MONGOLIA* (9 February)
After four years of consecutive dzud (severe winter with drought summer), the 2003/04 winter turned out to be not so harsh and severe and loss of livestock was much less. Conditions for rearing young animals were favourable in early 2004 and animal numbers in all categories increased, with the exception of camels. However, substantial losses have been forecast for the 2004/05 winter as a result of a dry summer in 2004, which affected some 60 percent of the country and recent heavy snows and much below-normal temperature during 2004/05 winter since last December.
The 2004 wheat crop, virtually the only cereal produced in the country and harvested in September, is now estimated at 135 400 tonnes, some 20 percent below the previous year, as a result of the bad dry weather in the major wheat growing regions. Potatoes and vegetables also had a poor harvest in 2004 and the outputs are estimated at 8 700 tonnes and 49 000 tonnes, respectively.
To cover domestic consumption requirements for the 2004/05 marketing year (October/September) the country will need to import an estimated 263 000 tonnes of cereals. Given that the country has a serious balance of payment problem, commercial imports will only cover part of this requirement and food aid will be necessary to meet the deficit. Dzud and drought conditions in Mongolia have substantially depleted household coping mechanisms and have resulted in an increase in poverty. Nearly 35 percent of the total population is estimated to live below the poverty line with average family income of US$20-US$30 per month. The percentage of the population living below the poverty line has reached 70 percent in some urban areas.