RUSSIA & UKRAINE: MAY WAS UNSEASONABLY COLD
Weather across the western Former Soviet Union was unseasonably cold during the first three weeks of May. During the first week of this cold-spell, minimum temperatures fell below freezing as far south as southern Ukraine and the northern tip of the North Caucasus region. Temperatures ranged from -2 to -6 degrees Celsius in these areas. According to some agricultural sources, overall temperatures did not fall low enough to threaten winter grains in the jointing stage. Agronomists have found that wheat is vulnerable to some tiller sterilization due to wheat plant exposure to freezing temperatures at "early jointing". The US Agricultural counselor in Moscow reported finding such damage to winter wheat in his travel through the Ukraine growing areas. Summer crop planting in Ukraine and southern Russia began earlier than normal due to mild weather in April. As a result, the freeze likely caused some damage to newly emerged summer crops, especially in the central Black Soils Region in Russia and northeastern Ukraine. During the week of May 9 - 15, temperatures averaged 3 to 5 degrees C below normal in the Ukraine and southern Russia and 5 to 8 degrees C below normal in the north. For the most part, minimum temperatures remained above freezing in the Ukraine and southern Russia. However, colder than normal conditions slowed crop progress. Sub-freezing temperatures of -1 to -6 C were widespread in northern Russia. May 16 - 22 was the third consecutive week of unseasonably cold weather in this region. However, sub-freezing temperatures were confined to extreme northern areas in Russia, having minimal impact on newly emerging spring grains. For the most part, warmer weather benefitted crop conditions during May 23 through June 5.
CANADA: WET WEATHER DELAYS PLANTING IN THE PRAIRIES
Persistent wet weather has delayed spring grain and canola planting in the Prairie Provinces of Canada. Spring wheat planting is usually nearing completion during early June. However, this year planting, especially in the southeastern Prairies, is lagging well behind normal. In Saskatchewan, which generally accounts for about 55 percent of Canada's spring wheat production, only 68 percent of spring wheat was planted by May 31. Normally, based on a 5 year average, 85 percent of that province's wheat is planted by the end of May. In the southeast districts of Saskatchewan, planting was only 15 to 40 percent complete by May 31 and in sections of neighboring Manitoba, as little as 10 percent of the intended acreage had been sown in the hardest hit districts. Fieldwork progressed well elsewhere, with most other locations in Saskatchewan and Manitoba having seeded 70 to over 90 percent of their intended acreage by the end of May. Planting was virtually complete in Alberta, with a province-wide total of 90 percent for all crops and 97 percent for spring wheat. However, moderate to heavy rain moved into the southwestern Prairies in early June, bringing fieldwork to a halt and possibly necessitating local replanting due to washouts. This weather continued for the following two weeks and prevented many farmers in the southeastern Prairies form fulfilling their original planting intentions. Consequently, wheat acreage will likely be substituted with shorter-season crops.
SOUTH ASIA: SOUTHWEST MONSOON DEVELOPING STRONG AND EARLY
The southwest monsoon arrived somewhat ahead of schedule over southern and eastern India and Bangladesh. During late May, heavy rain in southern India increased irrigation reserves in the rice areas along the western coast. Scattered showers over India's southern interior improved planting prospects for coarse grains, oilseeds, and cotton. Moderate to heavy rain covered rice areas from Orissa eastward through Bangladesh, increasing moisture levels for newly sown paddy rice and helping to condition soils for planting of the dryland portion of the crop. Dry, unseasonably mild weather dominated central and most of northern India, as well as areas in southern Pakistan that had recently sustained damage from a cyclone. Cyclone damage to agriculture was not significant due to the early stage of the growing season. Elsewhere, light showers grazed northern crop areas of Pakistan, east-central India, and Nepal. During the week of May 30-June 5, drier weather aided fieldwork in interior crop areas of southern and eastern India, with most locations receiving less than 25 millimeters. Planting of rainfed rice, coarse grains, oilseeds, and cotton had likely started in response to early rains. Heavy rain along the southwest coast maintained high irrigation reserves for early rice development. The monsoon usually becomes established over southern and eastern India during June and reaches its northernmost extent (northern Pakistan) by mid-July. Main season grain, oilseed, and cotton planting is dependent upon monsoon moisture and, consequently, an erratic start to the monsoon can result in unfavorable conditions for planting and establishment. In May the Indian Meteorological Department recently issued a pre-season outlook anticipating a "normal" monsoon season. This was partially based on the presence of La Nina, which historically results in a wetter-than-normal summer monsoon.
