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


ANGOLA* (5 February)

Prospects for the 2001 foodcrops, to be harvested from April, are uncertain reflecting erratic rains since the beginning of the season. Prolonged dry spells in parts have coincided with excessive precipitation in others. Dry weather during January in southern parts has stressed developing cereal crops and more rains are needed in these areas. By contrast, heavy rains in late January in the Northwestern province of Cabinda resulted in loss of life and damage to infrastructure and crops. The total area planted is estimated to have been reduced by the intensification of the civil conflict at sowing time, which could result in another below-average output. A reduced cereal crop for the third consecutive year would aggravate the precarious food supply situation of the country, reinforcing the heavy reliance on food assistance.

The food supply situation continues to deteriorate with the persistent civil conflict. The security situation in the interior of the country remained unstable with violent incidents reported in the northern province of Uije, the northwest province of Bengo and the central province of Bie. The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs), estimated at 2.5 million people last June has continued to increase, particularly in Bie. Fresh waves of displaced people were also recorded in Benguela in the west, Huila and Kuando Kubango in the south, Malange in the north and Moxico in the east. While the food and nutritional situation of the IDPs is extremely critical, food aid distributions continue to be problematic due to insecurity and food aid pledges falling below requirements. By the end of January, WFP had received pledges for only 60 percent of its current operation in Angola. This has led to a one-third reduction in the number of beneficiaries, from 1.5 million to 1 million and to cuts in the rations distributed. The current food pipeline is facing imminent shortfalls. Additional resources are urgently needed to avoid further cuts in distributions in March and April and consequent human suffering.

BOTSWANA (2 February)

Dry weather during most of January stressed the 2001 developing cereal crops, particularly the maize crop. More rains are urgently needed to avoid yield reductions, as well as the deterioration of pasture conditions.

Following two consecutive reduced cereal harvests, the country has an import requirement of 250 000 tonnes of cereals in marketing year 2000/01, all of which is expected to be imported commercially.

LESOTHO (2 February)

Rains from late January provided relief to the 2001 coarse grain crops, stressed by a dry spell since the beginning of the month. Yield reductions are likely in parts. Rains in the coming weeks will be critical for the recovery of the crop.

Following a reduced 2000 cereal crop, the import requirement in marketing year 2000/01 (April/March) is estimated at 248 000 tonnes, most of which is expected to be covered commercially.

MADAGASCAR (2 February)

Good rains in the second and third dekads of January benefited the 2001 rice crop, negatively affected by dry weather early in the month. The overall prospects for the paddy harvest starting from April are favourable; however more rains are needed in the extreme north and other localized areas where rains have been erratic. By contrast, in southern maize growing areas, dry weather in the last two dekads of January has stressed the developing maize crops. If more rains are not received soon, the harvest is likely to be reduced for the second consecutive year. The southern areas were affected by a severe drought that resulted in a one- quarter decline of the maize output last year.

The national food supply situation is tight following the poor 2000 rice crop and sharply increased import requirements. In southern parts, food assistance is required for 240 000 vulnerable people who gathered a poor harvest last season.

MALAWI (26 February)

Continuous heavy rains since late January have resulted in serious floods in 13 of the country’s 27 districts, particularly in southern areas along the Shire River. Official reports indicate that 200 000 people are displaced due to the floods. Many areas are inaccessible as a result of damage to roads and bridges. It is estimated that 50 000 hectares of crops have been lost to the floods in the affected areas. The Government has appealed for international assistance to cope with the disaster.

Prospects for the 2001 cereal crops have deteriorated with the excessive rains in February that are likely to have resulted in yield reductions. A dry spell and high temperatures in January in some southern districts, mainly Balaka, Zomba and Mwanza, also negatively affected yields in these areas. Latest forecasts point to a maize crop below the 2.5 million tonnes of last year's bumper harvest, but still above average. The final outturn will depend on the rains in the remaining of the growing season.

The overall food supply situation is satisfactory reflecting last year's good harvest and adequate stocks. Also at household level the food security situation is reported to be generally satisfactory.

MOZAMBIQUE (26 February)

High water levels in the Zambezi River, due to torrential rains in neighbouring countries, as well as continuing heavy rains in central provinces since the last dekad of January, have resulted in floods in the central provinces of Zambezia, Sofala, Manica and Tete, particularly in late February. It is estimated that 41 persons have died, over 77 000 have lost their property and up to 400 000 are affected by the disaster. Severe damage to transport infrastructure is also reported. Access to the main port of Beira has been interrupted. Preliminary assessments of the agricultural damage carried out by the Government indicate that by late February, 27 000 hectares of cash and foodcrops had been lost to the floods, mostly in the Zambezia Province, affecting 44 000 farming families.

Following the opening of the Chaora Bassa dam, the country’s largest along the Zambezi River, more floods are threatening central parts. About 80 000 people are being evacuated from the towns of Marromeu and Luabo and surrounding areas. Also along the Pungue River, in Manica and Sofala provinces, there is concern of more floods. Further south, 30 000 people are endangered by floods due to the high levels of the Save River. The Government has appealed for US$30 million to cope with the emergency in central areas. Due to road closures, more aircraft for the evacuation operations are urgently needed. Emergency food assistance is currently being provided to 20 000 affected people. Agricultural tools and seeds required to allow affected farmers to plant a second season crop are valued at US$2.3 million.

