FAO/GIEWS - Foodcrops & Shortages No.1, March 2001 - Page 3

Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page



Food shortages caused by recent or ongoing natural and/or man-made disasters continue to affect many countries in all regions of the world. There are currently 33 countries with over 60 million people facing food emergencies of varying intensity. In sub-Saharan Africa, despite improved weather conditions recently, the effects of the recent devastating drought in eastern Africa are still being felt in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Sudan and Tanzania, where emergency food assistance continues to be provided by international humanitarian agencies and donors. In addition, populations displaced by the war between Eritrea and Ethiopia and civil strife in Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Sudan are entirely dependent on emergency food aid. In southern Africa, prospects for the current crops are somewhat unfavourable in parts, reflecting the effects of a prolonged dry spell in January and floods in Mozambique.

In Asia, the food supply situation remains very difficult in several countries, largely on account of natural disasters. In Afghanistan, a grave food crisis has emerged, the result of successive droughts, harsh winters and incessant civil strife. Substantial humanitarian assistance is urgently needed to avert further human suffering and loss of life. In Mongolia, a succession of droughts and extremely cold winters have killed large numbers of livestock on which over a third of the population, mainly nomadic herders, depends entirely for their livelihood and income. The UN has appealed for international assistance for the country. In DPR Korea, the coldest winter in decades and a reduced harvest in 2000 have exacerbated the already precarious food situation which has affected the country for the last six years. In India, a devastating earthquake left tens of thouthands of people dead and destroyed homes and infrastructure that will take years to rebuild at an enormous cost. In the CIS countries in central Asia, the effects of the recent severe drought are still being felt, particularly in Armenia, Georgia and Tajikistan where food assistance continues to be needed.

In Latin America, a series of earthquakes hit El Salvador in early January mid-February, causing loss of life and extensively damaging homes and infrastructure. Food production and marketing in 2001 will be constrained by the damaged infrastructure.

In Europe, following somewhat unfavourable weather conditions last autumn, winter grain area in the EC is likely to be down from the previous year. Among the central and eastern European countries, prospects for the winter cereal crops are somewhat unfavourable, reflecting persisting drought in Hungary and most of the Balkan Peninsula to the south. Elsewhere, growing conditions are reported to be close to normal.

In North America, one of the coldest winters on record in the United States may have raised winterkill to above normal levels in parts, reducing yields. Official estimates indicate that the winter wheat area has declined further, by 5 percent since last year, to the lowest level since 1971.


In eastern Africa, the 2000/2001 secondary cereal crops are being harvested in most countries. Following sufficient rainfall during the season, the outlook in Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda has somewhat improved. However, the overall food supply situation in the region remains precarious due to the lingering effects of drought and conflicts in parts. In addition, pastoralists in the region have been seriously affected by the ban imposed by the major importing countries of the Arabian Peninsula on imports of livestock from these countries due to Rift valley fever. A similar ban in 1998 adversely affected the economies of the livestock exporting countries in the Horn of Africa.

In Ethiopia, a good meher (main) season crop has been gathered due to favourable weather conditions in main growing areas. While this implies an improvement in the overall food availability, the food security situation in the country remains precarious for some 6.2 million people, particularly in pastoral areas. In Kenya, despite improved rains, nearly 4.4 million people are estimated to be in urgent need of food assistance. The severe scarcity of water and pasture in northern and eastern parts resulted in large livestock losses. In Eritrea, mass displacement of farmers from the agriculturally rich regions of Gash Barka and Debub, accounting for more than 70 percent of cereal production, jeopardised the 2000 cropping season. The food supply situation of the more than 1.5 million war-displaced people and 300 000 drought-affected people gives cause for serious concern. In Somalia, a satisfactory secondary ("Deyr") season preceded by a favourable main ("Gu") harvest has improved overall food prospects. However, large numbers of people are estimated to rely on food assistance due to succession of droughts and persistent insecurity. In Sudan, serious food shortages have emerged in western parts of the country due to late rains and prolonged dry spells, whilst food stocks have dwindled. The food situation in some parts of the south gives cause for concern due to drought and civil strife. An estimated 2.9 million people are in need of food assistance. In Tanzania, despite recent beneficial rains, successive years of drought have seriously undermined food supply in the northern and central regions of the country, resulting in some 800 000 people in need of food assistance. In Uganda, the food supply situation remains precarious in Gulu, Kitgum, Bundibugyo, and parts of Kasese and Kabarole, mainly due to last year's poor harvest and/or insecurity.

A UN Inter-Agency appeal was launched on 30 January 2001 for US$ 353 million to assist some 12.2 million drought affected people in the Horn of Africa.