CANADA: WHEAT AND BARLEY LOWERED DUE TO PLANTING DELAYS
USDA forecasts 1999/00 wheat production at 23.5 million tons, down 1.5 million from last month and 4 percent from last year. Crop yield is forecast at 2.28 tons per hectare, down slightly from last month as late planting and increased potential for disease offsets the benefits of abundant soil moisture. Barley is forecast at 12.2 million tons, down 0.3 million from last month and down 4 percent from last year. Crop yield is forecast at 2.98 tons per hectare, unchanged from last month.
Wheat harvested area is forecast to decrease to 10.3 million hectares, down 5 percent from last month and 4 percent from last year. Barley harvested area is forecast to decrease to 4.1 million hectares, down 2 percent from last month and down 4 percent from last year. Area is down because excessive moisture has caused planting delays. Southeast Saskatchewan and Southwest Manitoba are the areas that have had the most delays. In Saskatchewan, spring wheat and durum were only 89 percent and 83 percent seeded as of June 6 respectively, versus a 5-year average of 99 percent, while barley was only 80 percent seeded versus a 5-year average of 95 percent. In Southeast Saskatchewan, only 15-40 percent of intended total planted area was seeded as of May 31, while in Southwest Manitoba only 20-30 percent was seeded as of June 7. In Southwest Manitoba, which grows one third of Manitoba's wheat , much of the area is under water or saturated to a point that seeding may not be possible this season.
In addition, reports indicate an additional 0.8 million hectares may be placed in summer fallow if fields do not dry out in time to plant. The cut-off dates for crop insurance have been extended from June 5 to June 20 in Saskatchewan and Manitoba due to planting delays.
EU-15: WHEAT OUTPUT RAISED DUE TO FAVORABLE WEATHER
Wheat production in the EU-15 for 1999/00 is forecast at 96.6 million tons, up 1.5 million from last month, but down 7 percent from last season's record level. Favorable weather in France boosted potential yield and increased crop prospects to 38.5 million tons, up 1.0 million from last month. Also, harvested area is increased slightly, making it nearly equal to the 1998/99 record area. In Germany, poor autumn sowing conditions hampered producers' abilities to achieve their winter wheat planting intentions; however, favorable spring weather allowed producers to plant additional spring wheat, increasing production prospects by 0.5 million tons to 19.5 million.
TURKEY: WHEAT AND BARLEY LOWERED DUE TO DRY WEATHER
The 1999/00 Turkey wheat production is forecast at 17.5 million tons, down 1.0 million this month and down 5 percent from 1998/99. Also, barley output is forecast at 7.4 million tons, down 0.2 million tons from last month and down 3 percent from 1998/99. Production is decreased due to unfavorably dry May weather that stressed the crops and reduced yield potential.
According to the U.S. agricultural counselor in Ankara, agriculture in the Middle East is suffering from a scarcity of rain. Also, parts of Turkey have experienced insufficient rainfall including Central Anatolia, which is Turkey's bread basket. Although the rains seem to have picked up during June, which will bring some relief, crop yield prospects are lowered. Barley, which has not been affected as badly as wheat, due to its earlier maturation, is about ready for harvest. Precipitation during mid-June will be critical to the determination of final yields and quality of the crop in the Central Anatolia Region.
In Southeastern Turkey, along the Syrian border, the drought is very serious. Southern parts of Sanliurfa and Mardin were hit badly. In some wheat, barley and red lentil fields, plants grew only eight or ten inches, never forming heads. Some farmers in this area may not harvest their crop, and losses are being estimated at up to thirty percent.
Rainfall in most parts of Thrace and Cukurova regions were sufficient, and the Thrace crop appears to be normal. The wheat harvest in Cukurova started ten days ago and, according to first indications, the quality is very good. However, continuing rains in this area could negatively affect the quality of the late harvested crop.
The Ministry of Agriculture is spraying 1.6 million hectares of wheat for Sunni bug, including 1.0 million in southeastern Anatolia and 0.6 million in Thrace. This was earlier estimated as 1.8 million hectares, but was lowered due to drought in the Southeast. The success of the spray depends upon dry conditions during the procedure. Another pest which poses a serious threat to the crop, "aelia rostrata," has not been a problem this year.
