Harvest of the 1998 first season foodcrops is almost complete. Preliminary results of a joint FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission, currently visiting the country, indicate that this season’s food output will remain at the same reduced level of last year with an increase in plantings offset by lower yields. A delay of one month in the beginning of the rainy season, coupled with shortages of seeds, limited the expansion in the area planted following the return to their households of large number of population previously in regroupment camps, the return of refugees from neighbouring countries, and a relative improvement in security conditions. Excessive rains since mid-October and unseasonable precipitation in January resulted in floods and crop losses in marshland areas and, in general, reduced yields of cereal and pulse crops. However, the abundant precipitation benefited root and tubers and bananas.
Reflecting the reduced harvest, prices of food staples have increased in January 1998 from their level of a year ago. A substantial food deficit is anticipated in 1998 and the food supply situation of the lower segments of the population will tighten in the first half of the year.
ERITREA* (9 February)
Unseasonable rains in October at harvest time led to spoilage in stacks of harvested cereals and reduced yields of the crops already adversely affected by a dry spell in September, when the crops were at the critical maturing stage. The grain output is estimated at the same reduced level of 1996. Also, as a result of the unexpected heavy rains, high levels of locust infestations were reported in northern parts but control operations have been undertaken.
Cereal prices, which normally decline at harvest time, registered a sharp increase in November reflecting the anticipated poor output. With a below-average cereal harvest for the third consecutive year and a sharp reduction in grain import availability from neighbouring Ethiopia, the food situation will be tight in the year ahead.
ETHIOPIA* (9 February)
An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission which visited Ethiopia from 2 November to 2 December 1997 forecasts a 1997 Meher harvest of 8 786 000 tonnes of cereals and pulses, which is 25.6 percent below last year’s Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) post-harvest estimates. The reduction in production is primarily a result of poor Belg rains followed by late, low and erratic rainfall during the Meher growing season, particularly in lowland areas, exacerbated by unusually heavy rains at harvest time. A 20 percent reduction in fertilizer use in key producing areas due to the removal of subsidy and credit restrictions on slow repayers was another factor contributing to the decrease. Army-worm, the main migratory pest this year was effectively controlled by MoA-supported spraying teams. Non-migratory pests and diseases, though present, were not considered to be beyond the usual levels of tolerance in most zones. Livestock production was threatened by mid-main season droughts in all agro-pastoralist areas, causing a 60-70 percent fall in prices, premature migrations and increased morbidity and mortality. Fortunately, the late rains reversed the situation in October and November and a normal state now prevails.
On the basis of the above Meher production estimate and a forecast Belg harvest in 1998 of 320 000 tonnes of cereals and pulses, the Mission estimates a total grains import requirement of 530 000 tonnes in 1998. This includes 420 000 tonnes of relief food aid required for 5.3 million rural people affected by a poor harvest and structural poverty. The remaining deficit of 110 000 tonnes is expected to be covered by commercial imports.
Wholesale prices for all major cereals at the beginning of the 1997 Meher harvest were substantially above last year's levels, with national averages ranging from 13 percent for teff to 53 percent for maize. These increases reflect tighter supplies and traders' expectations of reduced production in comparison to last year.
KENYA (9 February)
Heavy rains particularly in November and January resulted in serious floods which caused loss of life, extensive damage to infrastructure and housing, left many villages isolated and displaced large sections of the local population. The areas worst affected include the Coast Province, North Eastern Province and parts of the Eastern Province. These areas have been declared a Disaster Zone by the Government, which has appealed for international assistance to cope with the emergency.
The rains also adversely affected the 1997/98 maize crop, the main staple of the country. Torrential rains in October/November, at the time of the harvest of the main season crop, which accounts for some 80 percent of the annual output, reduced yields of maize already affected by a dry spell at the critical grain-filling stage. Yields of wheat were also affected by heavy rains at harvest. However, the worst effect of the floods was on the second season crops, grown in the bi-modal rainfall areas of Western, Central and Eastern provinces from mid-October to February. The maize output of this season is estimated to have declined by onethird from normal levels, while the bean crop was sharply reduced due to both adverse weather and lack of seed. In aggregate, the 1997/98 maize production is estimated at 2.3 million tonnes, slightly above the reduced level of 1996/97 but below the average of the past five years. In consequence, the food supply situation is anticipated to be tight in the months ahead. Maize import requirements, expected to be covered mostly commercially, are estimated at 800 000 tonnes. This is, however, lower than in the previous year when maize imports reached 1 million tonnes. Total cereal imports, including wheat and rice in which the country has a structural deficit, in 1997/98 (October/September) are provisionally forecast at 1.2 million tonnes.
While the abundant rains of the past months improved pastures for livestock, an outbreak of Rift Valley Fever in October, as a result of the flooding that has caused an explosion in the mosquito population that carries the culprit virus, has resulted in the deaths of many people. These conditions have also favoured the appearance of a complex of animal diseases causing the loss of thousands of cattle, sheep, goats and camels.
