An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission which visited the country in April/May found that renewed fighting, massive displacements of populations and insecurity, continue to cause serious concern despite efforts by the Government and its partners to redress the situation. According to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Angola, IDPs have now reached nearly 2.6 million, or 53 percent more than last year's stated figure. This increase is due both to improved Government access to more areas and to the continuing strife. At present, WFP estimates that about 1.9 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
The Mission forecasts the 1999/2000 cereal production at 504 000 tonnes, which is about 5.5 percent lower than last year. The shortfall is essentially due to lower maize production which decreased by 8 percent, from 428 000 tonnes to 394 000 tonnes. By contrast, other crops with lower water requirements experienced production increases. Thus sorghum/millet production edged up 3 percent to 105 000 tonnes; bean and groundnut production rose by 11 and 13 percent respectively, while that of cassava and Irish potatoes was estimated to be substantially higher than was forecast last year.
The reduction in maize production is attributed to two major factors, namely unfavourable rainfall pattern and shortage of essential inputs. Although cumulative rainfall for most of the country was above average for the whole season, from September 1999 to April 2000, rains started late, particularly in the southern and central areas. In the latter, good rains arrived only in November. Excessive rains in many areas towards the end of December were then followed by an abnormally long dry spell in late January and February. Secondly, there was a general scarcity of essential inputs, coupled with late distribution and frequently poor quality of seeds. In addition, the displaced farm families had access to very limited amounts of land, if any, in their new locations and in many cases the land is of poor quality.
For the 2000/01 marketing year (April/March), domestic cereal supply, estimated at 504 000 tonnes, falls far short of national consumption requirements. With a mid-marketing year population estimate of 13 675 000, cereal import requirements for the 2000/01 are estimated at 753 000 tonnes. Of these, the Mission estimates that 420 000 tonnes will be imported commercially, leaving 333 000 tonnes to be covered by food aid. Against this requirement, pledges by the end of May amounted to 57 000 tonnes, of which 36 000 have been received.
There is urgent need to allocate fertile land in adequate amounts to IDPs, and to ensure timely delivery of the requisite inputs to the farming population for the 2000/01 cropping year.
Harvest of the 1999/2000 coarse grains, mainly sorghum, is well advanced. Heavy rains since December, aggravated by Cyclones Elaine and Felicia in February, resulted in severe flooding in eastern and southern areas, where over two thirds of the population is concentrated. The flooding resulted in damage to housing and infrastructure, the total loss of at least 2 314 hectares of food crops and yields reductions in the affected areas. Elsewhere, however, the abundant rains were beneficial to crops. Overall maize production is forecast at the same reduced level of last year but sorghum output is expected to be higher. In aggregate, coarse grain harvest is anticipated to increase from 1998/99 but to remain below the average of the past five years.
Food difficulties are anticipated for some 160 000 people who left homeless to floods. However, the overall food supply situation is forecast to be satisfactory in marketing year 2000/20001 (April/March) reflecting the country's commercial import capacity.
Harvest of the 2000 coarse grains is underway. Preliminary forecast point to a decline of 8 percent in this year's maize production from the about-normal level of last year. A delay in the start of the rainy season, coupled with a prolonged dry spell in January and subsequent excessive rains and floods in February, resulted in lower plantings and yields. In low-land areas severely affected by floods, the reduction in maize production is significant.
A joint FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission that visited the country in April/May 2000 found that three successive cyclones and tropical storm in February, March and April 2000, which devastated the North-eastern and Central East Coast areas of Madagascar, affected 1.14 million hectares with varying degrees of severity. About 155 000 hectares of cereals, of which almost 80 percent were under rice and the rest under maize and cassava, were totally lost to floods and high winds. The cyclones also caused serious damage to export crops such as vanilla, coffee and cloves, with 33 000 hectares lost. This will result in reduced exports of vanilla, coffee and cloves over the next 3 years, depending on the economic life of these plantation crops. Drought in the South Region and the central Lake Alaotra region has also sharply reduced agricultural production. The main crops affected by the drought are maize, cassava and sweet potatoes.
Overall, the Mission estimates production of rice (paddy) at 2.19 million tonnes, maize at 0.14 million tonnes and cassava at 2.08 million tonnes for the year 2000. This represents a decrease in production of 15 percent for rice, 22 percent for maize and 18 percent for cassava, compared to last year.
