FAO/GIEWS - Foodcrops & Shortages No.1, March 2001


BURUNDI* (12 February)

After a succession of reduced crops, the output of the recently harvested 2001 A season crops is estimated to be satisfactory. A recent locally-organized FAO/WFP/UNICEF Assessment Mission estimated food production at 85 000 tonnes of cereals, 68 000 tonnes of pulses, 483 000 tonnes of roots and tubers and 465 000 tonnes of bananas and plantains, which is 15 percent, 10 percent, 4 percent and 1 percent respectively higher than in the 2000 A season. However, outputs remain below the pre-crisis (1988-1993) average levels, due to insecurity and disruption of agricultural production since 1994.

The area planted increased significantly this season reflecting relatively a better security situation in western parts, in particular in the provinces of Bubanza and Cibitoke, and the closure of regroupment camps in Bujumbura Rural Province, which allowed farmers to return to their fields. The other factor which contributed to higher plantings this season was the timely seed distributions by the Government and international agencies, mainly in the Kirundo and Muyinga provinces, the worst affected by drought during the 2000 A season.

Despite a late start of the rainy season, precipitation was abundant and well distributed from October to November benefiting crop development. However, excessive rains in parts resulted in floods and crop losses and, in general, reduced yields, particularly for beans. Yields of bananas and plantains are expected to increase only from March/April as trees were seriously affected by previous prolonged dry weather.

The small 2000 C season in the marshlands, from mid-June to September, was poor reflecting the dry weather in previous months. The food output was estimated 4 percent below the level of the 1999 C season.

The tight food situation has eased with the arrival of the new harvest. Nevertheless, following several consecutive below average harvests, persistent insecurity and population displacements, as well as a recent malaria epidemic, the food and nutrition situation of vulnerable groups remains precarious. In particular, the situation is difficult for 324 000 internally displaced people and for drought affected persons in the provinces of Karuzi, Gitega, Kayanza and Muyinga. A recent nutritional survey in 7 provinces of the country indicated a 10 percent rate of acute global malnutrition. Similarly, a recent report by MSF indicated that the number of malnourished children admitted to its therapeutic feeding centres in Karuzi province had doubled in January 2001. Emergency food aid continues to be necessary for the vulnerable sections of the population.

ERITREA* (14 February)

Below-normal rains in December over winter rain receiving coastal areas have dampened prospects for the sorghum and maize crops, about to be harvested. Furthermore, despite favourable rains in September and October in some regions of the country, a well below average 2000 main season cereal crop is forecast as a result of displacement of a large number of farmers by war with neighbouring Ethiopia. Gash Barka and Debub administrative zones (Zobas), which have been severely affected by the displacement, are major grain producing areas supplying more than 75 percent of the country’s cereal production.

The Desert Locust situation remains calm but with recent winter rains along coastal areas, conditions are likely to be favourable in parts of the Red Sea coastal plains.

Cereal prices, which normally decline at harvest time were generally increasing or remained unchanged in most market centres between November and December reflecting the anticipated poor harvest. The food situation continues to be tight for nearly 1.8 million people affected by the war with Ethiopia and last year’s drought along the coastal areas.

ETHIOPIA* (14 February)

Planting of the 2001 secondary "belg" season crops is about to start. The "belg" crop accounts for around 8 to 10 percent of annual cereal and pulses production but in some areas it is the main harvest.

Harvesting of the main 2000 "meher" season crops was completed late last year. An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission in November/December found that the meher crop had recovered strongly from earlier expectations due to abundant rainfall which continued through October, benefiting late sown crops. The Mission forecast a meher harvest of 11.61 million tonnes of cereals, about 7.3 percent higher than the 1999 post-harvest estimate, mainly due to an increase in area planted.

Livestock, particularly in the pastoralist areas, was devastated last year by a prolonged drought, which caused acute water and fodder shortages, exacerbated later by infectious diseases and parasites. The southern pastoralist areas of Somali, Borena, Bale and South Omo were worst hit and cattle losses at levels of up to 50 percent have been noted. Consequently, animal production among pastoralists and agro-pastoralists has been severely reduced and will take several years to recover. The late meher rains in 2000 have helped considerably in regenerating pasture and browse and recharging water points. Animals in belg-dependant zones and woredas in the settled farming areas also suffered and draught animal numbers are reported to be lower than needed, affecting area planted and quality of land preparation.