RWANDA* (9 February)
An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission in the second half of January, found that a one month delay in the onset of rains limited an otherwise significant expansion of cultivated area, while the ensuing excessive precipitation resulted in flooding in the valley marshlands, affecting 10 percent of the cultivated area and limiting yields of some crops. Among the negative effects of the abundant rains and related humid conditions were fungal diseases, excessive weed growth and reduced sun exposure. Particularly affected were the yields of beans (root diseases, black fly) and potatoes (mildew). A continuation of the unseasonable rains could bring yields further down. Lack of quality seeds and cuttings also had a yield-depressing effect in many areas. In general, yields of sorghum, wheat, beans, Irish potatoes and sweet potatoes are estimated to have declined in comparison to last year’s season A. On the other hand, yield improvements were observed for bananas, maize, rice, peas, groundnuts, soya, taro, yams and cassava. Total food crop production in the 1998 A season is estimated at 2 194 227 tonnes, an increase of seven percent over 1997 A. This includes about 77 400 tonnes of cereals (some 18 percent less than 1997 A), some 110 000 tonnes of pulses (an increase of seven percent over 1997 A, mainly as a result of significantly increased plantings), 1.4 million tonnes of bananas (+25 percent) and some 656 000 tonnes of roots and tubers, about the same as in last year’s season A.
Compared to the average of 1989-93 A, this season’s production is just five percent below pre-crisis levels. All in all, Rwanda’s food crop production is on the way to recovery. Yet, two caveats are in order. First, there are now more Rwandans who have to feed themselves than before the civil strife; on a per caput basis, current production is only some 80 percent of pre-war levels, implying that substantial food deficits persist. And second, if the unseasonable rains persist beyond the time of the Mission, production estimates will have to be revised downwards.
Reflecting the insufficient production, food prices continue to rise, aggravating the already precarious food security situation of a large number of households. The Mission forecasts food aid requirements of 82 000 tonnes of cereal equivalent for the first semester of 1998; of this, some 70 000 tonnes have already been pledged, while 12 000 tonnes will remain uncovered due to insecurity in western areas and current land transport difficulties in the region.
There is an urgent need to overcome input supply bottlenecks, especially for seeds and cuttings, on a sustained basis; this is a top priority for the coming season but must also be addressed within a longer-term framework.
SOMALIA* (9 February)
Torrential rains in mid- October caused the worst floods in decades, resulting in an estimated 2 000 deaths, 250 000 displaced persons, serious damage to housing and infrastructure and crop and livestock losses.
The heavy rains that persisted until early January adversely affected the 1997/98 secondary ”Deyr” crops, normally accounting for some 20 percent of the annual cereal production, which had been planted just before the floods occurred. Worst affected areas are the main southern agricultural parts, along the Juba and Shebelle rivers, particularly Baidoa, Q/dhere, Dinsor, Bardere, Jilib, Jamame, Sablale, K/Warey, Brava, Kismayo, Xagar and Afmadow where crop losses are estimated to be around 80 percent. With a recession in water levels, extensive replanting began in December but the outcome is uncertain. For the country as a whole, preliminary estimates indicate that production will be less than half the expected normal level. This is the fourth year of below-average harvest. The floods also resulted in losses of household cereal stocks from the 1997 main “Gu” season. Production of that season was also poor due to dry spells. Aggregate cereal production in 1997/98 is provisionally estimated at 269 000 tonnes, some 7 percent lower than last year’s below-average level. Import requirements for the 1997/98 marketing year (August/July) have been revised upward to 330 000 tonnes, of which about 115 000 tonnes will need to be covered by food aid. However, only a few pledges have been made to date, amounting to 15 000 tonnes.
While the floods alone resulted in losses of livestock estimated at 35 500 animals, an outbreak of Rift Valley fever combined with other animal diseases, occurring since December 1997 in north-eastern Kenya and southern areas of Somalia is reportedly causing losses of large numbers of animals, mainly camels and goats.
SUDAN* (9 February)
An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission, which visited Sudan from 15 November to 5 December 1997, forecasted total cereal production at 4.64 million tonnes in 1997/98 comprising 3.39 million tonnes of sorghum, 0.57 million tonnes of millet, 0.63 million tonnes of wheat (to be harvested in April 1998) and a relatively small amount of maize (0.05 million tonnes) mainly produced in the South. Compared with last year’s record harvest, total cereal production is down by 14 percent, with sorghum 20 percent lower, millet 27 percent higher and wheat 2 percent down. Production of all three cereals is above the five-year benchmark average of 1988/89-1992/93. Sorghum output is the third highest of the last five years and millet is the second highest (after the 1994/95 bumper year).
