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SPECIAL FEATURE:
FOOD SUPPLY SITUATION IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

OVERVIEW

The latest available information suggests that cereal production in sub-Saharan Africa fell by some ten million tons in 1995 and is below trend. The decline is largely attributable to drought in southern Africa and poor crops in parts of eastern Africa. Food production continues to be undermined by the long term consequences of civil strife in several countries in the region. The drop in production comes at a particularly inopportune time. The world cereal market is tight: export prices are high and are expected to remain so well into 1996. This will hamper the chances of compensating for the fall by increasing commercial imports.

Low stock holdings in the major donor countries point to a sharp decline in global food aid availability in 1996. With strong competition from eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, there is little hope of an increase in Sub-Saharan Africa’s share of these supplies. In 1994/95 some 29 percent of the region’s requirements were not received. This illustrates the dangers of reliance on food aid for supply stabilization at the national level and the need to increase domestic food production. The FAO secretariat is convinced that, with the transfer and dissemination of appropriate technology in many of the low-income food-deficit countries (LIFDCs) of the region, major steps can be taken towards reducing this dependence. In the short term, however, the need for food aid remains evident; large numbers of refugees, internally displaced and war- affected people will continue to depend on emergency food assistance throughout 1996. In view of the unreliable supplies of international food aid, local purchases and triangular transactions are likely to become increasingly important sources of emergency food assistance this year.

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1/ Based on the January 1996 issue of the Special Report prepared by FAO/GIEWS "Food Supply Situation and Crop Prospects in Sub-Saharan Africa" which covers the position for all the developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

The overall picture is of another year of tight food supplies in sub-Saharan Africa. There are, however, some positive signs. In the Sahelian and coastal areas of Western Africa some good to record harvests have been gathered. Ethiopia, heavily dependent on food aid over the last decade, has had a bumper crop and will not require large scale international food assistance in 1996. Another major step towards food security is the restoration of political stability to much of war torn sub-Saharan Africa. Angola, Mozambique and Rwanda, are gradually beginning to reap the benefits of peace. A peace agreement in Liberia offers the hope of a partial recovery of food crop production and marketing activities in 1996, after six years of civil strife which have virtually paralyzed the agricultural sector.


A DIFFICULT YEAR AHEAD FOR THE HORN OF AFRICA

A series of FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions has returned with mixed reports of the 1995 main season crops and food supply prospects for 1996. While total cereal production is close to the norm, there have been significant falls in production in Sudan and Kenya where low farm gate prices in relation to input costs discouraged production. In Eritrea and Somalia production was hit by irregular rainfall and pest infestations. With a poor harvest and low food stocks, Eritrea faces a major increase in emergency and programme food aid requirements in 1996. In Somalia, insecurity in the capital and the south Bay area continues to disrupt food supplies. The closure of the port and devaluation of the currency have led to major food price hikes.

By contrast, a bumper meher (main season) crop has been gathered in Ethiopia, where weather conditions were favourable in many of the main growing areas and pest prevalence less than usual. Farmers responded to expanded input supplies and marketing opportunities. While this implies that relatively small quantities of food aid imports will be required in 1996, the food security situation at the sub-national level remains tenuous, with large vulnerable populations in the traditional deficit areas.

Eritrea: The cereal and pulse production in 1995 is estimated at about 42 percent less than in 1994. The reduction is mainly due to low yields on account of unfavourable rainfall and excessive pest damage to crops. Following this year's poor grain harvest, the overall food supply situation is expected to be tight in 1996 as already reflected in the rising cereal prices in the immediate post-harvest period. Food supply difficulties with serious implications for the large section of vulnerable population with limited resources and high levels of malnutrition, are anticipated. In addition, large groups of pastoralists in Dankalia, Barka and Sahel provinces will be affected if the increase in grain prices continues in the coming months. Food aid will be required in 1996 in areas of the country which have experienced a significant decrease in production, in particular in parts of Seraye province bordering Gash-Setit (Shomboko), around Dekamahare and the lowlands neighbouring the Hozomo Plains in Akele Guzay province, in Keren in the Senhit province and parts of Barka province bordering Senhit. Food aid interventions will also continue to be required for the population affected by the past civil war, especially the disabled, orphans and female headed households, as well as for recent returnees who have experienced difficulties in finding land and/or suitable employment. Overall, an estimated 750 000 persons would need relief assistance in 1996.

