Global Information and Early Warning System

Report No 6 - November 1996


This document presents a preliminary assessment of the 1996 cereal harvests in the nine CILSS member countries [/ CILSS: Comité permanent inter-Etats de lutte contre la sécheresse dans le Sahel. (Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel). The nine Member States are: Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chad, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal.] . It is based on information available to the Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) as of early November 1996 and, for the CILSS countries, on production estimates provided by the national services and reviewed by Crop Assessment Missions during the second half on October in the nine CILSS countries. These Missions comprised staff and consultants from the GIEWS, the CILSS Diagnostic Permanent Project (DIAPER) and the Agrhymet Centre of Niamey, except the Mission to The Gambia which was undertaken exclusively by FAO/GIEWS. These Missions worked closely with the national agricultural farm statistics services responsible for gathering and examining cereal production data, meteorological information, crop protection, hydrology and, when they exist, with the national early warning systems and/or market information systems. They also met representatives of the major donors. FAO and CILSS worked closely together on the matter, at both field and headquarters level, and the figures in the report are those generally agreed by both secretariats.

These figures were presented at the annual meeting of the "Network for Prevention of Food Crises in the Sahel" organized by the Club du Sahel and the CILSS which took place this year on the 28-29 November in FAO Headquarters in Rome, at the invitation of FAO.

At the time of the Assessment Missions, rainfed crop harvesting was underway or nearing its completion in most of the countries. Early millet and maize had generally already been gathered, but long-cycle varieties of cereals and late-planted crops were still maturing or about to be harvested in some areas, while irrigated crops were at a less advanced stage. Rice was still being transplanted in the swamp and low-lying areas of Guinea-Bissau and southern Senegal. The planting of flood recession crops was underway and will continue throughout November. The forecasts made in this report are therefore preliminary and subject to revision as precise information on the outcome of these crops becomes available.


Average and above average harvests are expected for 1996 in most of the Sahel countries. Despite dry periods in most countries in June or July, the crop growing conditions were generally adequate in the second part of the farming season (August-September) and pest attacks were fairly limited during the rainy season. As a result, good harvests are anticipated in all CILSS countries except Cape Verde and Chad.

The 1996 aggregate cereal production of the nine CILSS countries has been estimated by FAO/CILSS Crop Assessment Missions at 9.4 million tons which is 1,5 percent higher than the 1991-1995 average, 3 percent higher than in 1995 but 6 percent lower than the 1994 record output. Above average output is anticipated in Mauritania, Niger and Senegal, output is estimated to be close to the average in Burkina Faso, Mali and The Gambia while harvests are expected to be below average in Cape verde, Chad and Guinea-Bissau. Output has clearly increased relative to 1995 in Burkina Faso and Niger; it is close to 1995 output in The Gambia, Mali and Senegal. Output fell relative to 1995 in Chad, Guinea-Bissau and Mauritania. In Cape Verde, a very low output is expected.

Following several years of relatively good harvests, the food supply situation is expected to remain generally satisfactory in 1996/97. However, some regions have had bad harvests, in particular in northern Chad and in some parts of Mali, Mauritania or Niger which are traditionally deficit areas.


(i) Factors Affecting 1996 Production

(a) Rainfall

The main characteristic of the 1996 rainy season was its great spatial variablility which generally meant that the rains were often localized. The seasonal cumulative rainfall from 1 May to 30 October was close to the norm in almost all the Sahel countries. In some regions, there was above-average rainfall but in the Cape Verde islands, Mauritania, northern and central Senegal and western Niger, there was a general deficit as regards cumulative rainfall.

In Burkina Faso, the rainy season started in April. In Guinea-Bissau, Mali, the far south of Niger and southern Chad, rains began in May. The first nrains were registered at the beginning of June in southern Senegal and The Gambia, and in mid-June in Mauritania. Precipitation remained above average until the end of the month of July and increased considerably in August over the main producing zones ensuring good rain distribution and improved crop growing conditions in all the countries. Precipitation remained generally satisfactory in the main producing zones until the first ten days of September and then the rains decreased noticeably although there was still widespread rainfall in northern and central Senegal , Mauritania and western Niger.

(b) Area Planted and Seed Availability

Only a few countries conduct national surveys of area planted. Preliminary indications are that, following favourable rainfall, the aggregate area planted to cereals remained close to 1995 levels. More marginal areas were cropped as good rainfall permitted sowing on normally uncultivated land. However, some large rice-producing and irrigated areas could not be cultivated this year on the shores of Lake Chad. By contrast, flooding in southern Chad prevented cropping, particularly rice and sorghum, in some low-lying or irrigated areas.

