 6.9 million hectares, according to the agricultural ministry. Excessive dryness in the fall that carried over from the summer resulted in very poor crop establishment in eastern Ukraine; however, in southern and western Ukraine planting conditions were mostly favorable. Beginning on October 20, light to moderate showers brought much-needed moisture to the drought-stricken crop areas. A mild winter followed an unseasonably cold December, providing favorable overwintering conditions for winter grains. Although December temperatures were considerably below average in Ukraine, snow cover was adequate to protect winter grains from damage. Temperatures fell again in February, but only briefly, with little or no damage to crops. Based on assessment reports from the National Weather Center, about 15 percent of winter grains are likely to emerge from dormancy in unsatisfactory condition. Mild early-spring weather promoted early greening and below average winterkill is anticipated.
The winter-grain outlook for Ukraine is better than Russia as poor crop establishment is limited to only the eastern growing regions, but continued below-optimum applications of fertilizer and plant-protection agents will likely hamper winter-grain yield for 1999/2000. Recent reports indicate that 30 percent less fertilizer and 50 percent less pesticides will be made available unless some measures can be found to pay previous debts of private commercial suppliers. Further, no more than 50 percent of all tractors are in working condition this spring. Although sown area matched last year's level, it fell far short of the 8.1-million-hectare target and is nearly 10 percent below the average of the past eight years.
India: Winter grain sowing for 1999/2000 is projected above last season's record level. India's 1999/2000 wheat planting took place during the optimal planting period (mid-October to mid-December) in most states due to favorable soil moisture conditions aided by late monsoon rains. While relative prices of competing crops such as rapeseed and pulses were firmer than wheat at planting, farmers typically prefer to plant wheat on irrigated land because of the guaranteed support price. Post-planting weather conditions were generally favorable. Prolonged foggy weather in major wheat growing areas and localized shortages of phosphatic fertilizers may reduce yields in some areas. Overall, above average wheat yields can be realized due to greater use of certified seed, herbicide availability, and timely rains.
About 80 percent of India's wheat crop is at least partially irrigated, but irrigation facilities are not as widespread in marginal surplus states like Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan where the crop is more dependent on winter rains, which have been sufficient for normal crop development. Regarding grain quality, it is too early to assess the quality of this year's crop as much will depend on weather conditions from now until harvest. A sudden rise in temperature or unseasonable rains could negatively affect the quality of the wheat to be harvested in mid-April.
Pakistan: The 1999/2000 winter grain crop is projected to be similar to last season. According to reports, an estimated 40 percent decrease in the use of phosphatic fertilizers (due to higher prices and late availability), prolonged dry weather in rain-fed areas (which comprise about 16 percent of total wheat production) and late planting (particularly in areas where wheat follows sugarcane due to the late start of the crushing season) could curb yield prospects this season. On the positive side, the crop was sown more timely than last season, particularly in the rice and cotton regions of Punjab. Also, relatively cool weather through the first week of March helped improve prospects for the late-planted crop.
The Government of Pakistan encourages wheat production and supplies fertilizers, seeds, and irrigation to growers. Input subsidies have declined or been eliminated in recent years as part of ongoing International Monetary Fund reforms. Many observers expect wheat output to remain stable around current levels for the foreseeable future due to competition from alternative crops and problems with salinization, input supply, and seed quality.
China: The 1999/2000 winter grain area is projected smaller than a year ago, but winter wheat is expected to be slightly higher, according to a planting intentions report from China's State Statistical Bureau. Growing conditions were initially favorable in the North China Plain, where about 75 percent of the winter wheat crop is grown. Heavy summer rainfall and mild temperatures boosted soil moisture and aided irrigation supplies. (About 80 percent of the total wheat crop is irrigated to some extent.) However, the weather was unusually warm and dry throughout the autumn and winter, resulting in poor establishment of rainfed winter wheat in many areas. Precipitation averaged less than 25 percent of normal from September 1 to December 31, making it one of the driest time period in recent history. Above-normal temperatures throughout the winter and early spring, caused the crop to break dormancy one to two weeks ahead of schedule, but about the same time as the last two years. Scattered showers in February and early March improved moisture conditions in central and eastern China, although it remained drier than normal in northern areas through the end of March. Normal temperatures and increased rainfall during the critical months of April and May will be needed to improve yield prospects for the 1999/2000 winter wheat crop, which accounts for approximately 90 percent of China's total wheat crop.
Northwestern Africa: Crop area for 1999/2000 is projected to be smaller than last season, mainly due to reduced area in Morocco. Planted area is expected to decline in Morocco due to the late arrival of rainfall during the Fall of 1998. Typically, farmers start planting winter grains (wheat and barley) after the first significant rain, which come as early as September and finish sowing by mid-January. Since the rains came in early-December 1998, there was not enough time to plant all the fields. As a result, most fields were planted late and an unusually cold winter delayed crop development. However, normal rainfall in January boosted soil moisture reserves. Crop prospects are guarded at this time, pending regular, widespread rainfall that will allow the crop yield to recover to an average level. In western Algeria, late-arriving rains delayed plantings, but adequate precipitation followed and has prevailed to-date. In eastern and central Algeria, near-normal rainfall allowed farmers to sow an area similar to the 1998/99 season. Scattered rainfall in March has provided needed soil moisture and maintain a favorable crop outlook. Tunisian farmers were encouraged by early-season rainfall and managed to plant an area similar to last year's levels. A drying trend since February slowed crop development and additional precipitation is needed despite recent, light rainfall. The Northwest African winter grain crops typically advance through the critical heading stage during March and April. April weather patterns will be crucial in determining yield for the wheat and barley crops.