RUSSIA: GRAIN CROPS HIT HARD BY COLD WEATHER
According to a report by the U.S. agricultural counselor in Moscow, wheat and coarse-grain production potential was reduced as a result of sub-freezing temperatures in southern European Russia during early May. Barley production suffered most and is estimated at 13.5 million tons, down 2.5 million from last month, but up 3.7 million from last year. Damage to wheat was less severe, with production estimated at 33.5 million tons, down 0.5 million from last month, but up 6.6 million from last year. Corn production is estimated at 1.8 million tons, down 0.2 million from last month, but up 1.0 million from last year. Damage was particularly severe in the Central Black Earth region, where grain yields are expected to fall by as much as 30 percent.
UKRAINE: GRAIN CROPS REDUCED DUE TO COLD WEATHER AND DISEASE
Wheat and coarse grain production are reduced based chiefly on a crop-condition assessment report and revised forecasts from the U.S. agricultural counselor in Kiev. Wheat production is forecast at 14.5 million tons, down 1.0 million from last month and down 0.4 million from last year. Barley production is forecast at 6.1 million tons, down 0.7 million from last month, but up 0.2 million from last year. Corn production is forecast at 3.4 million tons, down 0.3 million from last month, but up 1.1 million from last year. According to the report, an unexpected and significant amount of damage to grain fields in central and southern Ukraine was observed during crop travel. The damage resulted largely from two episodes of sub-freezing temperatures in early May. In addition to the cold-related damage, above-normal incidence of fungal disease was observed which resulted from the lack of a hard freeze during the past winter. Crop vigor continues to be negatively affected by inadequate application of fertilizer and plant-protection chemicals.
MALAYSIA: PALM OIL OUTPUT EXCEEDS EXPECTATIONS
Following unexpectedly large jumps in Malaysian palm oil production in March and April, marketing year 1998/99 output is estimated at a record 9.3 million tons, up 0.4 million from last month and up 0.6 million from the April estimate. The Malaysian Palm Oil Registration and Licensing Authority (PORLA) released data showing palm oil output rose 25 percent from February to March and 27 percent from March to April. This compares to seasonally normal month-to-month rises of 17 percent and 8 percent respectively. Reportedly, PORLA anticipates another strong increase in the month of May.
Yield and output declined sharply in 1997/98 following unusually dry weather in the last half of 1997, but yields are now recovering (more rapidly than expected). Better yields, a higher oil extraction rate, and an increase in harvested area have contributed to the growth in output. The improvement in yield in past results from an increase in area reaching peak production, especially in East Malaysia.
MEXICO: WEATHER AND CROP DEVELOPMENTS
The Government of Mexico has declared ten northern Mexico states (Baja California Sur, Chihuahua, Coahuilla, Durango, Nuevo Leon, San Luis Potosi , Sinaloa, Sonora, Tamaulipas, and Zacatecas) to be disaster zones, as all segments of agriculture in the region have been negatively impacted by insufficient rainfall. Reservoir holdings in the region have not returned to normal levels since the 1994-96 drought, and are now nearing the historic low levels of that period due to sparse precipitation since the end of the 1998 rainy season. Pastures are in poor condition to support livestock, and will require the timely arrival of July rainfall to avert further degradation in the region with the greatest concentration of grazing animals in the country.
USDA's estimate of Mexico's 1999/00 wheat production estimate is reduced this month from 3.3 million tons to 3.1 million tons, a month-to-month change of 6 percent. Area is reduced from 800,000 hectares to 750,000 hectares. The changes reflect persistent dry conditions and low reservoir levels in key states during the major wheat production cycle. In most years, measurable precipitation continues over northern Mexico for several weeks after the end of the rainy season (June to October). However, the north has experienced below-normal precipitation amounts since the end of the 1998 rainy season, and reservoir levels were not sufficient to support wheat planting intentions.
The outlook for cotton continues positive, as water allocations are reportedly set for the 1999 summer crop despite the low reservoir levels. Cotton fields across the north will be flowering in June, the period of greatest water uptake. If the water allocated is insufficient, yield losses will occur.
Prospects for 1999 summer corn and sorghum remain optimistic, as the major areas of production are south of the drought-stricken states, and not as reservoir-dependent. Additionally, farmers in the southern states have an April-July planting window, and can delay sowing beyond the normal planting date.