Overall seed availability was generally adequate in most of the countries. Because of the irregularity or lack of post-sowing rainfall in June or July in several countries, the young plants suffered water stress and there were sowing losses which made some replanting necessary, particularly in Burkina Faso which registered a long dry spell in June.

(c) Pest Situation

- Desert Locust

In West Africa, Desert Locust infestations were present primarily in Mauritania throughout 1996.

Immature swarms started moving out of the spring breeding areas of north-western Mauritania and southern Morocco in late April, reaching central Mauritania in May and the south-east in late May. Some swarms continued into northern Senegal and western Mali where they probably dispersed and did not lay since the summer rains had not yet commenced. One swarm was seen in northern Burkina Faso. Other adults and a few swarms also moved into northern Mali and Niger from North-West Africa during May. A few adults and small swarms were seen in northeastern Niger at mid month. Hatching and hopper band formation occurred from late May to mid September in northern Mali which was followed by a second generation of breeding producing hopper bands during November.

There was another swarm movement in late July from North-West Africa over central and western Mauritania which continued over the latter area until late August. Swarms first laid eggs in late July south of Aioun and in the south-west which hatched during the first half of August. Much more laying and hatching occurred in the latter area and this continued throughout August (mostly undetected) and into early September. Hopper bands formed in the south-west during September with fledging commencing at mid month and new swarms forming. Swarms produced during the summer moved north in coastal and western Mauritania in early October. Some continued further north to Inchiri and south-western Morocco where they were first reported on the 25th. The older swarms were mature and laid eggs near Nouakchott in early October which started hatching at mid month and new bands continued to form through mid November. By mid October, most of the hoppers produced during the summer had fledged. Those eggs that hatched during the first half of August near Aioun may have resulted in hopper bands which could have produced new swarms which may have been the ones seen moving north-west from this area at the end of October.

- Grasshoppers

Several countries experienced localized grasshopper infestations notably in Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. Substantial treatments were undertaken in Niger. Elsewhere, with plentiful natural vegetation, the grasshoppers did not concentrate on crops.

- Other Pests

Various insect attacks were reported, particularly of cantharides in Burkina Faso, Chad and Senegal. Grain-eating birds were also reported in Chad, the Gambia, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

(ii) Weather Performance and Monitoring of Crop Development in 1996

. In addition to its conventional information sources, the GIEWS uses rainfall data received from meteorological stations as well as information derived from two type of satellites for its crop monitoring and agricultural production forecasting activities in the region.

Through the ARTEMIS System at its Environmental Information Management Service, FAO produces satellite imagery for the whole of Africa indicating 10-day and monthly Cold Cloud Duration (CCD), Estimated Rainfall and Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). The CCD information, which indicates hours of coverage of rain-bearing clouds, is produced from data received in real-time from the European METEOSAT. On the basis of this information, 10-day and monthly charts are prepared on Estimated Rainfall. The NDVI imagery, produced from information received from the American NOAA satellites.

GIEWS has access to the ARTEMIS system’s historic archive which includes the NDVIs dating back to 1981. Those indices based on METEOSAT information date from August 1988. With the historic archive, the present situation can be compared with previous years, and a spatially more complete and quicker analysis can be made.

Figure 1 gives the occurrence of rain-bearing clouds (Cold Clouds Duration, CCD) for the months of May to September 1996. It shows that CCD - and thus the received rainfall - was highest during July and August. Overall, a marked reduction in rainfall was noted. In comparison with the CCD for the period May-September 1995, rains were more abundant in July and August in south-west Chad and less so in September in central and northern Senegal.

Figure 2 gives an assessment of the 1996 cropping season, based on a classification of the monthly CCD occurrence compared to the 1989-94 average. The CILSS area has been divided into six classes. Each class, identified by colour, indicates one type of behaviour during the 1996 season as compared to the average. Areas are indicated in grey (class 1), where the 1996 season did not differ much from the average. Areas are indicated in yellow (class 2) where the rainy season started well, a mid-season with less rain, but with better conditions later on. In the red areas (class 3), there was a very early occurrence of clouds and rain, but with a clear reduction in June, reaching good levels once again at the end of the season. Classes 4 and 6 (blue and brown) indicate those regions which have had a good rainy season overall. Class 5 (green) registered low CCD levels in mid-June and mid-July but high values at the beginning of July and in August.

The evolution of cold cloud duration patterns in various areas in the Sahel is obtained from the analysis of METEOSAT satellite images. These data provide a measure of the duration of rain bearing cold clouds, and provide a surrogate estimate of the rainfall over the Sahel. Monitoring cold cloud duration patterns provides information throughout the rainy season which can be compared with the average cold cloud duration patterns of the previous years. The average, derived from the period of 1989 through 1995, is represents years with relatively good agroclimatic conditions. Comparisons of the current to average year can be made with dekadal (10-day) values or with cumulative rainfall values over the season.