Abundant rains from mid-October in Rwanda and Burundi resulted in satisfactory food production during the 2001 A season. However, dry weather resulted in reduced harvests in parts, where emergency food assistance is required for the affected population.

In southern Africa, prospects for the 2001 coarse grain crops have deteriorated in southern countries following a prolonged dry spell in January. Namibia, southern Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, southern Zimbabwe, southern Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland and southern Madagascar received well below average precipitation in January, which could cause yield reductions. By contrast, in northern parts, abundant rains have resulted in localized floods in central and southern Mozambique and parts of Malawi and Zambia. The aggregate area planted to coarse grain crops is estimated to be lower than last year, mainly reflecting reductions in South Africa, in response to low prices, and in Zimbabwe, following events related to land reform issues. Preliminary forecasts point to a decline in this year's maize output compared to last year's good level. FAO's latest estimates of the sub-region's aggregate 2001 wheat crop has been revised to 2.4 million tonnes, which is 11 percent higher than last year but average.

Following the 2000 good cereal harvest, the overall food supply situation remains satisfactory. However, the food and nutritional situation remains serious for increasing numbers of displaced people in war-torn Angola. With food aid pledges falling seriously short of the requirement, additional pledges are urgently requested. Food situation in Zimbabwe is also difficult for urban households and those in communal areas that rely on purchased maize. Prices of maize and other staple foods have increased sharply in recent months due to high inflation, fuel shortages and continued depreciation of national currency. Food difficulties are also experienced by some 240 000 people in southern Madagascar, where last year's harvest was reduced by drought, as well as by flood-affected people in Mozambique and Swaziland.

In northern Africa, planting is complete for most of the 2000/01 winter cereals, to be harvested from around April. Despite some delay in planting reported in Algeria and Tunisia, conditions are generally favourable so far. However, more rains are needed in these countries as well as in Morocco during the next two to three months for crops to reach maturity and to ensure a good harvest. In Egypt, area planted to wheat and barley is expected to increase further this year due to government incentives to increase production.

In western Africa, seasonably dry conditions prevail in the Sahel. Recession or off-season crops are now being cultivated. Prospects are less favourable than last year in Mauritania and Senegal due to a lower water level of the Senegal river. A series of joint FAO/CILSS Crop Assessment Missions in the 9 CILSS member countries of the Sahel estimated aggregate 2000 cereal production at 9.5 million tonnes, some 15 percent below the record production in 1999. Below-average harvests have been gathered in Burkina Faso and Chad, while production was close to average in Mali, Mauritania and Niger, and above average in Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau and Senegal. A record crop was harvested in The Gambia.

Reflecting favourable growing conditions, harvest prospects are generally favourable in the coastal countries along the Gulf of Guinea. However, in Guinea and Sierra Leone, fighting affected agricultural and marketing activities and caused new population displacements. Relief programmes are also being hampered. In Liberia, the 2000 paddy production is estimated at 144 000 tonnes, compared to a pre-war (1988) output of 259 000 tonnes. These three countries remain heavily dependent on international food assistance.

In central Africa, crop prospects are generally favourable in Central African Republic and Cameroon. In the Republic of Congo, the security situation has improved following a peace agreement, but food production has not yet recovered; food assistance is being provided to refugees and internally diplaced persons. The food situation remains critical in the Democratic Republic of Congo due to persistent civil war. The number of internally displaced people is currently estimated at 2 million.


Mongolia again faces a devastating winter this year, following last year's which killed an estimated 3 million animals, affecting the livelihood and income of one-third of the population, mostly nomadic herders. Temperatures have fallen to as low as -50 degrees Celsius, and heavy snowfall has blanketed the pastures on which animals usually feed in winter. Already, large numbers of animals have been lost. The harsh winter also poses considerable problems for transporting food and medical supplies to areas where the worst affected populations are located. The UN has appealed for emergency relief for the country. In the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, there are serious concerns regarding the food supply situation in the country following the widespread effects of the coldest winter in decades. In mid-January, temperatures were reported to have fallen to the lowest levels in 50 years. The situation is becoming increasingly precarious for large segments of the population who have already been weakened by years of food shortages, limited access to health services, electricity and fuel for heating. In India, the worst earthquake in 50 years measuring almost 8 on the Richter scale devastated the western state of Gujarat, causing a death toll estimated to be in tens of thousands and an enormous economic cost. In Cambodia, paddy losses caused by floods late last year resulted in a cereal deficit of some 45 000 tonnes which is expected to be wholly met by food aid already in the pipeline. A similar mission is currently in Laos to assess crop losses due to floods at the same time last year.