Ethiopia: The country has gathered a bumper harvest, significantly above the previous year’s volume. Timely and well distributed rains encouraged planting and supported the satisfactory development of the crop in most zones. The effects of the liberalization of the grain trade led to an increase in plantings (5 percent) while improved distribution of fertilizers, which increased by 16 percent, and virtually no migratory pest problems completed a combination of conditions which have been the most favourable for many years. However, despite the overall favourable production, certain areas, particularly in the highlands, experienced crop loss and failure.

Notwithstanding a comfortable supply situation overall, a significant proportion of the population will be in food deficit due to its displacement, underproduction or lack of access/entitlement to food supplies. An estimated 3 million people will be in need of emergency food assistance in 1996. Of particular concern are the usual deficit areas in Tigray and Wollo where, even in a normal year, relief food aid contributes up to 30 percent towards food security of the poorest households. The situation in these areas is aggravated by a combination of adverse factors, viz. a second consecutive bad harvest in 1995, and localized inadequate deliveries of food aid, especially in North Wollo, which have increased the vulnerability of a large sector of the population. Other chronically food deficit areas requiring relief assistance during 1996 are Walaita and parts of West Hararghe. Localized food shortages also exist in other parts of Amhara, Oromia and the southern region (SEPAR).

Somalia: Prices of food have increased sharply in the past three months following the poor 1995 main "Gu" cereal production (some 65 percent down), the continued closure of the Mogadishu port, the accelerated devaluation of the national currency and the persistent insecurity in parts of the country. As a result, the already tight food situation of the vulnerable population in urban areas, including some 240 000 displaced people, 600 000 returnees, and large numbers of jobless, has deteriorated even further. In rural areas, it is estimated that, even if the secondary "Der" crop, now being harvested, is normal, substantial food assistance will be required from March 1996 when food reserves will be depleted. The food aid requirements could increase if the “Der” crop is reduced. The areas worst affected by the reduction in main crop production are the sorghum belt area of Bay, Bakool and Hiraan regions, the north-west region of Galbeed and parts of the Lower Shabelle. In particular, in the districts of Baidoa, Bardheere, Saakow and Wanlaweyne almost 90 percent of farmers suffered heavy or total crop losses. Severe damage to maize crop was also reported in Jamaame and Mahdday districts.

Sudan: Smaller plantings due to economic factors, poor rains at the start of the season and damage by grasshoppers and rodents, led to a sharp drop (26 percent) in the 1995 harvest of sorghum and millet. With a reduced crop expected, supplies will be tight in 1996. This is already reflected in high prices for cereals which reached record levels in the pre-harvest period of October 1995. Although the cereal crop is estimated average, food aid assistance is needed for the victims of the persistent civil war in the south of the country, where agricultural production and trade activities have been seriously disrupted. The people in need of food assistance include displaced and vulnerable groups of population. In addition, the food supply situation is expected to be tight in the traditional food deficit north-western states of North and West Kordofan and North Darfur, following the sharp decline in cereal production. While current high livestock numbers and stable livestock prices suggest that the affected population in these three states should be able to purchase cereals, the situation should be carefully monitored. If the terms of trade between livestock and cereals deteriorate, assistance may be needed for these populations to achieve normal consumption levels.

Elsewhere in eastern Africa, 1995 production decreased in Kenya, but was above average in Tanzania and Uganda.


EMERGENCY FOOD NEEDS SET TO REMAIN HIGH IN THE GREAT LAKES REGION IN 1996

Food production remains well below pre-civil war levels in Rwanda, according to a recent FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission, although influxes of returnees have boosted the agricultural population and have allowed a partial recovery. Although the mission emphasized the continuing need for targeted emergency food assistance in 1996, particularly for recent returnees and vulnerable groups, food aid will also be needed to support rehabilitation programmes. The food supply situation will remain tight in parts of the prefectures of Kibungo, Gikongoro and Butare bordering Burundi, and in areas of Cyangugu, Kibuye and Gitarama bordering Zaire. Elsewhere in the country, although the situation is satisfactory and markets are well supplied, the low purchasing power in the post- war economy, results in inadequate food for large sections of the population. It is estimated that some 1 million people, including 596 000 most vulnerable, will need food assistance during the first half of 1996. Moreover, the food requirements of the expected returnees, will also need to be covered by food aid as the bulk of them will arrive in the country after planting time. The status of the Rwandan refugee communities in Zaire has been uncertain. According to UNHCR, repatriation has been occurring at a rate of up to 2 000 people a week. The supply of food aid to camps in Goma and Bukavu has improved, but security problems continue to be reported from Ulvira. Sporadic insecurity in north-western areas of Burundi has hampered agricultural activities and food assistance will be required for the populations of the affected areas. The country remains on the brink of a major food crisis. The possible need for large scale emergency food interventions in 1996 cannot be ruled out.