This season, the overall cumulative rainfall by the end of the rainy season for the Sahel is generally above average. In some countries, notably Burkina-Faso and Niger, the 1996 values at the start of the season are higher than the mean, indicating an early start of the growing season. The graphs on pages 9 through 11 show the evolution of seasonal rainfall over some areas that encountered climatic anomalies.

In South-East Mauritania, (graph 1), the curve is close to average, except during the first and second dekads of September. In Centre-East Senegal, (graph 2), a dry period in mid September can be clearly observed with CCD values close to zero and a vertical plateau appearing on the cumulative curve. In Central Mali (graph 3), the rainy season started about one dekad early compared to the average and cumulative values remained below average during the whole season. In Central Burkina-Faso (graph 4), a dry period can be observed in June, but abundant rains at the start of the growing season and during July resulted in the cumulative rainfall being above average. In Central Niger (graph 5), the curve shows irregular rainfall in July and August with abundant rainfall at both the start and the end of the growing season. In North-East Chad (graph 6), below average rains were obtained in July and August, though abundant rains in September allowed the cumulative values to be above average at the end of the season. In South-Western Chad (graph 7) rains were above average during the whole growing season as shown by the cumulative rainfall graph.

(iii) 1996 Preliminary Cereal Production Forecast for CILSS Countries

In the second half of October, a series of joint FAO/CILSS in-country Crop Assessment Missions were mounted, (the mission to the Gambia was solely carried out by FAO) to review the 1996 cropping season in each country of the sub-region and examine the preliminary cereal production estimates that had been made by the national agricultural statistics services.

Cereal production for the nine CILSS countries is provisionally estimated at 9.4 million tons, which is 3 percent more than in 1995 and 1.5 percent more than the 1990-1995 average. The production trend for each country since 1987 is given in the following table:

Table 1: CILSS Countries - Cereal Production 1988 to 1995 and Preliminary Forecast for 1996
(in thousand tons gross basis, with rice in paddy)

Country Cereal Production Preliminary

1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 for 1996 (%)
Burkina Faso 2 073 1 952 1 518 2 455 2 477 2 557 2 492 2 308 2 461 100
Cape Verde 17 10 11 8 10 12 3 8 1 12
Chad 808 617 601 812 977 617 1175 908 841 94
The Gambia 100 97 90 111 96 104 106 103 104 100
Guinea-Bissau 147 149 169 180 171 180 190 201 174 94
Mali 2 196 2 155 1 771 2 414 1 809 2 228 2 457 2 189 2 193 1/ 99
Mauritania 173 183 103 104 94 162 200 220 208 133
Niger 2 399 1 843 1 476 2 468 2 359 1 803 2 438 2 056 2 326 104
Senegal 2/ 867 1 067 950 970 856 1 134 964 1 093 1 095 110
TOTAL 3/ 8 800 8 100 6 700 9 500 8 800 8 800 10 000 9 100 9 400 101

Note: Record harvests are underlined.
1/ Not including off-season crops.
2/ For 1993, the figure is based on estimates prepared by statistical services but not on a survey.
3/ Totals have been rounded.

These figures should be viewed as preliminary as the surveys were generally made before the end of the harvest and include forecasts for recession and off-season crops. In some countries, , the rainy season ended with fairly substantial rains in October, which may enhance yields but may also have caused problems during crop ripening and harvesting.. These estimates may therefore have to be revised in the coming months, but there is unlikely to be a change in the overall trend of average to above-average production in all the CILSS countries.

The 1996 aggregate cereal production of the nine CILSS countries has been estimated by FAO/CILSS Crop Assessment Missions at 9.4 million tons which is 1,5 percent higher than the 1991-1995 average, 3 percent higher than in 1995 but 6 percent lower than the 1994 record output. Above average output is anticipated in Mauritania, Niger and Senegal, output is close to the average in Burkina Faso, Mali and The Gambia while harvests are expected to be below average in Cape verde, Chad and Guinea-Bissau. Output has clearly increased relative to 1995 in Burkina Faso and Niger; it is close to 1995 output in The Gambia, Mali and Senegal. Output fell relative to 1995 in Chad, Guinea-Bissau and Mauritania. In Cape Verde, a very low output is expected.

The breakdown of 1996 production by cereal for each country is given in Table 2.

