In the United States, a reduction in wheat output is in prospect in 1998. Latest official estimates put overall winter wheat plantings at 18.9 million hectares, 4 percent down from last year, while the March USDA Prospective Plantings Report forecasts spring wheat plantings also to decline by 10 percent to some 8 million hectares. However, the winter wheat crop has benefited from generally favourable weather conditions. Unseasonably mild temperatures and adequate soil moisture conditions are reported over the major winter wheat-producing states. Assuming the expected reduction in spring plantings materializes, even if normal growing conditions prevail for the rest of the growing season, the aggregate 1998 wheat output in the United States is tentatively forecast to fall to about 62.6 million tonnes, compared to almost 69 million tonnes in 1997. Some early coarse grain crops are already planted and emerging in southern parts, but the bulk of the maize planting in the major Corn Belt states takes place from late April. Early indications in the USDA Prospective Plantings Report point to a further slight increase in maize plantings this year, to about 32.7 million hectares (32.5 million hectares in 1997). Allowing for a normal ratio of harvested to planted area, and assuming yields are on trend, the 1998 maize output could be expected to increase by some 3 or 4 percent. With regard to the rice crop, which is normally planted around March/April, early official indications point to a slight increase in area to 1.3 million hectares.