April 2009

Global crop production review, 2008

 Prepared by the Joint Agricultural Weather Facility of the US Department of Agriculture


The following is an annual review of regional crop production, comparing 2008 with the previous year. For both the northern and the southern hemisphere, these summaries reflect growing-season weather for crops that were harvested in the calendar year of 2008. Unless otherwise noted, statistics quoted are based on crop estimates released by the United States Department of Agriculture in February 2009.

Wheat and coarse grain summary

In 2008, global wheat production rose 12 per cent from 2007. Production increased in the USA, Canada, Russian Federation, Ukraine, China, India, Turkey, Morocco, Brazil, Australia and most of the major producing countries in the European Union. Wheat production declined in Argentina, Islamic Republic of Iran, Kazakhstan and Pakistan. The country-level changes in 2008 wheat production from 2007 are shown in Figure 1. Global coarse grain production rose 2 per cent in 2008. Production increases in the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Turkey, China, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, Australia and most of the major producing countries in the European Union offset production declines in the USA, Canada, Argentina and India.

wheat production  

Figure 1 — Change in wheat production by country (2008 versus 2007)

In the USA, wheat production increased 22 per cent from 2007, with production totals up for all major classes of wheat (winter, spring and durum). Durum production was up 18 per cent from 2007, despite lower yields in all production states except California. A much larger harvested area (22 per cent above last year) accounted for the rise in durum production. Spring wheat production climbed 14 per cent from 2007, with higher yields reported in all states except Colorado, Oregon, Utah and Washington. Winter wheat production, up 25 per cent from the previous year, exhibited the largest increase among wheat classes. Growing conditions were favourable in all major winter wheat production areas. Hard red winter wheat production was up 8 per cent from 2007, despite a smaller planted acreage. The hard red winter wheat growing season was dramatically better in Oklahoma, where production was up 70 per cent from the previous year. Soft red winter wheat production showed a phenomenal 74 per cent increase from 2007, when an April freeze severely damaged the crop. White winter wheat production was up 14 per cent from last year. Meanwhile, US corn production was down 7 per cent from 2007. However, US production was second only to last year’s record high. The US corn yield also attained the second-highest level on record (3.91 tonnes per hectare, versus 4.07 in 2004).

In Canada, wheat production rose over 40 per cent on the combination of higher yields and area. In Ontario, timely showers in the autumn of 2007 created nearly ideal planting conditions, reportedly leading producers to plant a record level of winter wheat acreage. Generally favourable growing conditions, including limited instances of frost damage and pressure from disease and pests, favoured high yields. Most Prairie farming areas recovered from a drought that began to develop during the summer of 2007 (Figure 2), supporting higher spring wheat yields, although pockets of unfavourable dryness persisted in Alberta’s central and northern growing areas. In contrast, coarse grain production fell slightly on reduced area. Production of corn, primarily grown in Ontario, fell 9 per cent despite higher yields. Prairie barley production rose 7 per cent as vastly improved yields offset a more than 10 per cent reduction in acreage.

rainfall comparisons  

Figure 2 — Summer rainfall comparisons (2008 vs. 2007) for southeastern farming areas of Saskatchew


In the European Union, wheat production was up over 25 per cent. Gains of 19 per cent or more were noted in the region’s top three producers (France, Germany and the United Kingdom). Favourable spring rainfall and a lack of winterkill were in sharp contrast to last year’s untimely spring freeze and drought, greatly improving winter grain yields. In the Balkans, where excessive dryness and heat slashed last year’s winter wheat production, a remarkable turn around was noted in Bulgaria (80 per cent) and Romania (150 per cent). Likewise, Europe’s coarse grain production rose 17 per cent; increases of more than 90 per cent were reported in Romania and Hungary, while more modest improvements were observed in France and Germany (16 and 21 per cent, respectively).

