GLOBAL INFORMATION AND EARLY WARNING SYSTEM ON FOOD AND AGRICULTURE 

SPECIAL REPORT

CROP AND FOOD SUPPLY SITUATION IN LIBERIA

26 January 1999



1.OVERVIEW

Since 1996 it had been impossible for FAO/GIEWS to carry out an on-the-spot assessment of the food supply situation in Liberia due to security reasons. With improved security following the installation of an elected government, GIEWS was able to field a short fact-finding mission to the country in mid-December 1998 to estimate food production in 1998 and forecast the cereal supply position for 1999 (January/December). Two officers, one from the Ministry of Agriculture and the other from the FAO Representation, were assigned to assist the Mission. Discussions were held with relevant Government officials, UN Agencies and NGOs, and limited field visits were made to inspect crop conditions.

The figures presented in the report indicate a significantly improved overall food situation. At the time of the Mission, the INGO’s Bulk Seeds and Tools Committee was reviewing the outcome of the 1998 harvest through survey questionnaires from all farming districts. The analysis of the questionnaires was expected to be finalised by February 1999 and, therefore, the findings of the Mission may need to be revised according to the outcome of this analysis.

The Mission estimates paddy production in 1998 at 210 100 tonnes, up 25 percent on the estimate for 1997 and about 70 percent of the pre-civil strife 1986/90 average. Cassava production is estimated at 313 300 tonnes (fresh weight), which is 96 percent of the pre-crisis average. The main factors which contributed to the increase in paddy and cassava production include an expansion in planted area as a result of the return of large numbers of farm families to their homes, increased yields due to greater access to NGO-supplied inputs (especially seeds and tools) and improved crop husbandry practices as more extension services become available. In addition, improved varieties of cassava have become more readily available from a number of NGO-supported projects.

On the basis of an estimated population of about 2.8 million in 1999 and an estimated daily per caput cereal consumption of 101 kg, the Mission estimates that Liberia will need to import 155 000 tonnes of cereals to meet its consumption requirements. Commercial imports are anticipated at 100 000 tonnes of rice and 5 000 tonnes of wheat. The remaining 50 000 tonnes will need to be covered by food aid, estimated at 30 000 tonnes of wheat and 20 000 tonnes of maize products such as maize meal and CSB for distribution to vulnerable displaced people. Food aid in the form of rice is not foreseen.

 


2. FOODCROP PRODUCTION IN 1998


2.1 Factors Affecting Foodcrop Production

Rainfall

Rainfall is normally not a limiting factor for agricultural production with annual precipitation ranging from 2 000 mm in the northern highland zone to some 3 500 to 4 500 mm in the coastal plains and the hill zone. While no detailed rainfall statistics are available, satellite images indicate that for the 1998 crop, normal to above normal rain was received early in the season all over the country. A period of lower rainfall occurred in June/July, which is not unusual, and though relatively dry conditions continued into August this is not considered to have negatively affected crop development.

Farm Input Supply

During the seven years of civil strife, agricultural production was severely affected by the flight of several hundred thousand people who sought refuge in neighbouring countries and an estimated 1.6 million internally displaced people scattered throughout the country. Homesteads were destroyed, seeds and tools lost and agricultural production for both subsistence and income generation was dramatically reduced. To assist the affected people during this troubled time, the international community provided assistance not only in the form of food aid, but also in the form of farm inputs to sustain self-sufficiency in food among as many families as possible. Since 1995, the farm input supply programme has been coordinated by the INGO’s Bulk Seeds and Tools Committee which is composed of representatives of the major donors, MOA, FAO, WFP and the implementing INGOs.

During the Committee’s four years of operation, the number of vulnerable farming families benefiting from the supply of seeds and hand tools has increased from some 64 000 in 1995 to 118 000 in 1998. Each family receives 25 kg of paddy seed, a variety of vegetable seeds and a set of four to five hand tools as well as a ration of bulgur wheat or CSB to ensure that seeds are not consumed. A complex registration process for the vulnerable farmers has been designed to ensure that farmers who have received assistance in one year are not supported in the years immediately after. This assistance has contributed considerably to an increase in national crop production in general and food security at the household level in particular. Table 1 provides details of the number of beneficiaries involved in the programme and the quantities of farm inputs distributed by county in 1998.