In several countries of the Near East, severe drought, harsh winter and conflict continue to affect the livelihood of millions of people. In Afghanistan, freezing temperatures have killed many people, exacerbating the very serious food crisis that has emerged following two consecutive years of drought and continuing civil conflict. The 2000 drought has seriously afffected crops and livestock across the country, with more than 3 million people in need of urgent assistance. In addition, intensified civil conflict, particularly in northern parts, has resulted in renewed population displacement, aggravating the precarious food situation. In Iraq, two years of drought has seriously reduced food output and exacerbated an already tight food supply situation. Similarly, the 2000 drought has severely affected crops and pastures in Jordan, leaving thousands of herders in need of assistance.

In the CIS countries in Asia, the outlook for winter grains for harvest in 2001 is uncertain. Following the drought reduced crops of 2000, seed shortages have limited the areas that could be sown with winter wheat in several countries, notably in Armenia, Georgia and Tajikistan. In Armenia and Georgia, indications are that the area sown to winter wheat has fallen to about two thirds of normal. By contrast, in Azerbaijan, where winter wheat largely escaped the effects of the summer drought, the area sown to wheat is expected to increase further. In many drought-affected countries, soil moisture deficits after last year's mild winter and hot dry spring and summer have not yet been fully replenished.

The aggregate 2000 cereal harvest in the eight CIS countries in Asia fell to 21 million tonnes from 24 million tonnes in 1999. The bulk of the decline was in wheat production, which is estimated at nearly 17 million tonnes compared to 19 million tonnes in 1999. Severe drought reduced production in many smaller countries with the exception of Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, and average yields in Kazakhstan were also less than last year's levels. In Kazakhstan, the 2000 grain harvest is officially forecast at 11.6 (1999: 14.3) million tonnes, including 9.1 million tonnes of wheat (1999:11.2). Aggregate coarse grain output was also reduced (2.3 million tonnes compared to 2.8 million tonnes in 1999) mainly due to inadequate moisture (irrigation and rainfall) for spring crops. The paddy harvest was also affected, notably in Uzbekistan where the irrigated crop in the northern areas was affected by inadequate irrigation water supplies. By contrast, total cereal, - and wheat production in particular - increased sharply in Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, reflecting the effects of land privatization and a sharp increase in the areas sown.

In the drought affected low-income food deficit countries of the CIS - notably Armenia, Georgia and Tajikistan - some 4 million people continue to require international relief assistance. Moreover, a significant recovery in food production this year will require further assistance with the provision of inputs. In Azerbaijan, despite an improved harvest, access to adequate food remains a problem for the poorest segments of the population. In northern Uzbekistan vulnerable populations in Karakalpakstan have suffered heavy crop and income losses and need relief.

Latin America

In Central America and the Caribbean, land is being prepared for the 2001 first season coarse grain crops. Cereal plantings and aggregate cereal output during 2000 remained at the previous year's level. However, the situation varied from country to country. Mexico's coarse grains production is estimated to have increased slightly in 2000, and the current cool weather conditions are favouring the growth of winter wheat. By contrast, cereal output declined in 2000 in El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Nicaragua and Honduras due to a dry summer spell and Hurricane "Keith". An earthquake hit El Salvador in early January and mid-February, killing many people and destroying housing and communications infrastructure. The event happened after the second season cereal crops were harvested, but there are concerns that the first season crops to be planted from April/May may be affected by disruptions in the supply of production inputs.

Wheat harvest is completed in South America, and coarse grain crops are growing satisfactorily under favourable weather conditions. Early official forecasts from Brazil point to an increase in maize production. Harvesting of paddy crops has started in Corrientes and northern Rio Grande do Sul. The area under paddy in the region decreased from last year due to credit constraints and low market prices. In Bolivia, torrential rains and drought have caused localised damage, and the government declared a state of emergency in some of the affected departments. Normal weather conditions are reported for the remaining Andean countries.


Following somewhat unfavourable weather conditions last autumn, winter grain area in the EC is likely to be down from the previous year. The bulk of the decline is expected in wheat as, in addition to weather problems, a switch of land to feed cereals and oilseed crops is expected this year. Among the central and eastern European countries, prospects for the winter cereal crops are somewhat unfavourable, reflecting persisting drought in Hungary and most of the Balkan Peninsula to the south. Dry conditions hampered crop emergence in these countries while unusually warm temperatures have encouraged premature crop development, rendering them susceptible to any sudden drops in temperature. Winter weather conditions in Poland, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic are reported to be closer to normal.