The improved availability of cereals has resulted in falling grain prices in most markets. However, despite the good harvest, some 6.5 million people will require food assistance. On the basis of the 2000 meher production estimate and a forecast belg harvest in 2001 of 170 000 tonnes of cereals and pulses, the Mission estimated a total grain import requirement of 970 000 tonnes in 2001, a large part to be covered by food aid. In addition, donors are urged to support local purchases to provide some strength in the market. In February, total pledges amounted to 450 000 tonnes of which 45 000 tonnes has been delivered.

The UN country team has recently launched an appeal for US$203 million to assist 6.5 million people affected by drought and war.

KENYA (14 February)

Prospects for the 2000/01 secondary "short rains" cereal crop, accounting for some 20 percent of annual production, has improved with the unseasonal continuation of the rains well into January. However, recent reports of armyworm infestations in parts of Coast Province are a cause for concern. This crop provides the main source of food in parts of Central and Eastern provinces.

The main "long rains" cereal crop, harvested until last October, was significantly reduced due to a severe drought. Official estimates indicate maize output of about 1.7 million tonnes compared to 2.4 million tonnes average over the previous five years.

The severe drought in 1999/2000 seriously undermined the food security of nearly 4.4 million people and resulted in a massive relief operation. Despite some improvement, the food supply situation is still fragile, particularly in the northern, eastern and north-eastern pastoral districts. The severe scarcity of water and pasture has resulted in loss of large numbers of livestock and the process of recovery is rather slow.

An revised Emergency Operation was jointly approved in January 2001 by FAO and WFP for food assistance to 4.4 million drought affected people, worth US$148.9 million for a period of six months.

RWANDA* (9 February)

Preliminary indications point to a food output of the recently harvested 2001 A season crop at around or slightly lower than the good level of last year. Despite a delay to the start of the rainy season, precipitation was abundant and well distributed from mid-October to December. Although excessive rains in November resulted in floods and crop losses in parts, mainly in Gisenyi and Butare Prefectures, they generally benefited plantings and yields, particularly of cereals and pulses. Production of roots and tubers and banana and plantains was less satisfactory reflecting shortages of planting material and prolonged dry weather. Also despite the overall positive picture, a poor harvest was gathered in the Bugasera region of Kigali Rural Province, due to seed shortages following successive reduced crops. A locally-organized Government/FAO/WFP/EU Mission has assessed this season’s food production but its findings are not yet available.

The tight food supply situation has eased with the new harvest. Prices of maize, beans and Irish potatoes have decreased from their levels of a year ago. However, despite the overall improvement in the food situation, emergency food assistance is anticipated to be needed until the next harvest for people in the Bugesera region, particularly in Kanzenze and Gashora districts. WFP plans to distribute 13 000 tonnes of emergency food assistance for three months to 267 000 drought-affected people in southeast Rwanda.

SOMALIA* (14 February)

Harvesting of the 2000/01 secondary "Deyr" cereal crop, normally accounting for some 25-30 percent of annual cereal production, is underway. Preliminary estimates of the area planted indicate an increase of about 51 percent, compared to the previous Deyr season for the sorghum crop, to about 207 000 hectares, and a decrease of 21 percent for the maize crop to nearly 71 000 hectares. The total cereal production for the 2000/01 Deyr season is forecast at about 110 000 tonnes, close to last year’s good Deyr harvest.

The main 2000 "Gu" season, harvested until last September, was estimated at 212 000 tonnes of cereals, about 22 percent above the post-war (1993-1999) average due to widespread rains and improved security in parts.

The overall food supply situation in parts of southern Somalia has improved in the last 6 months with better Gu and Deyr harvests. However, recent nutrition surveys indicate continued high malnutrition rates, reflecting slow household recovery from the succession of droughts and long-term effects of years of insecurity. Moreover, the recent injection of new currency into the market with the attendant depreciation of the Somali Shilling have caused a sharp increase in prices of food items and essential goods.

Elsewhere, in north-western Somalia (Somaliland) and north- eastern Somalia (Puntland), favourable rainfall in recent months has improved pasture and livestock conditions. However, the ban of livestock imports from eastern Africa by countries along the Arabian Peninsula due to a Rift Valley fever has caused substantial loss of income and has threatened the livelihoods of a large number of pastoral households, particularly in the Haud region of Togdeer.

Food aid distributed by WFP was close to 1 100 tonnes during the month of December, both in southern and northern Somalia bringing the total distributed from January to December 2000 to 16 845 tonnes.