Table 1: Liberia – Distribution of Seeds and Tools in 1998

County
Seed rice Farm tools 1/
Farm families Tonnes Farm families Number of various tools
Bomi 6 117 154 5 075 26 000
Bong 9 861 247 13 294 70 400
Cape Mount 9 221 231 10 755 53 300
Grand Bassa 6 092 152 9 961 57 800
Grand Gedeh 17 216 363 17 294 74 400
Grand Kru 3 931 98 5 781 15 700
Lofa 31 910 773 38 003 182 200
Margibi 3 577 89 2 634 14 400
Maryland 6 111 153 6 121 15 000
Montserrado 1 550 39 1 655 8 700
Nimba 11 933 298 12 054 62 300
Rivercess 2 396 60 3 384 13 500
Sinoe 8 000 200 9 872 49 100
Total 117 915 2 857 135 883 642 800


Source: INGO’s Bulk Seeds and Tools Committee
1/ Cutlasses, hoes, files, axes, buckets and shovels.

Area Planted to Foodcrops

A wide variety of basic foodcrops is grown in Liberia. The staple is rice which is grown in all counties as rainfed upland paddy, rainfed swamp paddy and as irrigated paddy. The second most important staple is cassava, which in some areas is even the preferred diet. Other roots and tubers, such as yams, sweet potatoes and taro are also important foodstuffs, as are bananas and plantains. Small quantities of maize are also grown, mainly in north-western areas, but this is consumed as green maize on the cob. However, this report focuses on the two staples, rice and cassava.

Statistics on the area planted to crops in recent years are not available. However, some pre-crisis averages of area and production of rice and cassava for 1986 to 1990 are available in national agricultural statistics yearbooks. These data, combined with the findings of the two GIEWS Missions in 1995 and 1996, and the figures supplied by the FAO Representation for the 1997 season, form the base from which the Mission derived its estimate of the 1998 harvest. Due to insecurity and the displacement of farming families, the area planted declined significantly during the years of civil strife. With the return to peace, the situation has been reversed, with large numbers of people returning to their farms. The degree to which farmers have resettled is one of the main determining factors in the increase in the area planted to crops.

As with other statistics in Liberia, detailed population figures are scarce. However, an estimate of the 1997 population by the Inter-Agency Population Group was in turn adjusted by the UN-HACO (UN Humanitarian Assistance Coordinating Office in Liberia) for movements of internally displaced people and refugees to reach a breakdown of population by county for 1998 and 1999, as shown in Table 2.

Table 2: Liberia – Population estimate by county

County
1984
(Census)
1997
(Inter-Agency
Population Group)
1998
(UN-HACO)
1999
(UN-HACO)
Bomi 66 420 27 600 105 254 114 316
Bong 255 783 262 342 290 820 299 825
Cape Mount 79 322 68 770 114 632 120 141
Grand Bassa 159 648 207 361 213 626 215 338
Grand Gedeh 102 810 33 700 65 522 94 497
Grand Kru 62 791 30 000 36 836 39 062
Lofa 247 641 212 628 318 867 351 492
Margibi 151 792 205 465 216 539 219 417
Maryland 69 267 30 111 61 670 71 977
Montserrado 491 078 990 477 854 637 843 783
Nimba 313 050 269 594 331 958 338 887
Rivercess 37 849 32 266 37 115 38 167
Sinoe 64 147 69 652 77 257 79 241
Total 2 101 598 2 439 966 2 724 733 2 826 143


By combining the population changes in the individual counties with the information on the distribution rates for seeds and tools, some assumptions were made for adjusting (mainly increasing) the number of hectares planted as compared to previous years. This qualitative approach was discussed in detail with NGOs and donors with detailed local knowledge or in many cases even with detailed information on areas planted in specific counties.