The overall food supply situation is expected to be tight in 2000/01 (April/March). Serious food shortages are anticipated in 17 communes of the traditionally food-deficit South Region in the coming months. The total cereal (rice, maize and wheat) requirements are expected to exceed the total cereal availability by about 518 000 tonnes. With anticipated commercial imports of about 426 000 tonnes and emergency food aid for the affected people estimated at 30 000 tonnes, there is uncovered deficit of 62 000 tonnes. International food assistance will be needed to cover this remaining gap.
Seeds of rice and maize are also urgently required for agricultural rehabilitation in the most affected areas. Food for work programmes could be used in the rehabilitation of the damaged irrigation facilities, roads and other infrastructure.
Harvest of the 2000 cereal crops is underway under seasonally dry conditions. Despite floods and crop losses in northern and southern parts, latest official forecasts point to another bumper maize crop of 2.3 million tonnes, almost unchanged from last year's record level. Late and erratic rains at the beginning of the season affected germination and establishment of the crops, particularly in southern areas where planting starts earlier. However, abundant precipitation from the second dekad of February led to the recover of the crops in most of central and northern areas. Production of maize has also been supported by the "Starter Pack" and "APIP" programmes through which agricultural inputs were distribute to farmers free or subsidized.
As a result of the good harvest and large carryover stocks, the country is expected to have exportable surplus for the second consecutive year. Official stocks, mainly held by the National Food Reserve Agency are estimated at 167 000 tonnes. Prices of maize are declining and by April were below their level of a year ago. Cassava prices are also decreasing reflecting a good harvest. The overall food supply situation is anticipated satisfactory in marketing year 2000/01 (April/March). However, in the northern district of Karonga and in those of Chilkwawa, Nkhotakota and Nsanje, where production was sharply reduced by torrential rains in mid-March and dry spell early in the season food assistance is required for the affected populations.
An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission which visited Mozambique in the second half of April found that the area lost to this year's severe floods was estimated at 167 000 hectares, accounting for 6 percent of total foodcrop plantings of the first season. However, in the worst flood-affected provinces of Maputo and Gaza this percentage represents 41 percent and 25 percent respectively. In addition, 43 000 hectares were lost to dry weather in northern parts, raising the area lost in the first season to 7 percent of the area planted. After projecting the small second season for maize and beans, the Mission estimated the total area to cereals, cassava and other foodcrops to be harvested in 1999/2000 at 2.9 million hectares. Comparison with last year's area harvested would suggest a sharp decline of 15 percent. However, the Mission considers that a large part of this decline may be attributed to database changes in this year's estimates. Roughly accounting for these changes actual plantings are estimated slightly lower than in the previous year.
In the South and southern Central provinces, a dry spell early in the season was followed by continuous precipitation from mid-November and unprecedented floods in February and March. This led to total or partial maize and bean failure throughout these areas. A second season for grains and vegetables, based on residual moisture, is expected to allow a partial recovery of production in South and southern-Central provinces. While at national level this season represents only some 10 percent of the annual cereal and bean production, it accounts for 50 percent in Gaza and 10 to 15 in Inhambane and Maputo Provinces.
Abundant precipitation from January to April in the main Central and Northern growing areas sustained grain and cassava production. Yields in these areas are estimated around last year's level given the absence of pests and diseases.
Including the second season cereals and beans, to be harvested from mid-June, the Mission forecast the total 1999/2000 cereal production at 1.43 million tonnes, of which 994 000 tonnes, or 70 percent, is maize. Bean output is projected at 134 000 tonnes, while cassava is estimated at 4.64 million tonnes. As stated, this year's changes in the database prevent strict comparisons with production estimates for 1998/99. However, roughly accounting for these changes, the Mission estimates that production of cereals is some 6-10 percent below the good crop of the previous year. This mainly reflects area losses to floods and dry weather, and a sharp decline in yields in southern provinces.
Although production declined in Northern and Central provinces, food supply has been boosted by significant on-farm stocks following a succession of good harvests, coupled with reduced marketing opportunities. In the traditionally food deficit South, even with a good second harvest, food difficulties are anticipated in the coming months for large numbers of the population. Their coping mechanisms are few, given very limited employment opportunities outside agriculture and flooding of large farms in low-lying areas.
The skewed distribution of cereal production between the three regions is reflected in very low and declining retail maize prices in the markets in North and Central regions, while in the South there are no household stocks, supplies to markets are low to non-existent and prices are 2.5 times higher for similar quality maize. Marketing and transport will be critical issues in marketing year 2000/01.
Overall, and considering that limited quantities of maize will continue to be informally exported to deficit southern Malawi, an exportable surplus of around 39 000 tonnes of maize is forecast. However, deficits of 170 000 tonnes and 140 000 tonnes have been projected for wheat and rice respectively. These deficits are expected to be met largely by private sector imports.
