Natural hazards, drought, cyclones and floods, since earlier this year, have seriously undermined the food security of millions of people around the globe and have resulted in many human deaths and forced thousands to migrate. Natural problems, moreover, have been compounded by war and civil strife in some areas, while economic problems in others continue to affect food production and supply. In Eastern Africa, some 16 million people, over half in Ethiopia, face severe food shortages mainly due to drought. Delayed rainfall and recent escalation of war are expected to increase further the number of people in need of food assistance in both Ethiopia and Eritrea. In Kenya, an estimated 3.7 million people urgently need food assistance, whilst in Somalia more than 650 000 people are in similar need, despite some improvement in food supplies. In Tanzania, Uganda and Sudan, despite a stable food supply situation overall, food assistance is needed for several hundred thousand people affected by poor harvests and/or civil conflict. In northern Africa, with the exception of Egypt, the outlook for cereal crops is mostly unfavourable due to inadequate rainfall since the beginning of the year. In contrast, in southern Africa, despite a tight food supply situation in southern Mozambique and Madagascar due to earlier floods and cyclones, overall crop prospects in the sub-region remain favourable, with aggregate production likely to be up on last year.
In the Near East and Asia, the latest food and humanitarian emergencies follow serious drought, which devastated crops and livestock in a number of countries. In Afghanistan, crop production is forecast to fall by almost half compared to reduced production last year, whilst millions of people have little access to food. Food aid is urgently needed as the situation is likely to deteriorate in the coming months as the few remaining coping mechanisms become exhausted. In the Islamic Republic of Iran drought threatens crop production, though losses are likely to be less severe than forecast earlier. In Pakistan and India, a number of areas were also hit by drought, leading to large livestock losses and out-migration of thousands in search of food and water. Much depends on the performance of monsoon rains due now. Chronic food supply difficulties persist in DPR Korea, though there are signs for optimism as concerted efforts to resolve the country's economic problems gain momentum. In Mongolia, the food situation for nomadic herders remains precarious following the worst winter in 30 years. In the CIS countries in Asia, a decline in 2000 grain production is forecast. The overall food supply situation is likely to remain stable, though concerns persist for vulnerable populations in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Tajikistan, due to economic decline and prolonged civil strife. In addition, food production in Tajikistan has been affected by drought. The humanitarian crisis in Chechnya continues, with massive international assistance still required, which is also needed in the Balkans. The beneficiary numbers in Kosovo Province, however, are declining, reflecting improvements in economic conditions. In South American and the Caribbean countries, notwithstanding drought in parts of Mexico and Jamaica, agricultural production is expected to continue recovering from devastating natural disasters in 1998.
In eastern Africa, with poor rainfall so far for the sub-region during the current season, the early outlook for the 2000 crops is generally unfavourable, suggesting that the current critical food shortages are likely to persist well into 2001. Already some 16 million people in the sub-region face severe food shortages.
In Ethiopia, almost total failure of the "Belg" harvest is anticipated, reflecting continued drought. More than 8 million people are already facing severe food shortages. The border conflict with Eritrea continues to compound the food difficulties. The situation is particularly serious in pastoral areas in the east and south, where starvation-related deaths, particularly among children, are reported. In Eritrea, the upsurge in fighting with Ethiopia has created a humanitarian crisis, forcing an estimated 750 000 people from their homes and farms, with many crossing into neighbouring Sudan. This is on top of the 211 000 people affected by drought along the coastal areas of the country. In Kenya, the food supply situation is alarming in northern, eastern and north-western pastoral districts affected by successive droughts. The current "long rains" season has also largely failed, leading to a poor food outlook for 2000/01. The Government has recently appealed for massive international assistance, in view of the large number of people facing severe food shortages. In Somalia, despite some improvement in the food supply situation in the south where a better secondary Deyr crop was harvested last February, more than 650 000 people still face severe food shortages. Heavy rains have also caused some flood damage in central and southern parts of the country. In Tanzania, despite a stable food supply situation overall, food assistance is needed for nearly 800 000 food insecure people, mainly in Dodoma, Mara, Shinyanga, Singida, Tabora, Tanga and southern Mwanza, which suffered a third consecutive poor harvest. In Sudan, despite a stable food supply situation overall, some 2.4 million people affected by drought and the long-running civil conflict continue to depend on food assistance. In Uganda, the food supply situation remains precarious in Kotido, Morito, Gulu and Kitgum districts in the north and Bundibugyo district in the west, mainly due to civil unrest but also due a poor harvest in the north last season.
