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Food difficulties persist in the Great Lakes Region. In Zaire, ongoing civil strife has led to an exodus of Rwandan refugees from camps towards Ubundu, where they are now concentrating. Their food and nutritional situation is becoming critical as they remain inaccessible to relief agencies and are caught in the middle of the conflict. In Rwanda, the food situation remains tight following a large repatriation of refugees last November/December. In Burundi a succession of reduced crops and economic sanctions by neighbouring countries, have severely affected food supply.

In Eastern Africa, despite satisfactory main season cereal output in 1996/97, large numbers of people are suffering severe food shortages due to failure of the secondary season crop. Emergency food assistance is needed in eastern and north-eastern parts of Kenya, in pastoralist southern regions of Ethiopia, where a food emergency has been declared, in northern parts of Tanzania, eastern Uganda and in Somalia.

Favourable growing conditions resulted in average to above-average harvests in the main producing countries of western Africa in 1996. However, output was below average in Cape Verde, Chad, Mauritania, Liberia and Sierra Leone. In Liberia, the food supply situation remains precarious while in Sierra Leone the situation is gradually improving following the signing of a peace agreement.

The outlook for the 1997 coarse grain crop in southern Africa, remains generally favourable, despite late rains in several areas, dry conditions in parts, and excessive rains and flooding in several countries. Rainfall has been generally abundant, benefiting crops in most producing regions. Harvest prospects are favourable in Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. However in Madagascar, crop prospects remain uncertain as a result of cyclone damage.

The outlook for the 1997 wheat harvest remains favourable in Asia with above average production expected in India and Pakistan. In China, notwithstanding dry weather and above normal temperatures in parts, overall prospects remain satisfactory and a bumper crop similar to last year is expected. Elsewhere in the region prospects for current rice crops in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Thailand are favourable, but low and erratic rains in Sri Lanka have affected the main Maha crop in parts.

Early prospects for the 1997 main season cereal crops are favourable in Central America and the Caribbean. Average to above-average plantings are anticipated for all cereals in most countries. In Cuba, however, the area planted is expected to stay close to last year’s below-normal levels. In Haiti, a severe dry spell is affecting the North-West with resulting serious damage to crops. In South America, harvesting of the 1997 maize crop is underway in the southern areas and a record crop is forecast to be gathered. In Bolivia, torrential rains and flooding have seriously affected the 1997 cereal crops.

In the CIS, most winter grains have survived in good condition and winterkill is limited. The area sown has declined in the Russian Federation, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, but has increased in the Ukraine.

Prospects for the 1997 cereal crops remain satisfactory in Europe. Generally mild winter weather has limited damage to cereal crops already in the ground and prospects are good for spring planting. Winter grain plantings increased in the EC and in some countries in eastern Europe.

In the United States, the wheat area decreased, but winterkill was less than normal and crops are mostly in very good condition. Planting of coarse grains is already underway in southern parts and the maize area is projected to increase. In Canada, the bulk of wheat and coarse grain sowing has yet to start but early indications point to smaller plantings due to rotation of land to other crops.

In Australia output of the minor 1997 summer coarse grain crop is forecast to drop, due to reduced plantings. Latest forecasts indicate a decrease in the aggregate winter grain plantings.

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