In the CIS countries west of the Ural Mountains, (Belarus, Moldova, Russian Federation and Ukraine) the early outlook for 2001 crops is satisfactory. The aggregate area sown to winter cereals for harvest in the spring/summer of 2001 increased, notably in the Ukraine and Russia. Overall growing conditions have been satisfactory to date despite spells of extremely cold weather. In the Russian Federation, the area sown to winter crops increased by 0.5 million hectares to 14.6 million hectares, mainly due to larger plantings in the North Caucasus and over 90 percent of the crop is reported to be in good condition. In Ukraine, the area sown increased by an estimated 0.6 million hectares to 8.4 million hectares. Growing conditions have been mostly good in the 2000/2001 season to date.

The aggregate 2000 cereal harvest (excluding pulses) in the four CIS countries in Europe is estimated by FAO at 99 million tonnes, some 9 million tonnes more than the preceding year's low level, mainly due to better harvests in Belarus and the Russian Federation. Increased output in the Russian Federation more than offset lower harvests in the Ukraine. Aggregate wheat production has risen to an estimated 52 million tonnes, with better harvests in the Russian Federation offsetting a poor harvest in Ukraine. Aggregate output of coarse grains in 2000, estimated at 46 million tonnes, is 6 million tonnes higher than last year. In the Russian Federation, FAO's estimate of cereal production in 2000 is 70 million tonnes, some 11 million tonnes higher than the estimate for 1999. FAO's estimates in both years are about 10 percent higher than the official estimates, (2000: 65.4; 1999: 54.7 million tonnes) in view of systematic underestimation. Output of paddy has remained stable at 0.6 million tonnes. In Belarus, the 2000 cereal harvest is estimated at 4.5 (1999: 3.6 mt). By contrast, in Moldova and Ukraine, the 2000 cereal harvest was again affected by drought. Output in Moldova is officially (reportedly) over-estimated at 2.0 million tonnes marginally less than last year's poor 2.1 million tonnes. In Ukraine FAO now estimates the 2000 cereal harvest at only 22.9 million tonnes, less than the poor output of 1999 (26.4 m.t) and less than the official forecast of 24.4 in view of traders and expert reports of overestimation, notably of the spring course grain crop.

In Chechnya and surrounding republics, persons displaced and/or left homeless as a result of conflict, continue to need assistance. Conditions in the winter months are particularly difficult. In the Balkans also, vulnerable populations in Yugoslavia Fed. Rep. and surrounding countries continue to need assistance.

In the Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), the early outlook for 2001 winter cereals is satisfactory although crop development is somewhat less than at the corresponding time last year. The 2000 cereal output recovered to about 3.8 million tonnes (1999: 3.3) million tonnes, with wheat output increasing somewhat to 1.4 million tonnes and coarse grain production rising by 23 percent to 2.4 million tonnes.

In the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, (Serbia and Montenegro), the outlook for the 2001 winter grain harvest is uncertain. Reports indicate that the area sown to wheat may have recovered to about normal levels, but much of the planting was late due to dry conditions in October/November and the availability of inputs remains problematic. Rain and mild temperatures as of late December have favoured crop establishment. The 2000 cereal harvest fell by 40 percent to an estimated 5.2 million tonnes. Unremunerative prices for wheat, critical shortages of inputs, flooding and water logging reduced the 2000 wheat harvest to an estimated 1.7 million tonnes while persistent drought virtually halved the spring maize crop (3.1 million tonnes) and also affected most other foodcrops. In Croatia, also, the outlook for the 2001 wheat crop is uncertain. Official plans, and support for the 2000/2001 winter crops sowing campaign, call for an 18 percent reduction in the sown area to wheat and moisture reserves remain low. The 2000 cereal harvest fell to 2.8 million tonnes, as drought reduced the spring coarse grain yields. In Bosnia Herzegovina, the declining trend in wheat plantings is likely to continue.

North America

Weather conditions remain satisfactory for winter wheat crops in the United States. However, after one of the coldest winters on record so far, winterkill may be above normal in parts and the state of crop development is generally behind normal throughout the Great Plains. Official estimates indicate that the winter wheat area has declined further, by 5 percent since last year, to the lowest level since 1971. In Canada, wheat and coarse grains crops are mostly sown in May/June. Early indications of planting intentions point to similar areas as in the previous year.


The 2000 winter grain harvest in Australia has recently been completed and latest estimates put the wheat output at some 21 million tonnes, slightly up from the previous forecast but about 4 million tonnes below last year's bumper crop. Early prospects for the summer 2001 coarse grain crops (mostly sorghum), which have recently been planted are somewhat unfavourable because of dry conditions and the final area sown is likely to be reduced. A series of earthquakes hit Papua New Guinea in December but damage was limited. In the Solomon Islands, despite a peace agreement signed last October, the security situation remains volatile. In Fiji, the food supply situation is generally satisfactory, but serious nutritional problems are reported in several areas. In Samoa, more rains are needed in the next few months for normal crop development.

Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page