FAO Press Release 97/70

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Press Release 97/70


Nairobi, November 24 - Twenty African countries continue to face exceptional food emergencies through a combination of adverse weather conditions and, in some cases, continuing civil strife, according to the latest assessment of the food supply situation and crop prospects by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

FAO’s Global Early Warning and Information System (GIEWS) reports that problems are particularly acute in several countries in eastern Africa, in the Great Lakes region, and in Sierra Leone. The report is designed to provide the latest analysis and information on the food situation to governments, international organizations and others engaged in relief operations.

It says that a severe drought at the beginning of the year substantially reduced secondary-season food production in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Somalia and large parts of southern Ethiopia, while late or erratic rainfall later in the year led to reduced main-season harvest in some countries, particularly Tanzania and Uganda. Latest estimates for these two countries suggest that cereal production will be down by 30 and 27 percent respectively compared to 1996, while food prices remain high.

The report says the Tanzanian government estimates that about three million people are facing severe food shortages and it has recently appealed for 76 000 tons of emergency food aid. In Ethiopia, despite an overall satisfactory food supply situation, it is officially estimated that some 4.6 million people are in need of food aid.

In Somalia, heavy rains in late October have resulted in severe flooding of agricultural areas, mainly along the Juba valley, and prospects for the 1997/98 “short rains” cereal crop are uncertain. After three consecutive poor harvests, farmers’ stocks are exhausted and food supply is tight through the country, the report says.

In the Great Lakes region, despite the easing of the refugee crisis, serious food difficulties persist, the report continues. These are largely the result of major population dislocations and continuing insecurity, as well as unfavourable weather in some areas. In Burundi, food output remains below the average achieved before the crisis and economic and commercial activities continue to be restricted by the embargo imposed by neighbouring countries, the report says. In Rwanda, the food supply situation has deteriorated in recent months. Prices of basic staples have increased sharply and serious shortages are reported in some areas, particularly in the south.

The food situation in Sierra Leone has continued to deteriorate since the coup in May, the GIEWS report says. Food prices have increased sharply and serious food shortages are reported, despite the small quantities of relief aid which have entered the country in recent weeks. For a large section of the population there is now very limited access to expensive commercial food and malnutrition is reported to be on the increase. There are currently more than 92 000 internally displaced people, up from about 65 000 before May.

Elsewhere in western Africa, harvest prospects are mixed following mid-season dry spells in parts of the Sahel. Following rainfall well below normal levels in most of Senegal, the Gambia and Mauritania in July and August, which severely affected early planted crops, rainfall improved in late August and September, but harvest prospects remain unfavourable for rainfed crops. Localized food deficits are also anticipated in several areas of Burkina Faso and Niger.

The report adds that the situation in southern Africa is currently stable, but there is general concern in the area about the possibility of a drought in the coming season connected to the El Niño weather phenomenon, which is already affecting parts of Asia and Latin America. Governments in the region have started contingency planning and are encouraging farmers to plant drought-resistant crop varieties and to improve water conservation.

The level of the cereal import requirement in sub-Saharan Africa in 1997/98 is likely to be higher than in 1996/97, although the precise extent of the increase will depend on the outcome of the harvests in eastern and southern Africa, according to the FAO report.
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Copies of the “Food Supply Situation and Crop Prospects in Sub-Saharan Africa” will be available in the FAO office in Nairobi.


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