Following good rains in October, which prompted early planting of winter grains, rainfall has been insufficient since December in western and central parts of the country. Continued dryness in these areas has somewhat depleted soil moisture reserves and increased stress on crops. Overall however, prospects for the 1998 harvest in May/June appear to be favourable so far, although timely rains are still needed for the remainder of the growing season in the western and central areas. Scattered adult desert locusts may be present in few places in the central and southern Sahara. These may breed in areas of recent rainfall or run-off.
As a result of unfavourable weather conditions, production of cereals in 1997 dropped to about 1.08 million tonnes from a record 4.6 million tonnes in 1996. Cereal imports in 1997/98 (July/June) are forecast at about 5.5 million tonnes.