The Mission estimates that 650 000 people will need emergency food assistance amounting to 60 000 tonnes. This is required for flood-affected farmers but also for those not affected by floods but who experienced crop failure. Despite maize surplus in northern areas, which is proving to be uncompetitive due to high transport costs, efforts should still be placed on local purchases in the North for food aid requirements in the South. WFP supports local purchases and has recently bought maize in central provinces for the current flood emergency operation.
Harvest of the 2000 coarse grains, mainly sorghum, is underway. A good crop is in prospects. Above normal to normal rains from late March allowed the recovery of grains stressed by a dry spell from late February. Latest official forecast point to coarse grains output more than doubling last year's average level of 68 000 tonnes. Widespread abundant precipitation during the season has also benefited pastures and livestock conditions.
The food supply situation is anticipated satisfactory in marketing year 2000/01 (April/May).
Harvesting of 2000 coarse grains is in progress under normal weather conditions. The outlook is good. Despite severe floods and crop losses in KwaZulu-Natal, Northern and Mpumalanga provinces in February and March, the maize belt was not affected and benefited from normal to above normal precipitation during the growing season. Provisional estimates put maize output at 9.64 million tonnes, one-third higher than in the previous year and above average. This reflects higher plantings and yields. Production of sorghum is also forecast to increase from 1999. Following two consecutive reduced maize harvests, this year's crop will allow the replenishment of stocks and an exportable surplus of about 1.5 to 2 million tonnes in marketing year 2000/01 (May/April).
Harvest of the 2000 maize crop is complete. Preliminary estimates indicate an output of 72 000 tonnes, 37 percent lower than the average crop last year. This reflects a late start in the rainy season followed by excessive precipitation and floods in late November/early December that swept away recently sowed crops. A dry spell in January and more floods in February further affected crop development. Beans and sweet potatoes have also been adversely affected by the erratic rains during the 1999/2000 season.
Harvesting of the 2000 coarse grains, mainly maize, is well advanced and a good maize crop is in prospects. Preliminary estimates point to an increase of 7 percent in this year's maize output to an average level of 918 000 tonnes. Despite severe floods in early March and crop losses along the Zambezi Valley, abundant rains during the season benefited this year's maize crop and resulted in higher plantings and yields. Improved use of agricultural inputs, mainly in the commercial sector, also contributed to better yields. The outlook for cassava and other foodcrops is also satisfactory.
Reflecting the increase in production, the overall food supply situation is anticipated to improve in marketing year 2000/01 (April/May).
Increasing political violence continues to disrupt economic and agricultural activities. Despite an improvement in growing conditions for this year's main maize crop, harvesting activities, normally undertaken from May to June, are being interrupted by the invasion of 1 500 commercial farms and the seizure without compensation of 804 by the government. Increased theft of grains is also reported. This has created a climate of fear amongst the commercial farmers, many of whom have abandoned their farms and left livestock unattended and fled to the relative safety of urban areas. A disruption of harvesting could result in a reduced maize output, with serious repercussions for food security and the economy as a whole.
Agricultural production is undertaken by two categories of farmers: large scale commercial farmers located mainly in the north and east and small scale communal farmers in the south and west. Large-scale commercial farmers, currently numbering around 4 000, contribute some 30-40 percent of maize production, surpassing communal farmers' output in drought years, such as in 1992 when they accounted for 68 percent of total production. Yields on commercial farms are on average four times higher than on communal farms, in part due to inherent differences in land quality, but mainly because of facilities for supplementary irrigation, greater use of improved technology and management practices, as well as better access to working capital. Furthermore, Zimbabwe has been over 60 percent self-sufficient in wheat, a crop produced entirely on commercial farms. These farms are also the dominant contributors to tobacco and horticultural (cut flowers) production for export, as well as livestock production for meat, milk, and other dairy products.
Currently, the country is faced with a severe economic crisis, with severe fuel shortages, due to an acute shortage of foreign exchange caused mainly by large external debt problems, the suspension of international loan disbursements for failing to adhere to agreed conditions, the involvement of the country in the DR Congo war, and falling export earnings. The shortage of foreign exchange is also seriously disrupting industrial production due to erratic power supply and inadequate supply of raw materials, due to blocking of credit lines to the country's firms. Thus, should there be a large drop in food production necessitating substantial amounts of imports, Zimbabwe's currently low import capacity would seriously constrain its ability to cover the shortfall commercially.