UNITED STATES: CROP CONDITION AND PROGRESS
May began with warmer, drier weather and gusty winds that rapidly removed excess moisture from soggy soils in the Corn Belt. The dry weather allowed corn planting to move ahead of the 5-year average for the first time this spring, as planters ran nearly around the clock for several days in many areas of the Corn Belt. Soybean planting remained slow, as the western Corn Belt concentrated on planting corn. In the eastern Corn Belt, especially in Ohio, soybean planting advanced more rapidly, as warmer, drier weather prevailed. Early-month thunderstorms that produced isolated hail, severe tornadoes, and heavy rains damaged some wheat fields in eastern Oklahoma and adjacent areas of Kansas and Missouri. The Tennessee Valley, and adjacent areas of the Southeast and lower Mississippi Valley, also received heavy rains that halted fieldwork and delayed planting. In the Atlantic Coastal Plains, planting progress lagged due to dry soils. Planting rapidly progressed in the lower Mississippi Valley despite rain delays in Mississippi. Persistent showers interrupted planting of small grains in the northern Great Plains, while drier weather aided planting in the High Plains and northern Rockies. Interior areas of the Pacific Northwest remained unfavorably dry, but crops steadily developed in California, despite a resumption of below-normal temperatures.
Corn and soybean planting remained ahead of normal as the month progressed despite additional rain delays in the western Corn Belt near mid-month. Warm weather aided crop development in the eastern Corn Belt, while the rain in the western Corn Belt softened crusted soils and allowed sprouted seeds to emerge. Storms in the southern Great Plains kept soils excessively wet in western Missouri and eastern parts of Kansas and Oklahoma. In the northern Great Plains, planting delays continued due to additional rainfall and poor drying conditions, while below-normal temperatures hindered development of seeded crops. Seasonable temperatures aided wheat development in the eastern Corn Belt and central and southern Great Plains. In the Atlantic Coastal Plains, planting accelerated after soils dried from earlier showers. Cotton planting was aided by dry, sunny weather in the Southeast and inland areas of the lower Mississippi Valley. Soaking rains provided much-needed moisture for planting and crop development along the western Gulf Coast. In the Pacific Northwest, dry soils continued to stress small grains, while cool weather hindered growth.
Thunderstorms continued to delay planting in the western Corn Belt and adjacent areas of the central and southern Great Plains until well after mid-month. Hail, erosion, flooding, and standing water associated with the severe storms damaged crops in parts of Iowa, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Lighter rainfall in the eastern Corn Belt and lower Mississippi Valley caused minimal planting delays, while providing good moisture for crop development. In the Northeast, soaking rains temporarily eased drought conditions in most areas, but coastal areas of the middle and southern Atlantic Coast States remained excessively dry. Planting was hindered by dry soils in many areas of the Southeast, especially Georgia which received no significant rainfall, while eastern and southern Texas received timely showers that boosted crop development. Dry weather aided planting and seasonable temperatures promoted crop development in the central High Plains, while wet conditions lingered in parts of the northern Great Plains. In the Pacific Northwest, drought conditions hindered development of nonirrigated small grains. Field activities progressed normally in California, and most crops rapidly developed, as dry, seasonal weather prevailed.
Dry, sunny weather removed excess soil moisture in many areas of the Corn Belt and northern Great Plains late in the month, allowing many growers to finish planting corn and soybeans. By the end of the month, corn planting was nearly finished and soybean planting was ahead of normal. Dry weather also aided planting in the Southeast and Atlantic Coastal Plains, but severe moisture shortages hindered crop emergence and stunted growth. Heavy rains delayed planting in the southern Great Plains late in the month. Hail and strong winds associated with the thunderstorms damaged some wheat fields and row crops in Texas and parts of Oklahoma. Crops were stressed by continued drought conditions in the Pacific Northwest. In California, dry conditions aided fieldwork and warmer weather accelerated crop development.
As the month came to an end, corn was 96 percent and soybeans were 71 percent planted. Eighty percent of the corn acreage and 37 percent of the soybean crop was emerged. Planting and emergence of both crops equaled or exceeded the normal pace in most of the Corn Belt. Eighty percent of the winter wheat crop was headed and 2 percent of the acreage was harvested at month's end, near the normal pace for both stages. Cotton planting, at 82 percent, and cotton squaring, at 7 percent, were near the 5-year averages. Rice planting was nearly complete, at 98 percent, and 93 percent was emerged, well ahead of the average and last year's slow pace. Planting and emergence of small grains lagged behind the 5-year averages. Spring wheat was 85 percent planted and 65 percent emerged. Barley was 83 percent planted and 63 percent emerged. Oats were 91 percent planted and 83 percent emerged. Sorghum planting also lagged behind normal, as 44 percent was planted by the end of the month. The peanut crop was 90 percent planted, compared with 82 percent last year.
