Prospects for the 1998 wheat crop remain generally satisfactory. Recent above-normal temperatures have promoted rapid growth and development is ahead of normal in most parts. As of early June the winter wheat harvest was just beginning in southern parts. Aggregate (winter and spring) wheat output is officially forecast at 64.1 million tonnes, down 7 percent from 1997 but above the average of the past five years. The smaller output reflects an estimated 3 percent reduction expected in overall harvested area, and slightly lower yields after last year's record levels.
With regard to coarse grains, planting conditions have been generally favourable this spring and, as of early June, maize planting was reported to be virtually completed, slightly ahead of normal. Assuming yields are on trend, the 1998 maize output is expected to increase by about 4 percent. Aggregate 1998 coarse grains output in the United States is forecast at 270 million tonnes, compared to 265.6 million tonnes in 1997.
Planting of the 1998 paddy crop is underway and a modest increase in area of about 1 percent from the previous year to 1.23 million hectares is forecast. Farmers in California, Louisiana and Missouri intend to plant more than in 1997, reflecting favourable rice prices relative to other crops, while the rice area in Mississippi and Arkansas is likely to remain unchanged. By contrast, area planted to rice in Texas is expected to continue its downward trend, reflecting the relatively high production costs in the state. Total paddy output is forecast to increase by about 2 percent from 1997 to 8.3 million tonnes.