ERITREA* (14 November)
The 1997 main season cereal harvest is underway. Preliminary forecasts point to a crop slightly above the reduced level of last year. The rainy season started well and the area planted to cereals increased by 11 percent from 1996. However, an early cessation of the precipitation in September, when the crops were at the critical maturing stage, adversely affected yields. In pastoral areas, abundant rains in October improved conditions for pastures and water supplies. However, with the rains there is a risk that locust numbers will significantly increase on the Red Sea coastal plains.
Market prices for the major food staples, which have risen steadily since June reflecting diminishing supplies, continued to increase in September in anticipation of a reduced harvest.
With an expected below-average cereal harvest for the third consecutive year and sharp reduction in export availability from neighbouring Ethiopia, the food situation will tighten in the year ahead. The food security of large sections of the population, who even in normal years do not cover their subsistence requirements, is likely to deteriorate.