SUDAN* (14 February)

An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission, which visited southern Sudan from 4 to 27 October 2000 and northern Sudan from 19 November to 6 December 2000, found that serious food shortages were emerging in several parts of the country due to late rains and prolonged dry spells, whilst food stocks had dwindled. The Mission forecast 2000/01 total cereal production in Sudan at about 3.6 million tonnes, comprising 2.7 million tonnes of sorghum, 496 000 tonnes of millet and 334 000 tonnes of wheat (to be harvested in mid- 2001) and 95 000 tonnes of other cereals. At this level, cereal production is about 14 percent above last year’s below average crop but about 18 percent below the previous five years’ average.

As a result, the cereal import requirement in the 2000/01 marketing year (November/October) is estimated at 1.2 million tonnes, about 16 percent above last year’s actual imports. Commercial imports in 1999/2000 are estimated at nearly 1 million tonnes, some 13 percent higher than the previous year. Emergency food aid, in pipeline and under mobilisation, stood at 34 000 tonnes, leaving an uncovered gap of about 140 000 tonnes.

Lower harvests coupled with virtual depletion of stocks have led to a sharp rise in cereal prices. Sorghum retail prices, for instance, leapt from an average of SP 15 000 per 90kg bag in January to April 2000 to an average of SP 35 000 in May and June. In November and December 2000 sorghum prices averaged SP 40 000 compared to SP 20 000 for the same period in 1999. Such an increase will reduce access to food for the poorer segments of the population.

The erratic rainfall also had a devastating effect on range vegetation, as well as on the availability of feed from grain and crop residues, especially in rainfed areas. The drastic fall in feed is expected to lead to widespread under- nutrition in livestock. Market supply of livestock has increased substantially, depressing prices and thus household incomes. The livestock/grain terms of trade for pastoralists have deteriorated sharply. Sheep/sorghum terms of trade (the quantity of sorghum bought with the local sale of a sheep) declined by about 400 percent in December 2000 compared to December 1999.

The population most affected by the current poor season is estimated at 900 000, mainly in Darfur, Kordofan, North Bahr el Ghazal, Bahr el Jebel, East Equatoria, Jonglei, Juba and Butana province in Gezira State. About 600 000 of these people will be in dire need of food assistance within four to five months time. In addition, some 2.4 million people affected by the ongoing civil strife in the south will need continued assistance. With few resources left and coping mechanisms stretched to the limit, farmers and other vulnerable groups have already started to migrate in search of work and food. Consumption of seed grains will reduce their productive capacity and ability to sustain themselves in the coming agricultural season. A timely and targeted intervention is essential to prevent further human suffering.

An revised Emergency Operation was jointly approved in January 2001 by FAO and WFP for food assistance to 2.4 million people affected by war, drought and floods, worth an additional US$50.2 million for a period of 4 months.

TANZANIA (14 February)

Harvesting of the 2000/01 short "Vuli" season crops is well advanced in the bi-modal rainfall areas of the northern coastal belt and north-east, where the crop accounts for some 30-40 percent of the annual food supplies. Despite good rains in parts, prospects are uncertain particularly with the recent armyworm infestations in Dodoma, Arusha, Mbeya, Iringa, Singida and parts of Mwanza.

The 2000 national cereal crop, mainly maize, is estimated at about 3.3 million tonnes, about 20 percent below the previous five years average. The decline is attributed to drought conditions in several parts of the country. However, the overall food supply situation has improved due to large maize imports, resulting in marked declines in food prices. Despite reduced pasture, livestock conditions are reported to be good.

Successive years of drought have seriously undermined food supply in the northern and central regions of the country. Food assistance will be required for about 800 000 people identified as food insecure, mainly in the regions of Dodoma, Mara, Shinyanga, Singida, Tabora, Tanga and southern Mwanza, who have suffered their third consecutive poor harvest.

UGANDA (14 February)

Harvesting of the 2000/01 second season cereal crops is well underway. The output is anticipated to be above average reflecting well distributed rains during the season.

The output of the main season crop, harvested from the middle of 2000, was below average due to drought and erratic rains in various parts of the country. Cereal production in 2000 is estimated to be about 12 percent below average at 1.6 million tonnes.

The overall food supply situation is satisfactory. However, the situation remains precarious in districts of Gulu, Kitgum, Bundibugyo, and parts of Kasese and Kabarole, mainly due to last year’s poor harvest and/or insecurity. WFP’s food assistance benefits an estimated 1.1 million IDPs, refugees, and drought-affected people in the country.

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