Table 2: CILSS Countries - Preliminary Forecast of 1996 Production by Cereal
(in thousand tons gross basis)

Country Millet Sorghum Maize Rice (paddy) Wheat Others 1/ Total 2/
Burkina Faso 785 1 314 223 124
16 2 462
Cape Verde - - 1 - - - 1
Chad 239 362 60 87 1 92 841
Gambia 3/ 61 10 8 25 - - 104
Guinea-Bissau 21 22 9 120 - 1 173
Mali 4/ 766 570 248 586 10 13 2 193
Mauritania 8 114 5 81 - - 208
Niger 1 832 425 13 52 3 - 2 325
Senegal 5/ 656 149 106 180 - 4 1 095
TOTAL 2/ 4 368 2 966 673 1 255 14 126 9 402

1/ Including fonio, berbere and recession crops in Chad.
2/ Totals have been rounded.
3/ FAO mission estimates.
4/ Not including off-season crops.
5/ Including recession crop estimates.

(iv) Country-by-Country Summaries

Burkina Faso :

The rainy season began with significant rainfall during the month of April in the south, south-west and west of the country, particularly in the Gaoua region. During the month of May, the rains continued in almost all of the southern part of the country. In the first dekad of June, the rains spread to the northern half of the country but during the second dekad, rainfall become less frequent over the entire country. This drop in rainfall continued during the third dekad north of the Bobo Dioulasso/Fada N’Gourma line. Below this line, rainfall picked up well, especially in the regions of Gaoua and Bobo Dioulasso. In July, the rains covered the entire country and continued until the second dekad of October. As at 20 October 1996, except in the case of Dori, cumulative rainfall was generally close to or greater than the average for the period 1961-1990.

Planting activities began in the third dekad of May in the southern half of the country and intensified during June. The lack of rain in the last two dekads of June led to planting losses in several regions, particularly in Dedougou, Dori, Ouagadougou et Ouahigouya. Replanting was done in these areas during the first dekad of July. In some cases, these stretched into the month of August. After the rains began again in July, crop development continued to benefit from a good supply of water over the whole agricultural zone, except for the Dori region, and crop water requirements were adequately met.

The pest situation remained calm overall, despite the appearance of some cantharides in August in fields of inflorescent crops, grasshoppers in some places in the Oudalan and mildew in the northern part of the country. However, these were not serious attacks. In September, some cricket infestations were reported in the east, centre-north and the mouth of the Mouhoun, but they did not cause any significant crop losses.

1996 cereal production has been estimated at 2 461 000 tons, a level close to the average for the last five years but greater than that of last season (+7 percent). This big increase in production is thought to be the result of a concurrent increase in production of all crops, especially rice for which a 48 percent increase is expected compared to the 1995/96 season and an increase of 118 percent compared to the average for the last five years. The forecast for the production of millet is up by 7 percent, sorghum by 4 percent and maize by 5 percent.

Some base data on this country (in french)

Cape Verde :

The first rains fell over all the islands of the archipelago at the end of July, the only signifcant amounts falling on the northern islands and on Fogo where the growing season started after the first germination of the maize and haricot beans. On the island of Santiago, the season only really began at the beginning of August when there was enough water for the germination of the young plants. After that, on all the farmed islands (Santiago, Fogo, Santo Antao, San Nicolau), there was only occasional light rain in the second dekad with better rainfall at the end of August and the beginning of September so plants were able to develop satisfactorily. However, locally in the semi-arid zones, maize developed late. From the second dekad of September on, the water situation considerably worsened. Rainfall was light in the islands of Santiago and Santo Antau, slightly better on Fogo but more or less limited to only one day of rain (15/09/96).

As a result, crops experienced particularly severe water shortages which caused the almost permanent withering of the maize stalks and the haricot beans stopped growing. In the second dekad of October some rainfall was registered on the islands of Santiago and Fogo, but it was light and the crops had already reached an irreversible state of withering. The maize yields were zero in all the farming islands and zones except for some sub-humid and humid zones and in the semi-arid zone of Boavista, where some growth could be seen but in spite of this, the yields are still very low. As regards haricot beans, the plants are still green but they have not grown very much and are already under attack from grasshoppers.

On all the farmed islands, an infestation of Senegalese grasshopper larvae (Oedaleus Senegalensis) has been observed but above all on the islands of Fogo and Santiago where the attacks have been greatest. At Santo Antao, the maize has been attacked by myriapods. On the southern islands, some grasshopper attacks on the beans have also been observed.

The level of water stress had led to zero yields in almost all the semi-arid and sub-humid zones. 1996 agricultural production is therefore estimated at 1 019 tons which is far less (-88 percent) than last season and thus a level much lower than usual.

