Prospects for the 1998 cereal crops are favourable. The majority of the winter wheat crops have now been planted, and contrary to earlier expectations, the area sown has increased from the previous year following widespread rain in April and May which eased farmers fears over insufficient soil moisture. The total area planted to wheat is officially estimated at about 11.1 million hectares, up from 10.84 million hectares planted in 1997, and assuming normal growing condition through to harvest, wheat output is now forecast at 19.3 million tonnes, up from 18.5 million tonnes in 1997. With regard to coarse grains, the rains in April and May provided a very good start to the planting season in most parts, however, a continuing poor price outlook for coarse grains in expected to result in plantings falling by eight percent to 3.9 million hectares. The largest contraction is expected to occur in the area sown to barley. Assuming normal weather through to harvest, total winter coarse grains production in 1998 is forecast to fall by 9 percent to 6.9 million tonnes. The paddy harvest is nearing completion and output is forecast at 1.2 million tonnes in 1998, down by 14 percent from the previous year.