FEATURE COMMODITY ARTICLES
FOREIGN RICE CROP OUTLOOK FOR 1999/2000
This article presents early indications of the 1999/2000 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 together with analysis from Washington DC-based USDA staff. The first official USDA forecast of individual countries' area, yield, and production will be released July 12, 1999. The 1999/00 total foreign rice production is forecast at a record 383.0 million tons (milled-basis), up 7.0 million or 2 percent from 1998/99. The projected record output is based on a slight increase in total area and assumes normal weather in all growing areas. Record or near-record crops are expected in the major producing countries, and large or record crops are projected for all major exporting countries as well. For rice currently being planted in Asia, rainfall has been adequate and timely, allowing producers to plant their crops without delays.
China: For 1999/00, rice area in China is projected to be similar to last year. However, early-rice area is expected to decline for several reasons, including low demand, excessive stocks, poor quality, and increased interest in corn and other alternative crops in southern China. Recently, the Government announce reforms to reduce prices and procurement for low-quality early rice and encourage the production of higher-quality single and late rice.
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. Single-crop rice accounts for about half of China's total output, with the remainder divided equally between early and late rice. The majority of China's rice (mainly indica) is produced in the Yangtze River Valley and southern China, although an increasing amount of high-quality japonica rice is produced in northern provinces, particularly Heilongjiang. The weather this spring has been generally favorable for vegetative early-season rice and single-rice planting, although cold temperatures may have slowed rice sowing in Heilongjiang.
Japan: For the 1999/00 crop season, Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries announced that it would continue its rice area diversion program aimed at reducing the country's huge domestic stocks. A total of 963,000 hectares of paddy (out of a potential 2.68 million hectares) will be diverted to other crops or left unplanted in 1999, the same amount as last year. Stock levels are expected to fall in 1999/00 (April / March), but they will still be above the Government target of 1.5 to 2.0 million tons.
India: Rice area in India for 1999/00 is expected to increase slightly. The higher returns and the option of farmers selling to the Government at the support price makes rice an important cash crop in Punjab, Haryana, and West Uttar Pradesh. The primary determinant of 1999/00 rice production is the performance of the summer monsoon rains which will begin in June and continue through August.
Eighty to ninety percent of India's rice crop is planted at some point during the monsoon season. The rice crop is predominantly rain fed except in the states of Punjab and Haryana in the north and Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu in the south. In these states, high-yielding seed varieties are planted and fertilizer use is near optimum. However, at the national level fertilizer use is much lower. The Government recently increased the price of urea by 11 percent which could have an adverse impact on the 1999/00 yield, as rice is India's largest urea consuming crop. The southwest monsoon has recently started again for the 11th consecutive year and is providing beneficial planting rainfall.
Bangladesh: The 1999/00 rice area in Bangladesh will be influenced by prevailing rice and jute prices. Rice is the most important food grain in Bangladesh and is a three-season crop which occupies nearly three-fourths of the cultivated area. Rice area has declined slightly over the last few years and now appears to have stabilized near 10.0 million hectares. About 70 percent of the crop is non-irrigated and is very dependent on monsoon rains. Seasonal shifts in planting have occurred with more of the rice planted in the Boro season and less in the Aus season. The summer crop is more vulnerable to drought and flooding, while the spring crop is largely irrigated and benefits from winter's less volatile weather.
Pakistan: Pakistan's 1999/00 rice area is expected to be similar to the 1998/99 level. The returns for rice production likely will remain attractive relative to competing crops, mainly sugarcane and cotton, therefore a reduction in area is unlikely. Also, the composition of varieties is expected to remain fairly steady--about 50 percent of rice area is expect to be Basmati and the remainder will consist of IRRI and other local varieties. Government of Pakistan encourages rice production by supplying fertilizer, seeds, and irrigation to growers. This support is limited as it has declined in recent years as part of ongoing International Monetary Funds reforms. The MY 1999/00 procurement price is expected to be announced around planting time (May/June), although the Government has not significantly procured rice since 1995.