Some base data on this country (in french)

Chad :

Generally speaking, rainfall was distributed over space and time in a very variable way throughout the entire season. In the Sahelian zone, precipitation was below average and badly distributed over space and time throughout the months of May and June. Then, there were long dry spells during the months of August and September. Only in the sub-prefecture of Masseyna (Nord Chari Baguirmi) was there sufficient rainfall. North of the Sudano-sahelian zone, a similar rainfall situation meant that the season could not get started until July while further south, the situation was more in line with the norm. In the Sudanian zone, an earlier start to the rains was interrupted by dry periods during the months of June and July. In August, there was abundant rainfall. During September, the whole of the country registered heavy rain which however gave rise to flooding in the Sudanian region (Tandjile, Mayo-Kebbi) but did not compensate for the bad start to the season in the Sahelian zone. Compared to last year, cumulative rainfall for the 1996 season is below average in most of the country, along a north-west/south-east line. Some zones have had excess rainfall in the south of the Sudanian zone (south of Logone and Moyen-Chari).

In the Sudanian zone, the dry periods between mid-June and mid-July interrupted planting which stretched into the months of July and August and led to the food growing areas being turned over to cotton (except in Moyen-Chari) which earned good prices for its producers and ensured relative security for the Logone area. At the same time, the heavy rains in September, which caused flooding in the Tandjile, had a bad effect on the rice areas and production will be mediocre. In the Sudano-sahelian zone, the bad distribution of the rains meant replanting was often necessary up to the month of August, especially in the Chari Baguirmi. In the Sahelian zone, planting and replanting lasted until the second dekad of August. In any case, poor rain distribution and the repeated dry spells most usually led to the abandonment of numerous fields which were left to pasture. The prefectures of Kanem, the far north of Batha and the Biltine were the most severely affected by the drought but, in contrast with the 1995 season, even if low, output is not expected to reach zero levels.

The Desert Locust situation has been relatively calm throughout the rainy season. Some individual adults were reported in the prefectures of Biltine and Batha without their having any noticeable effect on crop development. Large populations of stink locusts were seen at Ouaddai, causing some market garden crop losses. In contrast with last season, grasshoppers were not often reported and causing only few localized crop losses. Infestations of various insects were reported in several regions. Grain-eating birds (quelea-quelea and passer luteus) were noted over almost the entire country and their proliferation is worrying at harvest time.

The 1996 cereal harvest forecast is 840 600 tons as against 908 000 tons in 1995, a fall of 7.4 percent. This fall in particular is due to results from the Sahelian zone (-17 percent) since the Sudanian zone has a production level comparable to that of 1995 (515 200 tons in 1996 as against 516 500 tons in 1995). Compared to average output over the period 1991-1995, 1996 production is down by 6.4 percent. The following variations have been registered compared to last year: millet +5 percent, sorghum -17 percent, maize -4.4 percent, berebere -6.6 percent, rice + 9.7 percent.

Some base data on this country (in french)

The Gambia :

The first rains occured in the last decade of May and as of 10 October, the country average of the cumulative rainfall is lower than the previous year (96%) but higher than the normal rainfall. Nevertheless, the rainfall pattern was not as favourable than last year and the agricultural season crop took place very late due to erratic rainfall and dry spells durations in most parts of the country . In addition, Upper River Division and coastal area recorded during the last decade of July and the month of August very heavy downpours which caused flash flooding, runoff and soil erosion resulting in serious crop losses (maize notably) in these areas .

According to the preliminary estimates, areas under millet and rice increased respectively by 7 and 6 percent over last year while areas of sorghum and maize decreased by 17 and 18 percent due to the abandonment of maize fields and the extension services campaigns encouraging all over the country farmers to grow more early millet . Due to late rains pastures generated very late and up to end July, there was not enough grass . By contrast, intermittent dry spells resulted in high armyworm in Western Division, North Bank Division and parts of Lower River Division but globally the pest situation was not so far a very serious constraint during this season.

Aggregate production of cereals is estimated at 104 100 tons against 103 300 tons last year, i.e. 1% increase . Coarse grains decreased by 1% (78 700 tons against 79 500 tons) while paddy rice progressed by 6% (25 400 tons against 23 800 tons). Globally, the food supply situation is satisfactory throughout the country except for Upper River Division where, due to excess rainfall, the maize fields and the livestock have been seriously affected.

