FAO GLOBAL INFORMATION AND EARLY WARNING SYSTEM ON FOOD AND AGRICULTURE

For official use only

SPECIAL ALERT NO. 266

COUNTRY: MONGOLIA

(Circulated only for countries where foodcrops or supply situation conditions give rise to concern)



WIDESPREAD FIRES MAY WORSEN TIGHT FOOD SUPPLY SITUATION

Extremely dry weather and the lack of snow during the winter have resulted in widespread and high intensity spring fires in Mongolia in recent weeks, devastating large parts of the country. Latest reports indicate that 19 people have died, 700 made homeless and that so far 30 000 sq km of forest area and 50 000 sq km of pasture land have been damaged or destroyed, resulting in the loss of 6 000 livestock. Total economic loss is officially estimated to be in the region of U.S.$ 1.9 billion.

The fires are likely to make a difficult and already tight food supply situation much worse. The cessation of economic and technical assistance from the former U.S.S.R., the disruption of external trade and the transition from a centrally planned to a market economy have meant that the country has been unable to import required agricultural inputs, fertilisers, fuel and machinery parts etc, to maintain agricultural productivity. Consequently, food crop production has declined precipitously since the early 1990s. Official estimates show that cereal production, mostly wheat, declined from 718 000 tons in 1990 to some 261 000 tons in 1995. In addition, as April/May are critical months for wheat planting, it is possible that the fires may also adversely affect 1996 production.

The loss of pasture and livestock, especially, may have serious implications for nomadic herders, for overall economic recovery and the ability of the country to earn foreign exchange as animal and animal products are vital to the export sector. In addition, current livestock losses may be compounded by further and more serious losses in coming months, due to a shortage of pasture for feeding.

In recent years, in view of declining production and growing demand, the food deficit has been increasing, whilst the country’s ability to make commercial imports to bridge the gap has been highly constrained by economic problems and the lack of foreign exchange. This has been aggravated since last year by surging international grain prices. It has, therefore, had to resort to international assistance, though the overall amount provided has been far short of requirements. In 1994/95 it is estimated that out of a total cereal import requirement of 137 000 tons very little was imported commercially and only 11 400 tons were provided as aid. For 1995/96 the cereal import requirement is provisionally estimated at 270 000 tons, virtually none of which has been covered by pledges of assistance from donors so far. In view of persistent food supply difficulties, even before the present setback, the government made several requests for international food assistance through FAO and WFP, the latest being in January 1996 for the supply of 15 000-20 000 tons of wheat flour.

Although Mongolia has in recent years shown some signs of economic recovery following major disruption, it remains severely constrained with respect to accelerating domestic food production and meeting its food deficit through commercial imports, especially in a period of high prices. This has resulted in a substantial food deficit that can effectively only be covered by international assistance. The fires have potentially made the situation much worse as export revenues may decline even further and nomadic herdsmen may have no livestock to use as collateral for the purchase of food.

This report is prepared on the responsibility of the FAO Secretariat with information from official and unofficial sources and is for official use only. Since conditions may change rapidly, please contact Mr. Abdur Rashid, Chief, ESCG, FAO, (Telex 610181 FAO I; Fax: 0039-6-5225-4495, E-Mail (INTERNET): GIEWS1@FAO.ORG) for further information if required.

FA 4/50 MONGOLIA
TOC Return to Menu