A UN Inter-Agency appeal was launched on 6 June 2000, for US$378 million to assist some 13.4 million drought affected people in Ethiopia, Kenya, Eritrea, Somalia and Djibouti.
In southern Africa, harvesting of the 2000 cereal crops is well advanced. Despite early dry weather during the growing season followed by excessive rains, cyclones and floods that caused severe infrastructure and crop damage, the sub-region's overall production is expected to be good. Latest forecasts point to an aggregate cereal crop higher than last year's level and above average. This mainly reflects favourable conditions in the major maize growing areas. However, the impact of weather conditions on this year's output varies according to countries and regions within countries. In South Africa, the main producer of the sub-region, provisional estimates indicate a maize output of 9.64 million tonnes, one-third higher than in the previous year and above average. This reflects higher plantings and yields despite serious flood damage in some provinces. The exportable surplus of maize in marketing year 2000/01 is estimated at 1.5 to 2 million tonnes. In Malawi, abundant rains from February to April led to the recovery of the maize crop, affected by early dry weather in the main growing areas. The output is estimated at 2.3 million tonnes, almost unchanged from the record level of last year. Export surpluses are anticipated for the second consecutive year. In Zimbabwe, despite improved growing conditions for the cereal crops, increasing civil disturbances since last April, coupled with severe shortages of fuel, have disrupted harvesting operations and production could be reduced. In Mozambique, severe flood damage in southern parts, and a slight reduction in yields in the main growing areas, have resulted in a decline in maize output from the good level of last year to 994 000 tonnes. While maize surpluses are estimated in northern areas, the food supply is extremely tight in southern provinces. In Zambia, despite localized floods, abundant precipitation since February allowed the recovery of the main maize crop, estimated at 918 000 tonnes, 7 percent higher than last year. In Angola, coarse grain output decreased 6 percent from last year to 500 000 tonnes. This reduction mainly reflects erratic rains during the growing season. Persistent insecurity continues to result in massive displacements of populations. The number of IDPs has increased to 2.6 million, of which 1.9 million are estimated in urgent need of emergency food assistance. In Swaziland, excessive rains and floods during the season, as well as a decline of 10 percent in plantings resulted in a sharp fall in this year's maize production. The main maize crop is estimated at 72 000 tonnes, 37 percent lower than in 1999. By contrast, in Namibia, abundant rains during the season benefited the maize and millet crops. Latest forecasts point to output of coarse grains more than doubling last year's average level. In Lesotho, production of maize is forecast at 116 000 tonnes, 7 percent below last year's about normal crop. Dry weather at the beginning of the season, followed by excessive rains from February, adversely affected yields. In Botswana, latest forecasts indicate a coarse grain output above last year's level; increased sorghum production more than compensated for a lower maize crop affected by severe floods in eastern and southern provinces.
In northern Africa, the outlook for the 2000 cereal crops now being harvested, is mostly unfavourable, except in Egypt. As a result of inadequate rainfall since mid-January, aggregate cereal output for the sub-region is forecast at about 22.9 million tonnes, 14 percent lower than the below-average production of last year. The wheat crop of 9.2 million tonnes is expected to be 18 percent below 1999, while coarse grains are forecast at 8.1 million tonnes, a 15 percent reduction compared to the previous year's below average output. In Algeria and Morocco, poor rainfall since mid-January coupled with abnormally high temperatures, resulted in losses in over half the area planted to wheat and barley. As a consequence, production is expected to be sharply reduced and may even be about half last year's drought-reduced output. In Tunisia, despite average planting, below normal and poorly distributed rainfall in March and April seriously affected wheat and barley yields. By contrast, reflecting satisfactory growing conditions in Egypt, wheat production is officially estimated at 6.6 million tonnes, compared to last year's good crop of 6.3 million tonnes.