Middle East: Winter grain area in Saudi Arabia for 1999/2000 is projected to be similar to last year's level. The Grain Silos and Flour Mills Organization (GSFMO) has reportedly not announced wheat and barley quotas for this production season; however, it is expected to remain unchanged. GSFMO policy over the past few years has been to target wheat production to meet domestic needs only. Locally-produced barley under quota benefits from a government subsidy of about $268 per metric ton, while the Government-guaranteed purchase price for wheat producers remains at $400 per metric ton. The crops are primarily grown by small-scale farmers and are 100 percent irrigated. Harvest extends from the end of April into June. For Turkey, winter grain area is projected to be higher than a year ago. Wheat area will most likely expand at the expense of cotton as a result of low cotton procurement prices and decrease in cotton exports. About 40 percent of the wheat crop is grown in Central Anatolia, and the remainder spread throughout the country. Barley area is projected to be similar to last season as an increase in malting barleys are offset by a decline in feed barley demand. The weather pattern has been relatively favorable and should reduce pest problems. Evenly distributed rainfall and near normal temperatures aided crop plantings and establishment; however, in the southeast dry warm weather has damaged any rainfed crop. Generally, crop prospects are favorable at this time and rainfall from now until May is the single most important determinant factor of yield. In Syria, winter grains area is projected lower than last year. Rainfall at planting was late and well below average. In addition, the winter has been dry and warmer-than-normal. The continued drying trend is causing concern about yield prospects, especially for barley. About 40 percent of the wheat is irrigated, producing about 70 percent of the crop, while nearly all the barley is rainfed. Irrigation water is usually available for wheat since there are no other major crops competing for water during winter and spring. However, precipitation and return to normal temperatures is needed soon to prevent further yield loss.
Canada: The 1999/2000 winter wheat area is reportedly near the same level as last season. Planting conditions were normal and the crops experienced a mild winter with above normal precipitation.. Winterkill is expected to be minimal this season. Most of the winter wheat is grown in the Province of Ontario and comprises less than 5 percent of Canada's total wheat crop. Roughly 60 percent of the 1.4 million ton 1998/99 winter crop was soft white wheat and 40 percent was soft red wheat. About 400,000 tons is usually required for the domestic market, with the remainder exported. As most of the small grain crops are grown in the Prairie Provinces, spring rainfall is critical to provide soil moisture for the upcoming summer crops.
Mexico: Wheat area for 1999/2000 is projected to be slightly larger than last season with yield potential similar to 1998/99. Autumn rainfall was greater than last year, but still below normal. Rainfall for virtually the entire country was less than 50 percent of normal from December through the end of February, while temperatures were at least one degree above normal for that period. Light rain in March aided the irrigated wheat, but reservoir levels in the Northwest (Sinaloa and Sonora) are still lower than last year due to continued below-normal rainfall. Reservoir levels in the Northwest are reported to be 20 percent of capacity at planting. Additional rainfall is needed in April for normal crop development and reservoir replenishment. Beter than 90 percent of Mexico's annual wheat production comes from the fall/winter cycle, and the irrigated northwest region accounts for about 40 percent of the fall/winter production. Also, in the central plateau of Mexico where the summer crops are grown, reservoir levels have risen above the previous year and soil moisture is adequate due to plentiful summer and autumn rainfall.
Timothy Rocke, Foreign Grains
Telephone: (202) 720-1572
Suzanne Miller, Europe and Canada
Telephone: (202) 720-0882
Paulette Sandene, China Analyst
Telephone: (202) 690-0133
Mark Lindeman, FSU Analyst
Telephone: (202) 690-0143
Ron White, Mexico Analyst
Telephone: (202) 690-0137
Jim Crutchfield, India and
Telephone: (202) 690-0135
ARGENTINA AND BRAZIL: CORN AND SOYBEAN PRODUCTION
Globally, Brazil and Argentina rank third and sixth in corn production, respectively. Together they produce about 8 percent of the world's corn crop -- Argentina 2 percent and Brazil 6 percent.
Argentina: Corn production for 1998/99 is estimated at 14.5 million metric tons, down 4.9 million or 25 percent from last year's record. Corn yield is estimated at 5.47 tons per hectare, down from 6.10 tons per hectare last season, but still the second highest yield on record. Harvested area is estimated at 2.9 million hectares, 9 percent below last season. Argentine farmers shifted some area away from corn to soybeans and sunflowerseed this year in response to lower corn prices and dry weather at planting. The main corn producing provinces of Buenos Aires (48% of national production), Cordoba (20%), Santa Fe (17%), Entre Rios (6%), and La Pampa (2%) together account for about 93 percent of the crop. The crop is planted during September to November and harvested during the period March to May.