As indicated in Tables 3 and 4, covering production estimates for paddy and cassava respectively, the area planted to rice in 1998 is estimated to have increased by 20 percent and to cassava by 10 percent for the country as a whole. The estimated areas under rice and cassava are now about 65 percent and 75 percent, respectively, of those of the pre-crisis period. With continued improvement in the security situation, the abundance of farm land and further provision of farm inputs to resettling farmers, it is likely that the area planted will reach pre-crisis levels within the next two to three years.

Table 3: Liberia - Paddy production by county

County
Average 1986/90 1995 1996 1997 1998 (Estimated)
‘000 hectares ‘000 tonnes ‘000 tonnes ‘000 tonnes ‘000 hectares ‘000 tonnes ‘000 hectares ‘000 tonnes
Bomi 7.5 10.2 1.8 0.2 1.3 1.8 4.0 4.4
Bong 43.0 57.5 12.1 28.2 32.7 45.5 37.0 51.8
Cape Mount 10.3 14.8 7.8 0.7 3.6 5.4 6.0 8.4
Grand Bassa 18.0 16.2 4.8 4.6 18.6 19.6 19.0 20.9
Grand Gedeh 22.8 26.0 1.1 1.6 2.4 3.3 5.0 7.0
Grand Kru 7.1 9.3 - 0.5 2.6 3.6 3.0 4.2
Lofa 40.8 45.0 9.9 11.5 20.2 24.0 25.0 32.5
Margibi 7.5 9.3 0.6 2.6 7.9 9.8 8.0 10.0
Maryland 10.3 13.9 3.4 0.3 2.0 2.8 5.0 7.0
Montserrado 4.5 5.3 6.9 7.6 4.0 5.1 5.0 6.5
Nimba 60.6 68.2 6.7 33.8 32.6 38.0 36.0 45.0
Rivercess 4.5 3.9 0.5 0.1 4.3 4.8 4.5 5.4
Sinoe 10.5 14.8 0.5 2.8 3.3 4.7 5.0 7.0
Total 247.4 294.4 56.2 94.5 135.5 168.4 162.5 210.1


Source: Average 1986/90: National agricultural statistics yearbooks, various issues.
1995 and 1996: FAO Missions (areas planted not available).
1997: FAOR, based on TCP/LIR/5611 Report

Table 4: Liberia - Cassava production (fresh weight) by county

County
Average 1986/90 1995 1996 1997 1998 (Estimated)
‘000 hectares ‘000 tonnes ‘000 tonnes ‘000 tonnes ‘000 hectares ‘000 tonnes ‘000 hectares ‘000 tonnes
Bomi 2.7 15.5 | 1.4 0.8 4.2 2.0 10.4
Bong 10.1 57.0 | 25.1 5.7 30.4 5.7 30.4
Cape Mount 4.3 26.2 | 10.0 2.2 17.4 3.0 23.7
Grand Bassa 6.5 24.6 | 14.8 5.8 38.4 5.8 38.4
Grand Gedeh 5.7 27.3 | 4.4 1.0 7.3 3.0 21.9
Grand Kru 2.7 15.2 | 2.1 2.1 16.4 2.1 16.4
Lofa 4.8 22.4 NA 7.3 3.2 18.4 3.2 18.4
Margibi 4.3 22.2 | 16.1 2.6 14.3 2.6 14.3
Maryland 3.5 20.0 | 2.0 2.0 10.9 2.5 13.8
Montserrado 3.3 16.4 | 44.8 5.7 38.0 5.7 38.0
Nimba 12.1 57.4 | 79.8 9.3 68.1 9.3 68.1
Rivercess 1.3 4.8 | 1.6 1.5 7.7 1.5 7.7
Sinoe 2.7 16.1 | 4.2 1.6 11.8 1.6 11.8
Total 64.0 325.1 175.0 213.6 43.5 283.3 48.0 313.3


Source: Average 1986/90: National agricultural statistics yearbooks, various issues.
1995 and 1996: FAO Missions (areas planted not available).
1997: FAOR, based on TCP/LIR/5611 Report

Yields

The average national yields for paddy are estimated to have increased in the past two seasons from a pre-war level of 1 190 kg per hectare to 1 240 and 1 290 kg per hectare for 1997 and 1998, respectively. This mainly reflects the introduction of higher yielding seed varieties, improved husbandry as a result a greater availability of farm labour as job opportunities in mines and plantations have diminished, and extension services provided by a number of NGOs in their areas of operation. However, large differences in yields remain between and within the counties and there is much scope for further improvement.