In the Russian Federation, total wheat production rose 29 per cent in 2008, mainly due to a significant increase in winter wheat production. The combination of highly favourable weather along with a 20 per cent year-to-year increase in winter wheat area resulted in record winter wheat production (up 52 per cent). Winter wheat is mostly grown in the Southern District and southern areas of the Central and Volga Districts. In the autumn of 2007, timely showers and unseasonably mild weather benefited winter wheat emergence and establishment. The mild weather promoted later-than-usual plant growth prior to dormancy. Overwintering conditions were mostly favourable for winter wheat. However, there was a period of very cold weather from 4 to 12 January that stressed the crop. Despite the cold weather in early January, crop losses due to winterkill were below average. In March, a sharp rise in temperatures caused rapid snowmelt and the winter wheat crop broke dormancy 2 to 3 weeks earlier than usual. Above-normal precipitation fell in the wake of winter dryness, boosting soil moisture reserves. The combination of timely rains along with a lack of stressful heat during the reproductive and filling periods in May and June resulted in a 26 per cent increase in winter wheat yield.

Growing-season weather conditions for spring wheat were mixed and less favourable than those for the winter wheat crop. Spring wheat is grown from the Volga District eastward through the Siberia District. In May, periods of warm, dry weather allowed rapid spring grain planting in most areas. During the growing season, generally favourable weather benefited spring wheat development in the central Volga District, most of the Urals and northern Siberia. Elsewhere, periodic heat and dryness stressed the crop and lowered yield prospects, especially in the eastern Volga District and southern areas in the Siberia District. Overall, spring wheat yield and production were only slightly lower than 2007 but higher than the averages for the previous five years (2003-2007). Russian coarse grain production increased 39 per cent, mainly due to favourable weather in most areas where rye, barley and corn are grown. Rye production rose 15 per cent, while barley and corn production rose 48 and 67 per cent, respectively.

In Ukraine, wheat production rose sharply in 2008, increasing 86 per cent from the previous year’s drought-reduced crop. Most of the wheat grown in Ukraine consists of winter varieties. In the fall of 2007, the combination of near- to above-normal precipitation and above-normal temperatures favoured winter wheat emergence and establishment. Winter wheat entered dormancy in late November, 1-2 weeks later than usual. During the winter, unseasonably mild weather provided favourable overwintering conditions for winter wheat, although well-below-normal precipitation limited moisture recharge. Crop losses due to winterkill were well below average. In March, unseasonably mild weather prompted winter wheat to break dormancy about 2-3 weeks earlier than usual. Above-normal precipitation in March and April followed winter dryness, boosting soil moisture for winter grain development. In May, widespread showers and cool weather boosted yield prospects for winter wheat as it advanced through the reproductive phase of development.  Overall, wheat yields increased sharply (57 per cent) from the previous year. Favourable weather also led to a significant increase in coarse grain production (80 per cent). Growing-season weather was markedly improved over the previous year (Figure 3), leading to increases in barley (110 per cent) and corn (54 per cent) production.


Figure 3 — Comparison of seasonal cumulative rainfall during the 2007 and 2008 growing seasons (March to October) in Ukraine

In Kazakhstan, spring grains (mostly spring wheat and spring barley) historically account for about 95 per cent of total grain production. Most of the wheat (96 per cent) consists of spring varieties, while spring barley typically accounts for about 80 per cent of Kazakhstan’s coarse grain production. In 2008, growing-season weather conditions in major spring grain producing areas of north-central Kazakhstan were less favourable than the ideal weather conditions of the previous year. Periods of heat and dryness during the growing season led to a 25 per cent decrease in wheat production and a 23 per cent decrease in coarse grain production.  However, wheat and coarse grain production were only slightly below their averages for the previous five years (2003-2007).

In the Middle East, drought in eastern growing areas contrasted with generally favourable weather farther west. Turkish winter wheat production increased 8 per cent from 2007 due to timely spring rainfall, although dryness began to grip the region as crops neared maturity. In the Islamic Republic of Iran, expanding drought cut wheat production 33 per cent, while extreme drought in the Syria Arab Republic depleted soil-moisture and irrigation reserves, resulting in substantial crop losses (down 50 per cent versus last year). The same drought also adversely impacted winter wheat in northern Iraq, with remote-sensing data indicating extreme stress on vegetation in primary winter wheat areas.