The early part of the growing season was characterized by dryness in southern Buenos Aires and parts of Cordoba. Timely rains in January and early February benefitted the crop through its critical tasseling stage. Warmer and drier weather conditions prevailed during late February through early March in parts of southern Buenos Aires and Cordoba. This was followed by normal to above normal rainfall from March into early April, resulting in some harvest delays.
Brazil: The 1998/99 corn crop is estimated at 32.5 million metric tons, up 1.6 million tons or 5 percent from last year. Corn yield is estimated at 2.58 tons per hectare, down 5 percent from 1997/98. This season, there was an increase in first-crop corn area as producers shifted away from soybeans. Lower soybean prices coupled with lower corn stocks, contributed to a switch from soybeans to corn. In addition, the El Niņo-related drought reduced last year's "Safrinha" crop, resulting in higher relative prices for this year's corn crop.
Two crops of corn are cultivated: the first-crop is planted from October- December and harvested February-June. The first-crop accounts for 90 percent of total corn production; key states include: Parana (22%), Rio Grande do Sul (13%), Minas Gerais (13%), Santa Catarina (11%), Sao Paulo (9%), Goias (9%), Mato Grosso do Sul (3%), and Mato Grosso (3%). The second crop or "Safrinha" is planted from January-February and harvested during June-September. The "Safrinha" crop accounts for 10 percent of national corn production. Important "Safrinha" producing states include: Parana (38%), Sao Paulo (20%), Mato Grosso (15%), Mato Grosso do Sul (13%), and Goias (12%). (There is also a corn crop in the North/Northeast regions that is planted in February, but is statistically considered part of the first crop and accounts for about 10 percent of total-corn.)
Rainfall during the 1998/99 growing season has been generally favorable over much of Brazil with the exception of Rio Grande do Sul, where rainfall was deficient from November through late March. Moderate showers (30-70 mm) during the early April alleviated dryness for the "Safrinha" crop now approaching the tasseling stage.
The United States, Brazil and Argentina are ranked amongst the top three producers of soybean, respectively. Brazil accounts for 20 percent of world soybean production, whereas Argentina produces 12 percent. The level of technology utilized by soybean farmers in both countries are rapidly approaching those in the United States.
Argentina: Soybean production for 1998/99 is estimated at 18.7 million metric tons, down 0.5 million tons or 3 percent below last year as prospects for exceeding last year's record crop of 19.2 million metric tons were reduced by untimely heavy rains. The early part of the growing season was characterized by dryness in southern Buenos Aires and parts of Cordoba. In January and early February, timely rains benefitted the soybean crop during its critical flowering stage. Yield potential was reduced as warmer, drier weather prevailed during late February through early March in parts of southern Buenos Aires and Cordoba. Episodes of heavy rainfall during March and early April caused some localized flooding and harvest delays.
The main soybean producing areas are located in the provinces of Santa Fe (41% of national production), Cordoba (29%), and Buenos Aires (21%). The main soybean crop is planted during November through December and harvested in April to May. The double-cropped (following wheat) soybean crop is planted in January and harvested between May to June.
In Latin America, Argentina has taken the lead in the large scale adoption of transgenic Roundup-Ready (RR) soybean varieties produced by Monsanto. Roundup-Ready soybeans have been a factor in the expansion of yield in Argentina as more producers utilize an affective herbicide application. Cost per acre are typically less with roundup than with alternative herbicide treatments and this has been a factor in its quick adoption rates by growers.
Brazil: The 1998/99 soybean crop is estimated at 31.0 million metric tons, down 0.5 million metric tons or 2 percent from last year's record crop. Rainfall during the 1998/99 growing season was generally favorable over much of Brazil with the exception of Rio Grande do Sul, where rainfall was deficient during November through late March. Dryness related yield reductions in Rio Grande do Sul are likely to be compensated by improved yield in other states.
Soybean area in Brazil has been steadily increasing over the years with the development of new roads and ports, as well as improvement of existing ones. The area of greatest area expansion is in the Cerrado or savanna region encompassing parts of Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Goias, Distrito Federal, Rondonia, Bahia, Maranhao, Piaui, Tocantins and Minas Gerais. This expansion into the Cerrado regions, coupled with mechanized farming and increased fertilizer usage are contributing to a significant increase in average national yields. The main soybean producing states include: Parana (23% of national production), Mato Grosso (22%), Rio Grande do Sul (21%), Goias (11%), Mato Grosso do Sul (7%) and Minas Gerais (4%). Soybeans in Brazil are generally planted during October through December, and harvested between March through May.
Brazilian farmers are adapting new technology at a very rapid rate. This season, about 2,000 hectares of Round-Up Ready (RR) soybean varieties developed by Monsanto were planted on a trial basis in the southern state of Rio
Grande do Sul, Goias and Mato Grosso do Sul. Also, genetically modified organism technology varieties of soybean are being developed by Brazilian organizations such as Novartis and the Ministry of Agriculture research facility known as EMBRAPA.
Rao Achutuni, South America
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