The total cereal output of 4.64 million tonnes will be less than the total cereal consumption requirement for 1997/98, after allowing for losses, seed and other uses. However, due to the exceptional sorghum crop last year and the national ban on sorghum exports during 1997, the carryover stocks at the end of October 1997 were high, estimated by the Mission at 900 000 tonnes (mostly sorghum). Some drawdown of these stocks will be necessary to meet national food requirements.
The overall food outlook for 1997/98 is therefore favourable but in the South, North Darfur and North Kordofan food deficit problems will occur. The situation is most serious in the South where cereal production is estimated to be down by 45 percent on last year (excluding Renk). Eastern Equatoria, Lakes, Bahr El Jebel and Bahr El Ghazal are the most affected States, where the first season crop was lost due to the prolonged early drought. Some long season sorghum crops survived but yields will be low. Insecurity has again disrupted farming activities in Bahr el Ghazal and parts of Jonglei. Logistical problems and insecurity will also limit the amount of food which can be moved into the region (even from the Renk scheme in Upper Nile). The Mission estimates that some 60 to 70 per cent of the population in Eastern Equatoria, Bahr El Ghazal, Lakes, parts of Jonglei state and the transitional zones will need emergency food assistance for three to six months in 1998. It is estimated that 915 500 persons affected by a reduced harvest will require 30 000 tonnes of food commodities, to be supplied through WFP, Nairobi. In addition, 34 000 tonnes of relief food assistance will be required for 1.3 million displaced people in the South, transitional zone and Khartoum displaced camps.
In North Darfur, crop failure has occurred due to drought in Umm Keddada, Mellit and Kutum, and food shortages are already evident. Millet prices are high and livestock prices are falling. Even though millet production in North Darfur as a whole is better than last year, many people in these two provinces are unlikely to be able to purchase their food needs, and interventions will be necessary. The Mission estimates that 180 000 people will require 9 530 tonnes of emergency food assistance between April and September 1998 in North Darfur. A further 14 000 people affected by floods and civil conflict in southern Tokar may need 300 tonnes of food assistance for between three to six months.
The situation in North Kordofan also gives cause for concern. Production is better than last year but the State is still in deficit and the value of cash crops and livestock has fallen. In particular, the provinces of Sodari and Bara have suffered widespread crop failure and access to adequate food supplies will be difficult in the second half of the year. Food aid requirements are expected largely to be procured locally, except for limited amounts to be imported for the South, due to internal logistics constraints. Due to widespread crop losses in the South and parts of North Darfur and North Kordofan, there is also an urgent need for seeds for the next planting season.
TANZANIA (9 February)
Heavy rains and consequent flooding since November 1997 has severely disrupted rail and road systems in the country, causing serious problems in transporting essential goods to areas of need. Of particular concern are remote villages where framers have lost production or stocks due the rains and where relief food cannot be transported due to impassable roads.
The heavy rains resulted also in crop losses and damage to the 1997/98 “Vuli” crop, grown from October to February. The worst affected areas were low-lying parts of Mara, Arusha, Kilimanjaro, Tanga and Shinyanga regions, as well as southern parts of Mwanza where heavy clay soils predominate. However, as crop cultivation is also practised in highland areas production here will be favourable due to higher rainfall. Overall, losses in low lying areas will be offset by gains in the highlands. The Vuli crop, which is the least important of the country’s three annual crops, is anticipated to recover from a succession of drought-affected harvests .
Following a destructive drought in 1996/97, large numbers of livestock were lost in pastoral areas. Heavy rains in the last few months have had a very beneficial effect on pastures, which will result in recovery in the livestock sector. From a household food security point of view, such recovery has important implications for some sections of the population, such as the Masai, who rely heavily on livestock.
In central and southern parts, where cereal crops of the 1998 main season are at developing stage, crop losses to floods in low-lying areas of Iringa and Mbeya regions may be significant. However, the abundant precipitation of the past months has been generally beneficial and, provided that favourable weather prevails in the remainder of the growing season, production may recover from the poor level of 1997. An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission has just returned from the country and is finalizing its report.
UGANDA (9 February)
Harvesting of the 1997 second season food crops is almost complete. Heavy rains from mid-November to early December, mainly in the eastern parts, resulted in floods and mudslides which caused loss of life, damage to housing and infrastructure and localized crop losses. However, the overall outlook for the current second season food crops, now being harvested, is favourable. Despite the localized crop losses, the abundant rains since the beginning of the season were beneficial for crop development. The heavy rains have also improved pastures and livestock conditions, particularly in the Karamoja region, previously affected by prolonged dry weather.
Prices of maize and beans, which by December 1997 had doubled in a year, are anticipated to decline with the arrival of the new crop in the markets; the previously tight food supply, following two consecutive reduced harvests, is expected to ease. Nevertheless, the food situation will remain difficult for the large number of displaced people in northern parts, affected by persistent civil conflict.
Food assistance to the flood-affected population is currently being provided, but the operations are being hampered by bad road conditions.