In north-western Africa, a marked turnaround from last year’s drought resulted in substantial improvement in crop yields. Moroccan wheat production shot up by more than 120 per cent, while barley production increased almost 60 per cent. Despite the favourable weather nearly region-wide, late-season dryness returned to southern Morocco, trimming crop expectations somewhat (Figure 4).

southern morocco  

Figure 4 — Comparison of seasonal cumulative rainfall during the 2006/07 and 2007/08 winter-spring growing seasons (September to May) in southern Morocco

In China, wheat production rose 3 per cent from 2007 based on adequate irrigation and favourable harvest weather. Abundant rainfall across major corn-producing areas aided yield increases compared to the reduced crop of 2007. As a result, production increased nearly 10 per cent.

In India, wheat production rose 3 per cent courtesy of elevated yields due to favourable winter and spring weather. Conversely, Indian coarse grain production declined (8 per cent) as a result of a late monsoon onset in central India as well as a 2 per cent drop in total area planted. In Pakistan, wheat production fell 8 per cent from last year due to spring dryness and freezes, which adversely impacted reproductive crops.

In the southern hemisphere, 2008 Australian wheat production increased 46 per cent relative to 2007 estimates, while barley production declined 3 per cent. In Western Australia, near- to above-normal rainfall throughout most of the growing season benefited winter grains. Although dry weather during August was unfavourable for jointing winter grains, abundant rainfall during September and October was timely for reproductive to filling crops, helping offset the negative impacts of the August dryness.

Farther east, near-normal autumn and early winter rainfall spurred winter grain emergence in South Australia and Victoria, while relatively dry weather in southern New South Wales delayed planting and slowed germination. The unwelcome dryness expanded throughout much of south-eastern Australia as winter grains advanced through the reproductive and filling stages of development, causing winter wheat and barley production in this region to fall well short of potential for the third consecutive year. Dry weather also caused some planting delays in northern New South Wales and Queensland, but generally favourable weather aided winter wheat development during the remainder of the growing season.

In South Africa, corn production jumped 80 per cent from the 2006/2007 season due to a combination of abundant growing season rainfall (Figure 5) and an area increase of about 400 000 ha. Yields averaged nearly 60 per cent higher than those recorded in the markedly drier previous growing season (3.99 tonnes per hectare versus 2.52 for the 2006/2007 growing season).

south africa cornbelt  


Figure 5 —  Comparison of seasonal cumulative rainfall during the 2006/07 and 2007/08 growing seasons (September to May) in the South African corn belt

In Argentina, corn production fell about 7 per cent, as higher area failed to offset a reduction in yield caused by periods of untimely summer heat and dryness. Yields were about 20 per cent lower than those obtained during the exceptionally good 2006/2007 season (6.40 tonnes per hectare versus 8.04). In contrast, corn production in Brazil rose nearly 15 per cent, due partly to favourable late-season weather conditions that improved production of the winter (safrinha) corn crop over that of the previous season (Figure 6).

mato grosso  





Figure 6 — Comparison of late-season rainfall accumulations (March to May) during the 2006/07 and 2007/08 growing seasons in Mato Grosso, Brazil

Argentine wheat production fell more than 40 per cent from that harvested at the end of 2007 due to a severe drought that began during the autumn planting season and lasted well into the spring. Wheat production rose for a second year in Brazil, despite untimely wetness that hampered harvesting toward the end of 2008.

Oilseed summary

Global oilseed production rose 4 per cent in 2008. Production increased in the USA, Canada, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Indonesia, Pakistan, China, Brazil and most countries in the European Union, and declined in Turkey and Argentina.

In North America, US soybean production was the fourth highest on record, up 11 per cent from 2007. A lower soybean yield (5 per cent below last year) was more than offset by a record-high harvested area (16 per cent above 2007). Canadian oilseed production rose nearly 30 per cent. Production of soybeans, mostly produced in Ontario, rose over 20 per cent due to better growing season weather and a slight area increase. Similarly, canola production jumped over 30 per cent from 2007 as the impact of long-term drought diminished in key production areas of the Prairies.

In the European Union, oilseed production improved 11 per cent. Minor area-related decreases in Germany, the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic were more than offset by production gains in the Balkans (Romania and Hungary up 86 and 39 per cent, respectively) as well as the European Union’s largest oilseed producer, France (up 7 per cent). Rapeseed production improved 3 per cent despite a 5 per cent drop in area planted due to favourable overwintering conditions and abundant spring rainfall.