Following a bumper 1995 main season harvest, the national food supply situation is satisfactory in Uganda. However, the food supply situation remains precarious in some northern, north-eastern and eastern areas, where crop production has been reduced for the second successive year by shortages of seeds and delayed rains. A generally good season in Tanzania contributed to an above-average crop but some pockets of the country have been affected by drought and localized food assistance is required for the populations of those areas. Large numbers of refugees in the Kagera region continue to depend on emergency food assistance. Their numbers are beginning to decline as repatriation gathers momentum. In Zaire, despite good weather conditions and high production potential, the food supply situation remains tight in the urban areas. Inflation, unemployment and economic difficulties are severely affecting the population. Some 15 percent of the national food consumption has to be imported due to inadequate transport and marketing infrastructures between rural and urban areas.


CAUTIOUS HOPES OF A RECOVERY OF CROP PRODUCTION IN SOUTHERN AFRICA

After the erratic rains and localized droughts of the 1994/95 season, early prospects are more optimistic for the 1995/96 coarse grains crop, which has now been planted in the sub- region. While dry conditions prevailed over most of Malawi and Mozambique in October and early November, scattered rains were received in parts of Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In December the rains set in throughout the sub-region and have been abundant in South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Initial indications are that the area under maize in South Africa, by far the largest producer of coarse grains and wheat in the sub-region, will be well up on last year’s drought reduced level but may remain below average.

Following a below-average aggregate cereal production of 14.6 million tons, only 76 percent of the 5 year average, import requirements for the marketing year 1995/96 are estimated at 5 million tons, compared to requirements of 4 million tons in 1994/95. An estimated 1 million tons of relief food assistance is needed. While pledges cover most of this need, only around 60 percent of the required quantity has actually been delivered. There is a need to expedite deliveries of food aid, particularly to Angola, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia. Commercial imports to the sub-region have been slow and South Africa, which normally exports significant quantities of maize to the deficit countries, has not been exporting this year. With the lean season approaching, there are fears of major food price hikes, particularly in Zambia, which experienced a drop in domestic maize production in the 1994/95 season.


ABOVE AVERAGE CROPS IN WESTERN AFRICA BUT FOOD SITUATION REMAINS CRITICAL IN LIBERIA AND SIERRA LEONE

With relatively regular and abundant rains in most Sahelian countries in 1995, and a low incidence of pest infestations, good crops have been harvested in all the CILSS member countries with the exception of Cape Verde. The Gambia and Guinea-Bissau registered record crops, while outputs were close to the previous record harvests in 1994 in Mauritania, and in 1993 in Senegal. They declined but remained above average in Chad, Mali and Niger. In Burkina Faso, following a reduced harvest in some provinces, notably in the north, several populations are considered at risk. In early December, the Government launched an appeal for food assistance. It has estimated the needs at 24 000 tons of cereals which can be bought locally in surplus areas or borrowed from the National Security Stock. In other countries, some difficulties may appear in structurally deficit areas. Donor assistance may be needed for the purchase of cereals in surplus areas and their transfer to deficit ones. This is the second good Sahelian harvest in succession and markets are reported to be well supplied. Harvest prospects are also favourable in most coastal west African countries with the exception of Liberia and Sierra Leone. Large expanses of Sierra Leone have been depopulated by civil strife, with negative consequences for food production and marketing. Deaths from starvation are reported to be on the increase in the inaccessible parts of the country. Nigeria, Cameroon and Ghana all registered record crops.

In Liberia, a recent FAO Crop Assessment Mission to Liberia found that massive population displacement has reduced production of rice to about one quarter of the pre-war level. The peace accord of August 1995 came too late to permit a major return to the land for the cropping season, but has been beneficial to both food marketing and relief food distribution. Recent reports suggest a fall in malnutrition rates but the food situation remains precarious for a sizable proportion of the population, most notably recent returnees.