In western Africa, the rainy season started in the Sahel in late April/May in southern Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea Bissau and Mali, in the extreme south-west of Niger and the extreme south-east of Senegal. By early June, seasonably dry conditions prevailed in the rest of Senegal, Cape Verde, The Gambia and Mauritania. This corresponds to the normal pattern in the Sahel, except for Niger where rains were somewhat delayed. Land preparation and plantings are in progress following the onset of the rains. Dry planting is also underway in Mauritania and Niger. Crops are emerging satisfactorily in southern Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali but improved rains are needed in coming weeks. Seed availability is generally adequate following above average to record harvests in most Sahelian countries in 1999. The pest situation is calm. A few Desert Locusts were reported in mid-April in south-eastern Aïr in Niger and during May in Adrar in Mauritania. Low numbers of adults are likely to appear in southern Mauritania and lay with the onset of the rains.
In the south of Benin, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Togo, the main maize crop, planted in March, is developing satisfactorily. Reduced rains in early May were offset by abundant precipitation by the end of the month. In April/May, planting of millet and sorghum coincided with the onset of the rains in the north. In Liberia, rice planting is well underway. In Sierra Leone agricultural activities and distribution of seeds and tools were disrupted by the resurgence of civil strife in May.
In central Africa, recently planted maize is developing satisfactorily in Cameroon and Central African Republic. Agriculture prospects improved in the Republic of Congo following the peace agreement. By contrast, agriculture remains constrained by civil strife in the Democratic Republic of Congo where another poor B-season crop is about to be harvested.
The main rice season is well advanced in countries around the Equatorial belt, whilst in many other countries land preparation and planting, of mainly rice and coarse grains, has been or is about to start to coincide with the arrival of monsoon rains. In Japan, the Philippines, the Democratic Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea planting of the main season rice and maize crops will be completed by June, for harvest in October/November. Early prospects appear satisfactory though there are reports of excessively dry conditions in DPR Korea. In China, planting of the early and intermediate rice crops is expected to be completed soon, whilst in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, planting is underway for the main wet season crops, which account for the bulk of aggregate paddy production. In the sub-continent, planting of the main Kharif rice and coarse grains will commence shortly to coincide with the arrival of the South-west monsoon rains, which began on schedule. South of the equator, harvesting of the main rice crop is near completion in Indonesia whilst planting of the second, dry season crop, will commence shortly.
The latest food and humanitarian emergencies to develop in the region follow serious drought, which has devastated crops and livestock in several countries particularly in Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Pakistan and India. In Afghanistan, a recent FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission found that the country is on the verge of a major food crisis with millions of people having little or no access to food due to severe drought and continuing economic problems. The cereal import requirement in the current marketing year is estimated at an unprecedented 2.3 million tonnes, more than double last year's volume of 1.1 million tonnes. In the Islamic Republic of Iran, the recurrence of drought this year again threatens domestic production in 18 of the country's 28 provinces, mostly in southern, eastern and central parts. The food supply situation amongst vulnerable groups, particularly in rural areas, is a matter of concern. In Pakistan, serious drought devastated the Baluchistan province and part of Sindh province, leading to serious water and food shortages in the worst affected areas. In addition, several million livestock remain in precarious condition. In India, several central and western states were also seriously affected by drought and the consequent shortage of water and animal feed. In Gujarat, an estimated 10 million people have been affected. Other states affected include Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. In Orissa the drought comes on top of last year's devastating cyclone which killed several thousand people and also resulted in salination of agricultural areas. As a result, there was no winter crop this year and large numbers of the state's population continue to depend on food assistance provided by the Government.
Elsewhere, the food situation for nomadic herders in Mongolia still remains precarious following the worst winter in 30 years, which killed large numbers of livestock and destroyed the livelihood of thousands of pastoralists. The Government has requested international food and humanitarian aid for the affected population. Chronic food supply difficulties continue in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, suggesting continued dependence on food assistance. There are, however, signs for cautious optimism as concerted efforts to resolve the country's economic problems gain momentum. The food supply situation in East Timor continues to ease due to international food aid and this year's improved maize and rice harvests which were less severely affected by last year's civil disturbances than envisaged earlier.
