ERITREA* (11 February)
An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Assessment Mission that visited Eritrea late last year found that in 2004, Azmera rains (March-May), important for land preparation and replenishment of pastures, in key agricultural areas failed and the main Kremti rains (June-September) were late and ended early. As a result, cereal production in 2004 is forecast at about 85 000 tonnes, less than half the average of the previous 12 years. Pastoralists were seriously affected by the delayed rains in parts and began early migration with their livestock to the coastal areas that receive the Bahri rains. The performance of the Bahri rains (October-February), important for crop and pasture development in the otherwise arid areas of the Northern Red Sea (NRS) Zone and the escarpments, were also unsatisfactory.
The cereal import requirement for 2005 is estimated at 422 000 tonnes, of which about 80 000 tonnes are anticipated to be imported commercially. With 80 000 tonnes of food aid pledged and in the pipeline, the uncovered deficit, for which international assistance is needed, is estimated by the CFSAM mission at 262 000 tonnes.
In 2005, an estimated 2.3 million people, about two-thirds of the whole population - including in urban and peri-urban areas - will require food assistance to varying levels. Timely support to crop and livestock production is urgently needed to revive production capacity in 2005. Short cycle and early maturing cereal seed varieties need to also be made available in case the apparent pattern of late rains in the last several years continues in the next years.