Even on the most optimistic reckoning, rice production in 1995 has dropped by some 77 percent from the pre-civil war level. Cassava production has also been hit, possibly falling by as much as 50 percent. Extensive and continuous population displacement has left large tracts of agricultural land deserted. Insecurity in settled areas outside the ECOMOG controlled zone, has made it difficult for farmers to store seed for planting, and most have depended on emergency seed distribution programmes. Insecurity has also discouraged deweeding and crop protection activities in several of the high potential settled areas. Cassava has proved to be more resilient to short term population displacement and the consequent neglect of crops. The mission’s estimates are highly tentative: as there has been no systematic survey of food production since 1989, the assumptions made are subject to error.

The Abuja peace agreement of 19 August 1995 has been widely respected by the main factions. ECOMOG, the West African peace-keeping force, is now deploying throughout Liberia. As roads into the interior of the country are opened up, the most food insecure populations will start to have access to market and relief food supplies and to outlets for their goods. There are already promising signs of a growth in commercial activity and in trade in food commodities across faction lines. However, the formal export sector is paralyzed and the country carries a heavy international debt burden. There is little chance of significant public sector imports in 1996. While private commercial imports of rice and flour are set to rise in 1996, a minimum of 163 000 tons of cereal food aid will be required. There are reports from neighbouring countries that refugees are now eager to return. As returnees will not be able to harvest rice for another 11 months and cassava for at least 5 months, a major influx will have clear implications for food aid needs. Based on an optimistic assumption on the returnee rate, a maximum of 179 000 tons of food aid may be required.


SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA’S FOOD AID NEEDS LIKELY TO REMAIN UNMET, AS GLOBAL AVAILABILITY SHRINKS

In 1994/95 sub-Saharan Africa’s food aid requirements fell to 70 percent of the mean for the previous five years. Total food aid deliveries to the region fell in 1994/95 for the second year in succession to the lowest level since 1989/90. For the region as a whole the gross shortfall of food aid shipments against requirements is calculated at 29 percent of requirements. The shortfall was 41 percent of total requirements in southern Africa, some 20 percent in eastern and 23 percent in western Africa, whereas in central Africa requirements were fully met in most countries. Why should this deficit have occurred, despite a drop in requirements? The answer relates to the tight world supply of food aid in cereals. Total global availability of cereal food aid in 1994/95 is provisionally estimated at 8.7 million tons, the lowest level since 1974/75.

Early forecasts suggest that food aid needs may fall in 1995/96 to well below the recent average. However the outlook for global food aid supplies is extremely gloomy. FAO forecasts availability of cereal food aid in 1995/96 at 7.6 million tons. Shipments have fallen for the last four years in succession.

An analysis of historic trends shows that global food availability is an important determinant of food aid shipments to sub-Saharan Africa, explaining about one third of inter- annual variation. Competition from other regions, particularly eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States remains strong. Thus, despite the expected fall in requirements this year, there is a strong probability that over 15 percent of the region’s needs will remain unmet in 1995/96. World cereal prices are high, there have been reductions in the levels of concessional food exports from the major temperate exporters and there is no surplus in the main exporter of the region, South Africa. For these reasons, LIFDCs with severe budgetary, balance-of-payments or foreign exchange constraints may face a fall in commercial shipments. Programme food aid for market stabilization is becoming increasingly rare. Further, food aid pipelines for ongoing emergency programmes may suffer periodic breaks, as happened in 1995. There is a high probability that some LIFDCs of the region will face major food supply fluctuations. The consequent price hikes will inevitably increase the vulnerability of food deficit households to falls in consumption and malnutrition.

It is unlikely that global food aid availability will recover to the high levels of the 1980s and early 1990s. Surplus stocks in several donor countries, which permitted generous food aid donations, were a result of interventionist policies in domestic and international cereals pricing and marketing. In a climate of more liberal domestic and external trade policy, the opportunity cost of public stock holdings and of food aid donations has increased.

Food aid has rarely been a reliable form of supply stabilization and is set to become still less so. This highlights the need for careful targeting of food aid resources to the countries which are most in need and for comprehensive measures to reduce food aid dependency in sub-Saharan Africa. Possible measures include:


FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS
Global Information and Early Warning System
Commodities and Trade Division - FAO - ROME
Telex: 610181 FAO I - Fax: 0039 6 5225 4495
Email (Internet): GIEWS1@FAO.ORG

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