Across the eight CIS countries in the Asian region, wheat is now being planted in Kazakhstan, the largest producer. By early June, 11 out 12 million hectares had been planted. Locusts present a potential threat to the crop. The harvest is expected to be less than last year's bumper harvest of 14 million tonnes. In the remaining countries, latest indications are that the aggregate area sown to winter grains has declined only in Georgia and Armenia in part due to import competition and to significantly higher fuel prices. However, hot and dry weather in April and May seriously stressed rainfed crops in the countries of Central Asia. In Tajikistan, where about half the crop is not irrigated, the outlook is poor also due to persistent shortages of inputs. In Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan the area sown to winter grains has increased. Growing conditions have been mostly satisfactory to date for the irrigated land, and given normal weather until the completion of the harvest, winter wheat production could continue to edge upwards. Planting of paddy, spring coarse grains and cotton is nearing completion.
Overall, the early outlook is for the 2000 aggregate grain harvest in the eight CIS countries classified as Asia, to be less than the 24 million tonnes harvested in 1999. Despite the forecasts of a lower wheat harvest, the overall food supply situation is likely to remain stable, except in Tajikistan where, in response to a poor harvest, the wheat import requirement is likely to exceed that country's usual market requirement and, in view of endemic poverty, food aid needs could rise. In all these countries, aggregate statistics hide increasingly large income disparities and there are socially and economically vulnerable people who are barely surviving. In Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Tajikistan, countries where a sharp drop in GDP following independence was aggravated by prolonged civil strife, vulnerable populations (including refugees and IDPs) continue to require food assistance.
In the Near East, persistent drought and insecurity continue to affect crop and livestock production in many parts. In Iraq, two consecutive years of severe drought and inadequate availability of essential agricultural inputs gravely affected agriculture, exacerbating an already tight food supply situation. In Jordan, despite some beneficial rains in the winter cropping season, overall insufficient precipitation affected agricultural production in several parts. In Turkey, recent favourable rains and snow cover continue to favour the development of wheat, to be harvested from June, reversing the effects of dry weather in some parts earlier in the season. A good wheat harvest is in prospect.
In Central America and the Caribbean, the main agricultural activities include planting of the 2000/01 first season cereal and bean crops with the start of the rainy season in May. The area planted to maize, the main cereal, in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua is expected to be average, similar to 1999/2000. In Honduras, prospects have improved from earlier forecast and maize planting is anticipated to be about average, which represents a recovery from last year. In Mexico, where several states in the north have been declared disaster areas due to prolonged drought, planting of the important spring/summer crop is underway principally in the main producing central-southern belt states. Intended plantings should be about average. In the Caribbean, a severe prolonged drought in Jamaica has affected food crops, mainly vegetables, roots and tubers. By contrast, recent normal weather benefited developing crops in the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Haiti.
In the southern parts of South America, planting of the 2000/01 wheat crop has started while harvesting of the 2000 maize crop is underway. Average wheat plantings are anticipated in most countries. Production of maize in Argentina is expected to be slightly above average, a significant recovery from last year. In Brazil, an average to slightly above-average output is also anticipated. Maize output in Chile is expected to recover substantially from last year's drought affected crop. In Paraguay and Uruguay, normal rains have resumed but the harvest has been low, due to severe dry spell over several months.
The outlook for the 2000 cereal crops is generally favourable in most countries of the EC. Conditions improved significantly in southern parts in late April and early May following good rainfall. FAO now forecasts the aggregate wheat crop at 105.6 million tonnes, (1999: 97.6 million tonnes) and that of coarse grains at 105.7 million tonnes (1999: 102.2 million tonnes). Elsewhere in Europe, prospects for this year's cereal crops have deteriorated somewhat in the southeastern countries due to several weeks of persisting dry weather. Latest indications are that, in many parts, yields will likely turn out similar to last year's drought-reduced levels. In the Balkan countries large-scale international assistance continues for vulnerable populations. In The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (excluding Kosovo Province), about 1.1 million beneficiaries continue to receive food assistance, including refugees, IDPs and economically and socially deprived people. However, in the Kosovo Province, the total beneficiary caseload has been reduced from 900 000 to 600 000, reflecting improvements in economic conditions in the Province and reduced winter expenses. Assistance continues to be provided in Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia for vulnerable people affected by the Kosovo War.
