THE GAMBIA (20 November)
Rains in May in the east and in June in the rest of the country permitted early planting of coarse grains and upland rice. The rains continued until the first dekad of July when they were interrupted by a dry spell. The cessation of rains in mid-July stressed early maize and millet crops, which were then at a critical stage of development. Grazing conditions were also affected adversely, particularly in the North Bank Division, where farmers were forced to move herds southwards. However, abundant rains in August improved grazing conditions. There was extensive resowing, particularly in the North Bank Division (NBD), the region most affected. The lack of rains also delayed the transplanting of rice. Despite the resumption of rainfall in mid-August, virtually all the maize crop was lost, as well as part of the early millet and sorghum crops. Replanting of upland rice was undertaken but seed shortages prevented its completion. The mangrove rice which was transplanted in early August is growing under good conditions. The early millet was harvested in late September, one month later than usual. The groundnut harvest should be good despite a seed shortage, provided that the rains continue through October. Precipitation was ample in most areas during the second dekad of August until early October. Only in the southern part of the Lower River Division (LRD) was precipitation low. Overall, cumulative rainfall was close to normal and higher than last year.
Crops were also affected by caterpillar infestation. Aphid attack has also caused damage to the millet and groundnut crops. Maize and millet also suffered from downy mildew in late September in the Upper River Division (URD). An upsurge of striga has been reported in several divisions of the country.
A joint FAO/CILSS Crop Assessment Mission estimated aggregate cereal output for 1997 at 84 750 tons, some 24 percent lower than last year and substantially below average. This is largely due to the sharp decline in the outputs of maize and upland rice.
As a consequence, the food supply situation is anticipated to be tight. The most affected areas are Badibou and Jokadou in the North Bank Division (NBD), Saloum in the northern part of Central River Division (CRD); Wulli and Sandou in the north of the Upper River Division (URD). However, good prospects for groundnut production are likely to ease the income situation of farmers in some areas.