Food Outlook 10/96

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There has been some improvement in the outlook for food supplies in sub-Saharan Africa, mainly following a recovery in production in southern Africa. Moreover, 1996 growing season is progressing well in the Sahelian countries while overall prospects for crops in the ground in coastal countries of western Africa remain favourable so far. Early crop prospects are also favourable in several parts of eastern Africa. However, despite an expected recovery in production, serious food supply difficulties are likely to persist in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

The food situation remains precarious in Somalia, particularly in the Lower Juba region, while serious food supply difficulties are reported from traditional food deficit areas in the Sudan. Liberia's food security remains seriously threatened by insecurity, successive poor harvests and a bleak outlook for food production in 1996. Pockets of famine have developed in the areas which remained virtually inaccessible to relief operations for several months. Human suffering still continues in the Great Lakes region, where past and on-going civil disturbances have led to over 2 million refugees and internally displaced persons dependent on emergency assistance. The intensified socio-political crisis in recent months in Burundi will adversely affect agricultural production and food supplies. Large numbers of refugees, returnees, internally displaced persons, other vulnerable groups and demobilized soldiers in many African countries need continued assistance through 1996 and possibly in 1997.

Despite a good recovery in world cereal production, 1996/97 will continue to be marked by volatile international cereal prices. The global food aid availability in 1996/97 is unlikely to improve much from its low level of 7.2 million tons in 1995/96. Moreover, most low-income food deficit countries in Africa also face a bleak economic outlook and acute balance of payments difficulties, seriously constraining their commercial import capacity. Unless exceptional food assistance allocations are made, there is a high probability of increased hardship and suffering from under-consumption of food in several of these countries. Some 40 percent of the total population of sub-Saharan Africa is already chronically undernourished. Large scale national and international interventions are pressingly needed to improve the food security situation in the region.


In Somalia, after more than a year of the final withdrawal of UN peacekeeping forces (UNOSOM), the political and security situation remains extremely volatile. Renewed factional and clan-based fighting continues to disrupt economic and marketing activities.

Although the 1996 main "Gu" cereal harvest has partially recovered from the poor level of the previous year, production remains well below average and was reduced in several areas. (See box on page 2). The food situation is anticipated to be particularly critical in the Lower Juba Region, which had suffered two consecutive poor harvests leading to a complete depletion of stocks by April 1996 when significant numbers of people moved west into Kenya. This year's Gu harvest in Lower Juba is only half last year's poor level and will be barely sufficient for a maximum of two months of normal food consumption. Commercial grain imports to the area from other regions will be difficult due to insecurity and, in any event, the purchasing power of the affected population is extremely low. Substantial food deficits are also anticipated in the Hiran and Gedo Regions, where cereal production declined by 54 percent and 37 percent from the reduced levels of 1995 respectively, and are not expected to cover more than two to three months of normal consumption. Although livestock is more important in these regions than in the Lower Juba valley, several groups of the population are vulnerable, particularly those in urban areas and those without livestock or other reserves. In Mogadishu, where large numbers of people are unemployed and vulnerable, a sharp rise in food prices in the months ahead of the harvest resulted in a deterioration of this nutritional situation. However, insecurity resulted in the suspension of all humanitarian operations by international organizations. Emergency food assistance will be required for some 150 000 most affected people.

In the Sudan, food prices have increased sharply in recent weeks. Food difficulties are also being experienced in the traditional deficit eastern states of North and West Kordofan and North Darfur, where the 1996 cereal output was sharply reduced by adverse weather and pest infestations. While farmers' cereal stocks have been depleted, a deterioration in the terms of trade between livestock and cereals has also eroded their purchasing power. Food assistance is urgently needed in these areas. Emergency food assistance is also needed in the Al-Jaili region, north of Khartoum, affected by severe floods, following heavy rains in early September. In the Southern States, affected by a prolonged civil war, the food situation has reportedly deteriorated as a result of a disruption in food aid distributions. An FAO Mission is currently making an on-the-spot assessment of 1996 cereal production and the food supply situation in southern Sudan.

Elsewhere in eastern Africa, in the Eastern Province of Kenya, where the 1996 first season crops are harvested earlier than in the rest of the country, production of pulses was sharply reduced by adverse weather. The previous "short rains" maize crop season was also poor and the food supply situation is extremely tight. The Government has started a food distribution programme to assist the affected population.

In Ethiopia, floods in central parts in late August resulted in infrastructure and crop damage and about 40 000 persons had to be evacuated and are now receiving emergency food assistance from the Government. Further floods are likely in the Amhara region due to high levels of the rivers. Despite above-average rains during the season and localized crop losses, the overall prospects for the 1996 main season cereal crops remain generally favourable.

In Eritrea, prices of cereals have increased significantly in recent months, reflecting shortages of supplies following last year's reduced cereal harvest. While commercial imports of cereals have also risen substantially, the food situation of vulnerable groups is anticipated to deteriorate in the months ahead of the next harvest starting in November. Only a small proportion of the total food aid requirements of 191 000 tons in 1996 have been delivered so far.