In the four CIS countries west of the Urals (Belarus, Moldova, Russian Federation, Ukraine) the outlook has deteriorated. Latest estimates indicate that the area sown to winter crops (mainly wheat and rye) for harvest this year, is larger than last year. Winter conditions have been favourable overall, with milder temperatures and adequate precipitation in most areas. However, spring weather has been very mixed and untimely frosts in May as well as dry conditions have damaged crops in parts of Belarus, Moldova, southern Ukraine and Russia and seriously delayed spring grain plantings in the Urals and the New Lands. This will reduce the aggregate spring grain area. Elsewhere spring planting (other than maize) is nearing completion. In view of the deterioration in crop conditions, FAO's forecast for the 2000 grain harvest has been lowered to 67 million tonnes compared to the 60 million tonnes in 1999. In the Ukraine, uncertainty about the area sown on the recently reorganised farms, difficult access to credit and increasingly inadequate use of inputs points to a harvest not significantly larger than last year's poor 27 million tonnes. In Belarus, continuing economic difficulties and adverse weather are expected to constrain yields. In Moldova, frost and dry conditions have reduced crop potential and output is forecast to be less than the poor level of 2.2 million tonnes in 1999.
The aggregate 1999 cereal and pulse harvest in the four CIS countries in the region, estimated by FAO at 93 million tonnes, was barely 3 percent more than the poor harvest of 1998 and well below average. As a result, the grain supply situation remains tight in all four countries and cereal prices are rising. With imports, human consumption needs are being covered, but the availability of animal feed is highly constrained and livestock production is likely to contract further in 2000. Aggregate cereal imports for these four countries are currently estimated at nearly 10 million tonnes, more than double last year's, reflecting larger imports particularly by Belarus and the Russian Federation. In the Russian Federation, despite cereal imports now estimated to rise sharply from around 3 million tonnes in 1998/99 to nearly 8 million tonnes in 1999/2000, there is still no scope to rebuild stocks drawn down in 1998/99. Imports of cereals by Belarus could reach 1.35 million tonnes, if adequate funds are mobilized, following last year's record low harvest of 3.6 million tonnes. The 1999 harvest in Moldova (2.2 million tonnes) is almost adequate to cover consumption needs. Ukraine, despite a very poor harvest in 1999 (estimated at 27 million tonnes), will remain a net exporter of up to 3.1 million tonnes of cereals, mainly wheat and barley.
Populations in Chechnya and surrounding republics will continue to need considerable humanitarian assistance over a broad spectrum of basic needs, including food, shelter, health, nutrition, water and sanitation. Health remains a major problem in both Chechnya and Ingushetia, reflecting inadequate water and sanitation facilities. In Chechnya, the food outlook this year is poor, reflecting damage to infrastructure, livestock and the grape industry, and very limited availability of funds and inputs to restart production, as well as the need to first clear mines from arable land. The returning populations will need considerable humanitarian assistance in the coming months.
In the United States, prospects for the 2000 wheat crop remain generally favourable and aggregate (winter and spring) wheat production is officially forecast at 60.9 million tonnes, only 3 percent down from the previous year. The bulk of the coarse grain crop was planted by late May, slightly ahead of schedule, and some significant rains recently improved growing conditions following earlier dry weather. Based on the indicated areas planted, and assuming sufficient rainfall during the remainder of the season, aggregate 2000 coarse grains output in the United States is forecast at 271.3 million tonnes, 2.8 percent up from the previous year. For rice, plantings are expected to be down this year in response to the substantial decline in rice prices in the preceding season. In Canada, conditions have been generally favourable during the main spring planting season. The wheat area is expected to remain virtually unchanged from the previous year, while for coarse grains, early indications point to an increase in area.
In Australia, favourable weather conditions have benefited planting of the 2000 winter wheat and coarse grain crops. The winter wheat area is expected to be 11.8 million hectares, virtually unchanged from the previous year. As regards barley, the major winter coarse grain crop, early indications point to a sharp recovery in plantings to almost 3 million hectares after last year's reduced area. However, although weather conditions for planting and early development of the winter grain crops are favourable, crops are threatened by an outbreak of locusts. Intensive control measures will be needed over the coming months to prevent potentially very damaging plagues later in the year.