Cassava yields have also increased. Planting material of improved varieties have become more readily available from a number of NGO-supported projects.

2.2 Production

Tables 3 and 4 give details of production by county of paddy and cassava respectively. With both area planted and yields estimated to have risen in 1998, the paddy harvest is estimated at 210 100 tonnes, up by 25 percent on the 1997 harvest and about 70 percent of the pre-crisis output. Cassava production also increased in 1998 and with an estimated 313 300 tonnes is now almost at the level of the pre-war period, mainly reflecting higher yields.

No attempts were made to estimate the production of other staple foods such as sweet potatoes, yams, taro, plantains and bananas. However, visits by the Mission to markets in and around Monrovia and information gathered from up-country indicated that these commodities are in regular supply and would provide an important part of the daily food in-take.

 


3. CEREAL SUPPLY AND DEMAND IN 1999


Favourable climatic conditions for food production and availability of unused land for cultivation should make Liberia self-sufficient in basic foods. However, the years of civil strife severely affected agricultural production and the country depended to a large extent on imports, both commercial and food aid. Thus, for example, from 1994 to 1996 imports covered around 90 percent of the country’s cereal consumption requirements. Improvement in the output of rice and other basic foods from 1996 onwards has markedly changed the situation, with only 57 percent of national cereal needs met by imports in 1998. Table 5 presents Liberia’s estimated cereal supply/demand balance for 1999 (January/December).

Table 5: Liberia – Cereal Supply/Demand Balance Sheet for 1999
(January/December) in ‘000 tonnes


Wheat Rice1/ Coarse grains Total
Domestic availability 15.6 163.1 1.2 179.9
Opening stocks 1.1.99 15.6 23.0 0.2 38.8
1998 production (milled rice) - 140.1 1.0 141.1
Domestic utilization 50.6 263.1 21.2 334.9
Food use 43.6 222.9 20.1 286.5
Feed use - - - -
Other uses 2.0 25.2 0.1 27.4
Closing stocks 31.12.99 5.0 15.0 1.0 21.0
Import requirement 35.0 100.0 20.0 155.0
Commercial imports 5.0 100.0 - 105.0
Food aid needs 30.0 - 20.0 50.0

1/ In milled form.

With the improved cereal harvest in 1998 per caput cereal in-take for 1999 is expected to increase to about 101 kg which, with an estimated population of slightly over 2.8 million, gives a cereal requirement for food of 286 500 tonnes. Post harvest losses and seed requirement are estimated at 27 400 tonnes, while stocks at the end of 1999 are expected to be drawn down to 21 000 tonnes. These elements add up to a domestic utilization for 1999 of 334 900 tonnes.

The cereal import requirement is calculated at 155 000 tonnes as the difference between domestic utilization and domestic availability. This requirement is expected to be covered by estimated commercial imports of 100 000 tonnes of rice and 5 000 tonnes of wheat. The remaining 50 000 tonnes will need to be met by food aid in the form of 30 000 tonnes of wheat (mainly bulgur wheat, but also some quantities of wheat flour) and 20 000 tonnes of maize products such as maize meal and CSB for distribution to vulnerable displaced persons. No food aid imports of rice are foreseen.

 

This report is prepared on the responsibility of the FAO Secretariat with information from official and unofficial sources. Since conditions may change rapidly, please contact Mr. Abdur Rashid, Chief, ESCG, FAO, (Telex 610181 FAO I; Fax: 0039-06-5705-4495, E-Mail (INTERNET): GIEWS1@FAO.ORG) for further information if required.

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