In southern provinces, the worst affected by the severe floods of last year, the outlook for this year’s cereal harvest has deteriorated as a result of well below average precipitation in January. Rains in the second decked of February may have arrived too late to prevent serious yield reductions. In the main cereal growing areas of the north, good rains since the beginning of the season have favoured crop development.

Overall, the outlook for this year's cereal crop is still satisfactory, as the crop losses to floods are not significant at national level. Reflecting generally abundant rains and an increase in the area planted from last year's level, early official forecast pointed to an increase of 6 percent in this year's cereal production. However, should the heavy rains continue in the remainder of the growing season, prospects could deteriorate rapidly.

The food supply situation remains satisfactory at national level. Maize prices are below their level of a year ago. Nevertheless, a total of 165 000 food insecure people in 37 districts are estimated to be in need of food assistance until the next harvest.

NAMIBIA (2 February)

The outlook for this year's cereal crop has deteriorated as a result of severe dry weather during January in the northern growing areas. The dry weather followed late and erratic rains since the beginning of the season. Precipitation in February and March will be critical for the recovery of maize and sorghum crops.

The food supply situation remains satisfactory as a result of the good cereal harvest of last season and the country's commercial import capacity.

SOUTH AFRICA (7 February)

Prospects for the 2001 maize crop have worsened. Well below average rains and high temperatures in January and early February have resulted in yield reductions particularly in the most affected western growing areas. Preliminary estimates indicate that up to 30 percent of the maize crop may have been damaged in the North West and Northern Cape provinces, that account for one third of maize production and 40 percent of the white maize. Rains in the coming weeks will be crucial for the recovery of part of the crop, which is entering the critical pollination phase, and to avoid further crop damage. Reflecting the deterioration of the harvest prospects, maize futures prices increased to over 900 rand per tonne by the first week of February from 700 rand per tonne in mid-December.

Latest official estimates of maize plantings indicate an area of 2.65 million hectares, higher than earlier anticipated, but still 17 percent below the level of last year. The decline reflects low domestic prices at planting time. The lower plantings, coupled with reduced yields could result in a sharp decrease in the 2001 maize production. More rains are urgently needed.

Production estimates of the 2000 wheat crop have been revised upward to 2.1 million tonnes, one-third above the poor harvest of the previous year and above average.

SWAZILAND (5 February)

The outlook for the 2001 cereal crop has deteriorated. Prolonged dry weather during most of January stressed the developing maize crop. Rains resumed in early February but may have arrived too late to prevent reductions in yields. An assessment of the crop damage caused by the dry spell is not yet available.

The overall food supply situation is tight reflecting the flood-reduced cereal harvest of last year and commercial imports during marketing year 2000/01 (April/March) well below requirements. In particular, serious food difficulties are being experienced by 14 000 people who experienced crop failure last season and are in need of food aid until the next harvest. The Government has appealed for international assistance to help the affected population.

ZAMBIA (2 February)

Heavy rains in January over most parts of the country, except in the extreme south, resulted in localized floods but, in general, benefited the developing 2001 cereal crops. Areas worst affected by crop losses to flashing floods are the Western (Kalabo, Kaoma Lukulu and Mongu), Luapula, Northern and Central Provinces. Other affected areas are the Luangwa Valley (including areas in Serenje, Mpika, Mambwe, Lundazi, Katete, Chipata, Nyimba and Luangwa districts). Excessive rains have also resulted in pests and diseases in some parts. By contrast, prolonged dry weather in Southern (Livingstone and the Gwembe Valley) and Western provinces (Sesheke, Shangombo and Senanga) is anticipated to result in sharply reduced yields in these areas.

Overall, despite the localized crop losses, prospects for the harvest are favourable following good rains since the beginning of the season. However, the 2001 maize production is forecast to decline from last year's bumper crop, reflecting a decline in the area planted because of low prices at planting time and large unsold surpluses from the previous season.

The food supply situation is satisfactory. Prices of maize, which declined following the last harvest, started to rise in January.

ZIMBABWE* (5 February)

Prospects for the 2001 foodcrops, to be harvested from April, have deteriorated following dry weather in the last two dekads of January and, in general, erratic rains since the beginning of the season. Rains in early February may have arrived too late to prevent reductions in yields of maize and other foodcrops. In the worst affected southern areas, below average precipitation since mid-November has resulted in significant reductions in plantings and yields. Plantings in most districts are estimated to be less than 50 percent of normal levels and a poor harvest is anticipated. Most affected districts are Beitbridge, Matobo and Umzingwane in Matebeleland South Province; Umguza in Matebeleland North Province; Guruve in Mashonaland Central Province; Chiredzi in Masvingo Province; and Shurugwi in Midlands Province. In the main maize growing areas of the north and centre, latest estimates point to a decline in the area planted to maize of 26 percent, with sowings in the large-scale commercial farming sector estimated to be 50 percent lower as a result of civil disturbances. Provisional forecasts point to a maize crop as low as 1.2 million tonnes, or 41 percent below last year's level, but the final outcome will depend on the rains in the main growing areas in the next two months. However, should this low maize production forecast materialize, import requirements in marketing year 2001/02 will increase sharply to around 500 000 tonnes, at a time when the country faces severe foreign exchange shortages.

The current overall food supply position remains satisfactory reflecting the good maize crop of last year and large carryover stocks. However, the situation is difficult for poor urban households and in some communal areas that rely on purchased maize. Prices of maize and other basic food have increased sharply in the past month due to high levels of inflation, fuel shortages and continued devaluation of the national currency.

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