Six years of civil strife have dealt a serious blow to all economic sectors of Liberia and caused untold suffering to the people. The economy is in a complete disarray, the formal export sector is virtually paralyzed and the country has a heavy debt burden. Since 1990, the population has been in a continual state of flux; the majority has been internally displaced or has taken refuge in neighbouring countries. Large numbers of people have died as a direct result of the conflict. Agricultural activities have been seriously disrupted. Massive and continuous population displacement has left large tracts of agricultural land deserted. As a result, food production has been seriously reduced and relief operations have been hampered. Severe shortages of food and other relief supplies have developed in several parts of the country.

Although a series of 12 peace accords between the warring factions have all failed over the past six years, the recently concluded peace agreement offers hope of some improvement. It has enabled relief agencies access, for the first time in 7 months, to the strife-torn city of Tubmanburg in western Liberia, where the population is afflicted by a severe famine. Other seriously affected areas, particularly the southwest of the country, are also expected to become accessible for relief distribution. Reflecting serious shortages, food prices in Monrovia are reported to be four times normal. Cross border food supplies have resumed from Côte d'Ivoire to Nimba and Bong counties but serious nutritional problems are reported in several areas where the distribution of food aid is hampered by insecurity.

The prospects for the 1996 food production are poor. Following substantial rains in May and early June, precipitation decreased during the second and third dekads of June, resumed in early July, notably in the north, but stopped during the third dekad. Very light rains occurred in the first half of August. Rice is growing satisfactorily in secure areas, as tools and agricultural inputs have been provided by rehabilitation programmes. However, the 1996 output will again be limited and is not expected to recover from 1995 as population displacements and fighting during the start of the growing season hampered production in many areas.

In Sierra Leone, the peace process is progressing satisfactorily and refugees and displaced persons are returning to their areas of origin, notably in Makeni and Bo regions. The main roads towards the east and the north (Segbwema, Bo, Kenema and Makeni) have been re-opened and food is being delivered in these areas. However, the security situation is still not very stable and cease-fire violations have continued to occur in many areas. It is currently estimated that 654 000 people out of a total of 1.6 million internally displaced persons require emergency food assistance.

Multi-sectoral needs assessment surveys have been organized by the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development, with the assistance of UN agencies and NGOs. With the Ministry of Agriculture, FAO assessed in August 1996 the impact of the civil war on the farm population in Bo, Kenema, Makeni, Kabala and Bonthe and the needs for interventions to stimulate agriculture and livestock activities. A consolidated programme in the short/medium term is being planned, led by the UN system with the collaboration of bilateral donors and international NGOs. Through this plan, humanitarian assistance is expected to be provided to Sierra Leone for re-integration resettlement and rehabilitation of refugees, internally displaced persons, other victims of the civil strife in the country and demobilized soldiers. The assistance would be directed primarily at the food and agriculture, health, shelter and education sectors. Since last season, crop production has been proceeding in various parts of the country albeit at varying levels of intensity depending on the security situation in the production areas and availability of agricultural inputs.

Distribution of food aid in various parts of the country has also been proceeding, mainly for returnees and internally displaced persons and refugees from neighbouring countries.


The increased insecurity of the past months has resulted in fresh waves of population displacement in parts of the Great Lakes region and has adversely affected agricultural and food production. Continued relief assistance will be required in the region until an adequate solution to the conflict is reached and peace and security restored.

In Burundi, the situation remains extremely volatile with renewed fighting and violence reported throughout the country. The situation is particularly tense around Bujumbura city and the Kayanza province, where fresh waves of population displacement continue to be reported. The food supply situation has tightened following the socio-political crisis of late July and the economic sanctions by neighbouring countries. Food prices have soared in the past month, particularly those of imported food. The food situation is anticipated to deteriorate in the coming months. Since the 1996 cereal and pulses crops have already been harvested the sanctions will not have a immediate impact on this year's grain production; however, consumption will be negatively affected by the ban on imports of cereals and other foods, including food aid. It is estimated that at least 60 000 tons of cereals and pulse imports (representing 20 percent of normal consumption requirements of these staple foods in the second half of 1996) will not be possible. While all Rwandan refugees have left the country, large sections of the displaced and vulnerable population remain in need of food assistance.

In Rwanda, agricultural production is gradually recovering. The 1996 season `B' cereal output is provisionally estimated at 109 000 tons, pulses at 72 000 tons, roots and tubers at 607 000 tons and plantains at 1 049 000 tons, significantly above the levels of the 1995 season `B'. The increase in production reflected improved stability in the interior of the country and the resumption of regular agricultural activities by a considerable number of returning refugees, as well as generally favourable growing conditions. Nevertheless, despite the increase, per caput production remains 23 percent below the pre-strife levels as food output continues to be constrained by the large numbers of population still outside the country and by lack of agricultural inputs. An estimated 576 000 persons will require emergency food assistance in the second half of 1996, including war-affected population, vulnerable groups and returnees. Some 87 000 Rwandans have returned since the beginning of the year, with the highest numbers in the past two months when some 72 000 persons were repatriated from Burundi. Relief food aid is also needed for Burundi refugees, who continue to arrive in Cyangugu and Bugarama prefectures, and for Masisi refugees coming from Zaire. Sustained international assistance will be necessary to support the rehabilitation of the agricultural and livestock sector, to restore production to pre-civil strife levels.