Some base data on this country (in french)

Guinea-Bissau :

The first rains were registered from the second dekad of May in the south and east of the country, followed by a pause which lasted until the second dakad of June. The situation only settled down in the last part of June. July rainfall, while below the 1961-1990 average, met the water requirements of the crops planted in June. Water availability continued to be favourable during August and September when the rainfall recorded was sufficient, regular and well distributed over time and space. Nevertheless, some flooding was reported in the same period in the east of the country. At the end of September, overall, cumulative rainfall was lower than in 1995. However, during the month of October, heavy rain fell over the entire country which made up for lower levels in the preceding months.

Planting was carried out everywhere in the third dekad of June, following a dry spell at the beginning of the season which lasted from the second dekad of May to the second dekad of June. This late start to the season meant that rice-planting work sometimes stretched over a long period. As regards dry crops (maize, millet, sorghum and fonio) the agricultural calendar has been followed without any particular problems.

Generally speaking, the pest situation has been calm. Nevertheless, a few parasites have appeared in some areas of the country. In June and until mid-July, insects damaged the cereals and caused some plant losses. In July, some grasshopper infestations were reported in the fallow areas and on the millet in the Bafata and Gabu regions. Low-lying rice areas also suffered some insect attacks.

1996 cereal production has been estimated at 174 000 tons and will probably be lower by 6 percent than the average of the last five years and by 13 percent in relation to last year. But, given the changes in data collection methodology and processing, this year’s results should only be compared to those of other years with caution.

Some base data on this country (in french)

Mali :

Overall, rainfall has been good and well distributed over time and space in the major part of the growing area. The start of the 1996 rainy season was normal in the far south of the country, following the first significant rain which was registered in May. In the centre, the season generally began early. In contrast, in and around Bougouni, Kayes, Mopti and Ségou, there were delays of between 10 and 30 days. In June, rainfall was generally quite good but then it decreased considerably in July, especially in the first two dekads. In August the rain situation improved greatly in most of the growing area. Only the northern part (Gao, Kidal, Tessalit, Tombouctou and Yélimané) continued to register only light rains. During September, despite the generalized fall in precipitation, water conditions continued to be favourable over the entire farming area.

Planting activities began in the third dekad of May and the first dekad of June in the southern part of the country and then instensified during the rest of the month. Planting was considerably hampered by the poor rainfall in June and July, particularly in the northern part of the growing area. Except for some places where the first rains permitted early or regular planting in the Sahelian strip, planting and replanting operations generally started late between the end of July and the end of August. Compared with an average year, planting started from 2 to 6 weeks late depending on the location. In the northern half of the Kayes and Ségou regions, most of the millet and sorghum planting was carried out, continuing to the beginning of September. As regards irrigated crops, growth conditions were good since the river level rose early. Nevertheless, some problems could affect the recession rice crop at Mopti.

Overall, the pest situation has been calm. However, after several years of absence, the desert locust reappeared in June in the north and a monitoring team had to be sent into the field. Grain-eating birds (mainly quelea-quelea and passer luteus) also caused serious damage to millet in Nioro, rice in Gao and millet/sorghum and rice at Tombouctou.

1996 cereal production has been estimated at 2 294 000 tons which is greater than the average of the last five years (+ 3 percent) and more than last season (+6 percent). This increase in production is thought to be due to the high yields obtained from the main products since the total area under cereal cultivation is slightly lower than in 1995 (-1 percent). Millet, rice and wheat production will rise significantly by 12 percent, 27 percent and 67 percent respectively if compared to the 1995/96 figures. As regards maize and sorghum, there has been a fall in production both in relation to the 1995/96 figures (11 percent and 3 percent) and in relation to the average for the last five years (13 percent and 3 percent). These falls are due to a simultaneous drop in yields. In addition to these forecasts, off-season output must also be taken into account whose objectives for 1996/97 are put at about 49 000 tons, comprising rice (33 000 tons), maize (14 000 tons) and sorghum (2 000 tons).

Some base data on this country (in french)

Mauritania :

The first rains were registered at the end of May in the south of the country but precipatation was light and sparse. In the first dekad of June, the rains only continued south of the Hodhs. In the second dekad, rainfall was more intense but was still concentrated in the south of the country. In the third dekad of June, the rains fell in the south-west and then in the south-east (Hodhs and Assaba) in the first dekad of July. In the second dekad of July, the rains were still light and were only significant in the Guidimakha and southern Gorgol. In the third dekad, rain fell everywhere and so the growing season could start. There was very abundant rainfall, particularly in the Hodh El Chargui. August was satisfactory despite some pauses in rainfall in the second and third dekads of the month, especially in the Hodh El Chargui. In September, there was a marked decrease in rainfall with poor time distribution over the whole growing area which sometimes suffered almost 20 dry days running, for example in Assaba and Gorgol. Rains only started up again in October in Gorgol, the Hodh El Chargui, and Trarza. Overall, compared to last year and compared to the norm, the season was below average over the whole growing area except for a small area in the Hodh El Chargui and Trarza.