Thailand: Rice area for 1999/2000 in Thailand is likely to be slightly higher than the 1998/99 level. Rice prices are currently favorable in Thailand compared with other agricultural products. The current high prices should encourage farmers to take good care of their crops, which will support yield prospects. 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 will be planted in January - February 2000 and harvested from June - August 2000. Widespread rainfall over the past month has maintained moisture supplies for rice.
Burma: Rice area in Burma for 1999/2000 is forecast above the 5.6 million hectares of 1998/99. The increased area is expected to come from reclaimed fallow and virgin lands from the Irrawaddy and Rangoon divisions. 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. The arrival of the southwest monsoon has resulted in timely planting for the main-season crop. However, yield for the coming season for both the main and second crops will continue to be constrained by inferior seed quality and the high price of inputs.
Indonesia: Rice area in Indonesia is expected to expand in 1999/2000, assuming the economy continues to improve and the crop benefits from normal weather. Producers have been trying to increase yield in recent years by using higher yielding varieties, improving planting and harvesting practices, and increasing irrigation. However, rising prices for inputs due to the economic crisis made these projects difficult and progress has been mixed. About 55 percent of the total crop is produced on Java and nearly 25 percent on Sumatra. Planting of the 1999/2000 crop begins this fall.
Vietnam: Rice harvested area in Vietnam is likely to increase slightly as the Government tries to maintain the production base in an effort to encourage exports. Actual yield will depend upon the level of input use and the performance of the monsoon rains. Over the last three years, yield has been steady to marginally higher. Vietnam has three rice crops: 10th month, winter-spring, and summer-autumn. The 10th month crop marks the first of the 1999/2000 rice crops and will be planted in September.
Timothy Rocke, Foreign Grains Production Chairman
Telephone: (202) 720-1572
Jim Crutchfield, South Asia Analyst
Telephone: (202) 690-0135
Paulette Sandene, China, Japan Analyst
Telephone: (202) 690-0133
Suzanne Miller, Southeast Asia Analyst
Telephone: (202) 720-0882
SOUTH AFRICA GRAIN AND OILSEED SITUATION
South Africa's 1998/99 grain production is forecast to decline by nearly 25 percent from last season as corn and sorghum yields dropped significantly due to drought. Wheat output also fell by 38 percent due to reduced planted area. However, production of oilseeds, particularly sunflowerseed, increased because of higher planted area and near-normal yield. Planting conditions for 1999/00 winter crops (wheat and barley) are generally favorable and average yields are forecast.
Corn: Corn production for 1998/99 in South Africa is estimated at 6.3 million tons, down 1.2 million from 1997/98 and down 30 percent from the 10-year average. The total output includes an estimated 5.9 million tons from commercial farms and 0.4 million from the subsistence sector. The estimated yield of 2.17 tons per hectare is below the 10-year average and the lowest yield since 1994/95, when South Africa experienced a major drought. Harvested corn area is estimated at 2.9 million hectares, down slightly from 1997/98 and the lowest area in more than 20 years due to the market deregulation of South Africa's grain industry. In 1999/00, corn area is forecast to increase to 3.0 million hectares and production is expected to reach 8.0 million tons given normal yield. Planting for the 1999/00 crop will begin in October 1999.
Most of South Africa's corn is grown in the provinces of Free State (33 - 36 percent), North West (25 percent) and Mpumalanga (25 percent) which, with Gauteng, form a crop region known as the Maize Triangle. The subsistence crop is mainly produced on marginal agricultural land in Eastern Cape, Northern Province, and KwaZulu-Natal. Two types of corn are grown in South Africa -- white corn (63 percent) which is used for human consumption, and yellow corn (37 percent) which is used mostly as animal feed.
The 1998/99 crop season started well. Rainfall was abundant in South Africa through December 1998 and soil moisture for planting and germination was very good. Farmers anticipated high yields given normal weather through the remainder of the growing season. However, the weather turned increasingly dry in January and vegetative and reproducing crops began to experience stress. In late February and early March, a period of hot and very dry weather caused major crop losses in parts of the Maize Triangle. The worst damage occurred in western areas, where some crops were completely destroyed. Losses were smaller in the eastern part of the Maize Triangle and consisted mainly of stunted development and low grain weight. Cooler temperatures and scattered showers in late March stabilized the situation in the eastern half of the country, and warm, dry weather in April aided the maturation of summer crops. Corn harvesting began in April, but most of the harvest will occur in June - July after the crop is allowed to dry in the fields.