In Tanzania, the Government has requested emergency food assistance for some 470 000 persons affected by production shortfalls in 51 food deficit regions. However, the overall 1996 main season harvest has been good in the country.

In Zaire, the food supply situation remains difficult in Masisi and surrounding areas of the eastern North Kivu province. Ethnic fighting has resulted in an estimated 250 000 displaced people and 13 000 persons have sought refuge in Rwanda since early April. The food and health situation of these groups of population is precarious and relief food aid is urgently needed in the area.


The sub-region's 1995/96 coarse grains crop harvested earlier in the year is estimated at 19.8 million tons, some 89 percent above the 1995 drought-affected level and 40 percent above-average. Favourable rainfall and excellent growing conditions for crops encouraged large plantings in most countries. Only Namibia experienced below normal rainfall, resulting in serious shortages of water such that livestock conditions have deteriorated significantly.

With abundant irrigation water in most of the major dams, an excellent 1996 wheat crop is anticipated in most growing countries. The sub-region's total 1996 cereal output is estimated at 24 million tons, 65 percent over the 1995 level and 35 percent above-average.

Reflecting the favourable outcome of the growing season, the overall food supply situation in the sub-region is expected to improve considerably during the 1996/97 marketing year. Maize supply is expected to cover total requirements, including the replenishment of stocks that were virtually depleted in several countries, and notably in Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. An overall maize surplus of some 2 million tons is anticipated, mainly from South Africa and Zimbabwe, part of which is already available for export. However, several countries continue to require substantial food assistance to meet their food supply needs for 1996/97, including Angola and Mozambique.

Reflecting the abundance of new foodcrops on the markets, most food prices have been decreasing since June and household access to food has improved. A major problem for marketing activities in many countries remains the poor state of transportation infrastructure which makes it difficult to move goods from surplus to deficit areas.


Following generally adequate rains in May and June, except in Burkina Faso which registered two mostly dry dekads in mid and late June, precipitation remained below normal in early or mid-July in several countries and substantial replantings have been necessary. However, rains increased significantly and progressed northwards during the last dekad of July and in August over the main producing areas, thus reconstituting soil water reserves, providing relief to stressed crops and improving crop prospects in most countries. However, in the areas affected by earlier dry conditions, the yield potential will be reduced and late plantings or replantings will need rains late in the season to cover their entire growing cycle. Precipitation decreased in September but was widespread over the main producing areas.

Grasshoppers are reported in several countries but damage to crops remains limited. During August, significant Desert Locust infestations continued to develop in the summer breeding areas of the Sahel, notably in Mauritania, albeit on a smaller scale than last year in the same period, possibly due to less rain. Control operations are underway. In northern Mali and northern Niger, breeding was in progress but infestations remained limited.

Following good precipitation in late July and August, and limited pest infestation, crop conditions are generally satisfactory. Provided adequate rains continue through October, average crops are anticipated in most countries. A series of joint FAO/CILSS Crop Assessment Missions were fielded in October to all CILSS member countries in order to estimate 1996 production. The findings of these missions will be presented at the annual meeting of the Network for Prevention of Food Crises of the Club du Sahel (OECD) at FAO Headquarters in Rome in late November.


The level of cereal import requirement in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa in 1996/97 is expected to decline, reflecting increased harvests in southern Africa and a favourable outlook in most countries of eastern and western Africa. For the 20 countries which have already entered the 1996/97 marketing year, the GIEWS preliminary estimates of 1996 production and 1996/97 import and food aid needs are summarized in Table 1. The total food aid requirements of these countries in 1996/97 are estimated at some 760 000 tons, about half last year's needs mainly because of markedly improved harvests in the countries of southern Africa. Cereal food aid pledges to these 20 countries for 1996/97, including those carried over from 1995/96, amount to some 476 000 tons of which only 173 000 have been received so far.

For the 28 countries of sub-Saharan Africa which are still in the 1995/96 marketing year, food aid pledges amount to 1.4 million tons, some 422 000 tons short of requirements. Urgent additional pledges are needed to cover the outstanding needs of several countries, particularly of Eritrea, Cape Verde and Zaire. Of the total 1.4 million tons pledged, some 1.1 million tons have actually been received so far.


Following prolonged civil strife, famine has gripped several parts of Liberia, while serious food supply difficulties are emerging in parts of Somalia and Sudan. The situation in the Great Lakes region remain precarious, reflecting large numbers of refugees and internally displaced people. The intensified socio-political crisis in Burundi could adversely affect food production and domestic food supplies. Emergency assistance continues to be required in many African countries affected by natural or man-made disasters. Against this background the attention of the international community is drawn to four areas requiring assistance.

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