The first localized wet plantings were made south of the Hodhs during June. Light and infrequent rainfall in June made germination difficult for the first plants and many died. At the start of July, planting was cautiously extended to southern Guidimakha and Assaba but the season only really got started at the end of the month. In Gorgol and Brakna, planting continued into August.

As the rainy season started badly, the local people decided to cultivate the low-lying areas to guarantee production. Water conditions were fairly mediocre for the growing area as a whole except in southern Guidimakha and Assaba but for the crops in Diéri (strictly rainfed), the situation was better in the low-lying fields which have soils with good moisture levels and benefit from runoff. In any case, some departments experienced prolonged dry periods from September on, which compromised crop production potential in the Diéri, especially in Brakna, Gorgol, southern Timbédra and the far eastern part of the El Chargui Hodh. As the swelling of the Senegal river and its tributary the Gorgol was very poor, the Walo crops (off-season, recession crops in Gorgol, Brakna and Trarza) will probably not develop very well with a clear reduction in cropped area.

The pest situation was characterized by a substantial Desert Locust activity. In July, adult swarms of reproducing Desert Locusts were observed north of Aioun El Atrouss (Hodh El Gharbi) and these produced the first summer generation at the beginning of August. Others travelled via the north and reached the south-west of the country (Trarza) towards the end of July. Given the favourable ecological conditions in this region, the swarms established themselves and began to reproduce in the first dekad of August over a wide area. The larvae populations in this region produced small swarms which moved south-west, towards Rosso, Keur-Macène and beyond towards Senegal. The crop and fodder losses were not very serious. However the young swarms could damage the off-season crops (market garden crops and irrigated crops - sorghum and maize). Following the large numbers of birds registered at the end of last year's growing season, attempts were made to de-nest the grain-eating birds. At the same time, a search is being made to identify the quelea-quelea grounds, despite the fact that it is difficult to search in the backwaters. It is feared that the latest rains may lead to reproduction in zones which are inaccessible to mechanical treatment.

The 1996/97 cereal production forecast is estimated at 207 000 tons as against 219 800 tons in 1995/96, a decline of 5 percent, but a much higher level than the average for the last five years. The largest drop in production is registered for low-lying and Walo crops (37 percent and 60 percent respectively). For the Diéri and recession crops, the decline could be in the order of 5 percent. In contrast, the irrigated crops have increased by about 50 percent.

Some base data on this country (in french)

Niger :

The rainy season started early with the first rains falling in mid-April in the Gaya and Maradi regions. Rains began in the growing areas in May and early June so planting activities went well. But after the second dekad of June, there was a sharp decrease in rainfall which fell to below average levels in late June and July which meant replanting was necessary in July and August. Precipitation up to the end of the rainy season was generally adequate and well distributed. As a result, the season started early and finished late with a marked dry period in June/July. The late planted crops were more resistant than the early planted ones during the dry period but overall the good rainfall in August and September compensated for the bad start to the season.

There has been substantial pest activity in the 1996 growing season but the impact on crops is expected to be fairly limited. There were sufficient stocks of fuel and anti-pest products and so the treatments, generally by aerial crop spraying, took place at the right time and infestations were kept well under control. As at 10 October, out of 490 000 hectares affected by the infestations, 225 000 hectares had been treated, particularly in the Zinder, Maradi, Tahoua and Diffa departments. About 90 percent of the interventions were against grasshoppers and 300 hectares were also treated against grain-eating birds. No action was necessary against desert locusts.

1996 aggregate cereal production was estimated on the basis of the agricultural survey at 2 325 000 tons, 10 percent more than in 1995 and 4 percent above the average of the last five years. Above all, sorghum production has increased while rice production is similar to 1995 results.

Some base data on this country (in french)

Senegal :

The first rains were registered in the south in May. Preciptiation spread to the Tambacounda region during June but remained light so that the growing season could not get underway until the end of July, much later than usual, especially in the Vélingara where the rains only began in earnest in the third dekad of July. Further north, in the groundnut basin, the season began in the second dekad of July. In the north of the country, the first useful rains were only registered at the end of July. During August, precipitation was more plentiful, above all in the south of the country which partly compensated for a below average start. In the northern half of the country, 10-day pauses in rainfall were registered, particularly in the groundnut basin. This happened again in the second dekad of September over the entire northern half of the country. As at 10 October, cumulative rainfall was below average in the northern half of the country except for the Linguère department. In the rest of the country, the season is almost identical to the norm.