Wheat: Wheat production in South Africa is concentrated in Free State (45 - 50 percent) and Cape Province (35 - 40 percent). Output dropped sharply in 1998/99 to 1.5 million tons, down 0.9 million or 38 percent from the previous year and is the smallest crop since 1992/93. Area was down by nearly 50 percent to 750,000 hectares, the second-lowest area in 20 years, but estimated yield is the second-highest on record at 2.04 tons per hectare. Farmers reduced planted area in 1998/99 for several reasons, including high input costs, poor prices, competition from high-quality imported wheat, and large carryover stocks.
The same economic conditions that led to lower wheat area in 1998/99 affected the 1999/00 crop as well. According to a government planting survey, farmers originally planned to cut wheat area by 18 percent, but improved moisture conditions in Cape Province and higher import duties on wheat encouraged additional planting. Area for 1999/00 is estimated at 750,000 hectares, equal to last year, and production is forecast to reach 1.4 million tons. Wheat planting is now underway and should be finished by the end of July.
Other grains: Other grains account for less than 5 percent of South Africa's total grain output. Production of barley and oats, used mainly as feed grain, have remained relatively stable for several years. Barley output reached 215,000 tons in 1998/99 and a similar crop is expected in 1999/00. Area and production of oats also is expected to hold steady at last year's levels. Sorghum is grown throughout the Maize Triangle and used as a feed grain or for brewing beer. Production in 1998/99 is estimated at 150,000 tons, down more than 40 percent from the previous year due to drought-reduced yields and lower planted area. Sorghum area has declined dramatically in recent years as farmers switched to more-profitable and higher-yielding crops such as sunflowers. A return to normal yields in 1999/00 is expected to raise sorghum production to 200,000 tons.
Oilseeds: Oilseeds are playing an increasingly important role in South Africa's agricultural sector. Farmers responded to the demise of the controlled marketing system by planting less grain and more alternative crops such as oilseeds and cotton. Total oilseed area (sunflowerseed, soybeans, cottonseed, and peanuts) reached an estimated 1.2 million hectares in 1998/99, and yield is above the 5-year average despite the summer drought. Total production is estimated at a record 1.4 million tons, but even this large crop will be unable to meet South Africa's oil and protein requirements.
The largest oilseed crop is sunflowerseed, which is grown primarily in Free State (50 percent) and North West (33 percent). High prices, strong markets, and the poor grain situation led farmers to make a radical swing to sunflower cultivation in 1998/99. Area expanded by more than 60 percent to 828,000 hectares, the highest on record, and production is estimated up nearly 70 percent, to 945,000 tons. Area is expected to decline in 1999 because of disappointing producer prices and higher relative corn prices.
Soybean area has been expanding steadily since 1993/94 and the trend is likely to continue. Production in 1998/99 is estimated at 175,000 tons, down 11 percent from the record set in 1997/98 due to reduced yield. Peanut area has historically fluctuated according to weather conditions at planting. Area dropped almost 40 percent to 59,000 hectares in 1997/98 due to El Nino, but it rebounded in 1998/99 to 95,000 hectares-- production is estimated at 145,000 tons. Cotton area increased by 26 percent in 1998/99 to 150,000 hectares, and cottonseed production is expected to reach a record 105,000 tons.
Paulette Sandene, South Africa Analyst
Telephone: (202) 690-0133
MEXICO OILSEED SITUATION
Production of the four major oilseeds (cottonseed, peanuts, soybeans, and sunflowerseeds) in Mexico for 1998/99 is estimated at 605,000 tons, down 63,000 tons or 9 percent from last year. In addition, Mexico produced 212,000 tons of copra (up 4 percent from last year) and minor amounts of palm oil and palm kernel. Harvested area for the four major oilseeds is estimated at 410,000 hectares, down 21,000 hectares or 5 percent from last year. Oilseed producers remain constrained by poor credit circumstances, unfavorable weather, and unattractive prices. Output is down 50 percent from the late 1980's despite Government of Mexico (GOM) initiatives. The single largest negative factor to affect farmers at the local level in the second half of this decade has been dryness.