In the Russian Federation and Ukraine, sunflower production rose 30 and 55 per cent, respectively, in 2008. Mostly favourable weather during the growing season and autumn harvest period along with an increase in harvested area led to the production increases in both countries.

In China, soybean planting increased in 2008 after area was reduced last year in favour of planting corn. Adequate rainfall in Manchuria and on the North China Plain raised yields and consequently production rose 20 per cent from 2007. Similarly, a major increase in planted area helped boost rapeseed production nearly 10 per cent above that of last year, despite a series of severe winter storms that clipped yields slightly.

In India, total oilseed production increased 5 per cent from 2007. Of note, winter rapeseed production was up 21 per cent from last year, which was attributed to favourable rainfall and an increase in crop yield. Summer oilseed production increased due to near- to above-normal monsoon rainfall as well as an increase in area planted. In particular, 8 per cent gains were reported for soybeans and peanuts, while a modest decline (1 per cent) was noted in sunflower production.

Brazilian oilseed production rose slightly, due mainly to a 3 per cent rise in soybean acreage, with yields virtually unchanged from the previous season. Brazil harvested a record 61 million tonnes of soybeans in 2008, despite one of the latest starts to the rainy season in recent years in many key production areas. In contrast, oilseed production in Argentina dropped slightly, fuelled by a drop in soybean production of more than 46.2 million tonnes versus 48.80 in 2007). Lower yields due to summer dryness in central Argentina (Figure 7) failed to offset a modest increase in acreage.






Figure 7 — Comparison of seasonal cumulative rainfall during the 2006/07 and 2007/08 growing seasons (October to May) in Cordoba, Argentina


Rice summary

World rice production rose 2 per cent in 2008. Rice production was higher than 2007 levels in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, China and most of South-East Asia.

In China and across South-East Asia, rice production rose slightly based on generally favourable growing conditions and increased area. However, production dipped in Viet Nam and Myanmar, where Tropical Cyclone Nargis caused extensive damage to the main growing area (Figure 8). Increases in rice production were noted across South Asia.


Figure 8 — Comparison of land area on May 1, 2007 and flooded areas on May 5, 2008, after Tropical Cyclone Nargis made landfall.


Cotton summary

Global cotton production fell 9 per cent in 2008. Production increased in Pakistan and Brazil and declined in the USA, Argentina, Turkey, China, India and Uzbekistan.

In the northern hemisphere, US cotton production was down 32 per cent from 2007. Much of the decrease in production was due to a 26 per cent decline in harvested area, although the US yield was down 8 per cent from last year. Hurricane Gustav in the central Gulf Coast States and drought in parts of Texas were among the adverse factors affecting the nation’s cotton belt. Meanwhile, in Turkey, area planted to cotton dropped 27 per cent, resulting in a similar decrease in total cotton production (down 26 per cent). Likewise, drought caused Syrian cotton production to fall 17 per cent, as wells and other irrigation reserves dried up. In India, cotton production declined 7 per cent as planted acreage and yields decreased. In addition, a delayed monsoon onset in central India (Figure 9) likely caused producers to switch to shorter-season, lower-yielding varieties of cotton. Production in Pakistan rose 3 per cent in response to abundant monsoon rainfall and increasing yields. In Uzbekistan, cotton production fell 9 per cent in 2008 due to a hot, dry spring and a shortage of irrigation water. In China, despite favourable weather and an increase in yields, production fell slightly based on less area.






Figure 9 — Comparison of seasonal cumulative rainfall during the 2007 and 2008 summer growing seasons (October to May) in Maharashtra, India, depicting this year’s late start to the rainy season

In the southern hemisphere, near- to above-normal rainfall benefited Australia cotton development throughout much of the 2008 growing season. Despite the generally favourable weather, cotton production fell 55 per cent relative to 2007 estimates primarily due to a significant reduction in the planted acreage in the wake of persistent, long-term drought. Production rose about 5 per cent in Brazil, as improved yields offset a slight decline in area. In Argentina, however, area fell more than 20 per cent (310 000 ha versus 400 000 in the 2006/2007 campaign), failing to offset a substantial increase in yields (494 kg per hectare versus 435 the previous season).

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