Given the irregular start to the rainy season in the south of the country, it was necessary to replant on numerous occasions and the desalination of the soil in the irrigated rice areas in the regions of Kolda and Ziguinchor was held up. In the groundnut basin, particularly in the Fatick department, long delays and unsuccessful planting caused a large decrease in the cultivated areas and, in some villages, the fields were abandoned.

After this, water conditions for crop development were fairly satisfactory in the southern half of the country and in the Louga region. In the regions of Diourbel, Thiès, Fatick and St. Louis, pauses in rainfall in the months of August and September considerably decreased the potential yield.

The pest situation was calm throughout the season. Some grasshopper attacks had to be treated over an area of about 105 974 hectares (66 percent of the infested areas). There is a threat of a desert locust invasion due to the presence of large swarms of adult and young birds in Mauritania. The situation is worrying since the ecological conditions are favourable for reproduction.

The results of the annual agricultural survey give a provisional production forecast of 1 066 903 tons of cereals for a total area of 1 300 000 hectares. Compared with last season's results, cropped areas have increased by 7 percent and an increase in production of about 1 percent is expected. An estimated 28 000 tons of recession crops should be added to this forecast, which gives a total of about 1 035 000 tons. Rice and fonio production has increased by 10 and 12 percent respectively. Maize production is expected to fall by 8 percent.

Some base data on this country (in french)


The overall growing conditions for 1996 cereal crops were favourable in most coastal countries. The rainy season began at the beginning of March in the south and at the beginning of April in the north of the coastal countries and continued with fairly irregular but abundant rainfall. Cumulative rainfall since the beginning of the season has generally been average or above average and soil moisture reserves have been adequate for good crop development. A good harvest is expected in the region, except in Liberia and Sierra-Leone.

The first maize harvest, which took place in July, was good in the majority of the coastal countries. A close-to-average harvest is anticipated for millet and sorghum. The second maize crop, planted end-August/beginning September, is experiencing adequate growing conditions due to the well-distributed, albeit fairly limited, rainfall in September.

The preliminary FAO estimates for aggregate cereal production in the nine coastal countries point to a total of about 29 million tons. These estimates, presented in Table 3, are still preliminary and subject to revision depending on the final outcome of the crops still to be harvested. Average to above-average harvests are anticipated in all the coastal countries, except Liberia and Sierra-Leone. First estimates point to record cereal crops in Benin, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Cameroon and Nigeria, where a lack of inputs limited rice production. The forecast for Togo is close to the norm.

In Liberia, the situation is still very unstable and insecure. The civil disturbances continue to disrupt agricultural production and a very poor harvest for this year is again expected. In Sierra-Leone, cereal production is better than in 1995 after the start of the peace process and rehabilitation programmes, but it would be still insufficient to cover the country's needs.

Table 3: Western African Coastal Countries - Cereal Production 1988 - 1995 and preliminary forecast for 1996
(thousand tons, gross basis with rice in paddy)

Country Production Preliminary
forecast for

1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 (%)
Benin 557 564 546 587 608 628 649 634 680 109 %
Cameroon 930 901 842 1 001 905 980 920 1 200 1 180 118 %
Côte d’Ivoire 1 144 1 193 1 238 1 314 1 317 1 352 1 363 1 480 1 440 105 %
Ghana 1/ 1 156 1 184 845 1 436 1 255 1 644 1 594 1 834 1 800 116 %
Guinea 755 668 751 872 935 964 978 870 870 94 %
Liberia 1/ 298 280 100 109 102 65 50 56 70 92 %
Nigeria 1/ 18 007 18 007 17 678 18 615 19 597 19 329 20 358 20 943 22 000 111 %
Sierra Leone 546 574 563 467 478 499 465 337 540 120 %
Togo 503 568 484 465 494 633 443 502 490 97 %
Total 2/ 23 896 23 939 23 047 24 866 25 691 26 094 26 820 27 856 29 070 111 %

Source: FAO
Note: Record harvests are underlined.
1/ Preliminary FAO estimates based only on a qualitative assessment of the growing season.
2/ Totals have been rounded.

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This report is also available in French.
This report is prepared on the responsibility of the FAO Secretariat with information from official and unofficial sources. Since conditions can change rapidly and information may not always represent the current crop or food supply situation as of present date, further enquiries should be made before any action is taken.

Enquiries may be directed to Mr. Abdur Rashid, Chief, Global Information and Early Warning Service, Commodities and Trade Division, (ESC), FAO, Rome (Telex: 610181 FAO I, Direct Facsimile: 0039-6-5225-4495, E-mail INTERNET: GIEWS1@FAO.ORG).