Burundi: farmers return to their fields, but shortage of inputs and adverse weather cut yields

An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission to the East African country of Burundi in February 1998 has found that an increase in production as a result of farmers returning to their fields has been checked by harsh weather conditions, pest infestations and shortage of inputs in the first season of 1998. Access to food is further curtailed by high prices and soaring inflation.

Following an improvement in security conditions, large numbers of people returned to their homes during the second half of 1997, both from internal displacement camps and outside the country. This led to an increase in planted areas. However, the rains arrived a month late (in mid-October) in most areas and were so heavy they caused floods and heavy pest infestations in some crops.

According to the Special Report issued by the Mission, 1998 first season total food production is forecast at 1 142 000 tonnes, 2 percent down on 1997 first season production, which was itself below average. The greatest falls were in pulses and cereals (16 and 13 percent respectively). In comparison with the average of season A production between 1988 and 1993, the 1998 first season production is 20 percent lower, according to the report.

Import requirements in 1998 are estimated at 139 000 tonnes of cereal equivalent. Commercial imports are expected to be 54 000 tonnes, leaving a deficit of 85 000 tonnes of cereals and pulses. Emergency food aid requirements are estimated at 60 000 tonnes, leaving an uncovered deficit of 25 000 tonnes.

Food prices in the country have also soared. Potatoes prices in the capital city, Bujumbura rose 117 percent from January 1997 to January 1998, well above the national inflation rate for 1997, which stood at 31 percent. Low imports because of the economic embargo by neighbouring countries, poor harvests and significant food outflows, especially to Rwanda, all played a part in pushing prices up. With the escalation in prices, purchasing an adequate amount of foodstuffs is now beyond the reach of the majority of the population, according to the report.

3 April 1998

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