A multi-year drought across Mexico that started in 1994 and ended in 1996 was followed by near-normal weather in 1997. But the 1997 winter, normally a period of low precipitation, was followed by a dry 1998 spring where some rainfall, though light in intensity and duration, was received. The anticipated relief of the annual summer monsoon was delayed, exacerbating a situation where the soil profile was already dry, and this negatively impacted the oilseed crops.
Cottonseed: Cottonseed area is estimated at 230,000 hectares, up 25,000 hectares or 11 percent from a year ago. However, production remained constant at 337,000 tons, while yield declined by 11 percent from 1.64 to 1.47 tons per hectare. The potential for greater profit in corn combined with what industry participants characterized as an inadequate support program by GOM pushed farmers toward crops other than cotton, despite strong demand at the start of 1998/99. The major producing states of Baja California, Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Sonora represent 70 to 85 percent of Mexico's annual production. These semi-arid northern states are heavily dependent upon irrigation water for cotton production. The 1998 summer monsoon, that annually restores the sources of the irrigated water, was a month late in its southeast-to-northwest- progression across Mexico and did not arrive in the northern states until July. By then, many farmers had shifted into more drought-tolerant crops such as sorghum and cotton. Although cotton area increased, yield was lower due to late planting.
Copra: Copra production is estimated at 212,000 tons, up 9,000 tons or 4 percent from last year. Output has been fairly stable for the last 5 years.
Palm Oil and Kernel: Production of palm oil in Mexico is estimated at 10,000 tons in 1998/99, up 3,000 from the previous year, while palm kernel production is estimated at 3,000 tons, up 1,000 tons. Promoters of the palm oil industry in Mexico have been disappointed by the rate of increase, nonetheless, it appears this minor industry has been expanding.
Peanut: Peanut production in Mexico is estimated at 120,000 tons, down 17,000 tons or 12 percent from last year. Area is estimated at 85,000 hectares, down 7,000 hectares or 8 percent from last year. Though marketplace demand at the outset seemed to assure improved return on investment, a prolonged period of intense heat and dryness preceding the late-arriving summer monsoon adversely affected northern fields in Chihuahua and Sinaloa. In Chiapas and Oaxaca, summer fires and untimely rains during September-through-November curbed productivity. Summer production represents better than 95 percent of Mexico's annual output.
Soybean: Mexico's soybean production is estimated at 143,000 tons, down 46,000 tons or 24 percent from last year. Area is estimated at 89,000 hectares, down 39,000 hectares or 30 percent from last year. Once Mexico's primary oilseed, soybeans have declined dramatically since the mid-80s, an apparent casualty of that nation's economic recession and diminished irrigation resources. In Sinaloa and Sonora during the 1980s, large summer-irrigated fields of soybean would become irrigated fields of wheat in winter. The demand for water to support winter wheat during dry years caused producers to turn to other crops such as cotton, a less moisture-demanding plant. By the end of the 3-year drought in 1996, some states ceased to plant soybeans in any significant amount, and irrigated soybean fields constituted less than 20 percent of all summer season soybean fields in that year. Summer soybean production represents less than 5 percent of Mexico's annual production since 1996.
A rebound in soybean planted area occurred in1997/98 due to improved water availability and high feed demand from the hog, poultry, and dairy industries that were attempting to recover from the drought. Also, the GOM's
program (PROCAMPO) to move farmers toward a world market orientation was a factor in the upturn in soybean production due to direct payments to farmers on a per-hectare basis. Output in 1998/99 was limited by a dryer-than-normal winter and spring in the north, and the delayed arrival of the summer monsoon. The southern states (including Chiapas and Campeche) experienced summer fires followed by heavy rains late in the growing season that reduced potentially high yield.
Sunflowerseed: Sunflowerseed production and area in Mexico are estimated at 5,000 tons and 6,000 hectares, respectively, the same as last year. A state which produces sunflowerseed is Tamaulipas, which increased output after the 1994 - 1996 drought, producing 1,200 tons during the 1997/98 harvest. Coahulia was the sole other northern state to produce measurable sunflowerseed in recent years. Tamaulipas and Coahulia grow sunflowers mostly during the summer, under irrigation. The last 2 years, Sonora has returned to producing sunflowerseeds as a winter irrigated crop. The states of Morelos and Nayarit, in the south, regularly produce sunflowerseed during the winter season.
1998/99 ESTIMATES FOR MEXICAN OILSEEDS
Ron White, Mexico Analyst
Phone: (202) 690-0137