NIGER (20 November)
The first significant rains of 1997 arrived in late April in the southwest and centre-south. The amount declined in the southwest during the first two dekads of May. Rainfall in June was low and sporadic, although localized downpours had been received. Heavier rainfall was recorded in early July over most of the country, particularly in the departments of Dosso and Maradi, in the southern part of Zinder department and in the districts of Bouza and Birni N’Konni (department of Tahoua). The rains in the second dekad of July became light but improved at the end of the month in the west and southwest. However, the amount of rainfall remained below average in the centre and east in August despite localized torrential rains in the northern strip.
Sowing began with the arrival of rains in April in the south of Dosso and Tahoua departments and in May in the departments of Maradi, Zinder and Tillabéri. Millet and sorghum planting became widespread in June and July. Because of the uneven, irregular rainfall, sowing progressed along a south-north axis from April to July. Early sowing failed in parts of the departments of Tillabéri (Ouallam), Dosso, Tahoua, Zinder and Diffa, requiring significant resowing. Lack of adequate rains in the first two dekads of August restricted crop growth in most departments. There are risks of localized water stress for the late crops, particularly in the departments of Tahoua and Maradi.
Heavy infestation of millet by grasshoppers and flower-eating insects, stem-borers and cereal leaf beetles has been reported. Sorghum and cowpea may be affected, but due to timely control measures damage to crops is not expected to be great. As of 24 October, some 293 000 hectares out of a reported infested area of some 800 000 hectares had been sprayed from the air.
A joint FAO/CILSS Crop Assessment Mission estimated cereal production for 1997/98 at 2.25 million tons, marginally down from 1996 but 4 percent above the average for the past five years. Despite this average harvest, the food supply is anticipated to be tight in several deficit areas which gathered poor crops, some for the second or the third successive year. The most affected areas are, from west to east: Tera, Tillabery, Ouallam, Filingué, Kollo, Tahoua, Bouza, Keita, Tanout, Myrriah, Gouré, Maina, Diffa and N’Guigmi. The government has estimated the cereal deficit at national level at 151 000 tons and has launched an appeal for international assistance to cover the needs of the affected populations in the vulnerable areas. It has requested especially that ongoing projects in affected areas organize in the coming weeks activities for off season production in order to prevent population movements. The national early warning system will organize a national workshop in early December to determine more precisely the affected areas and populations which will need to be monitored during the next year. In addition, the national security stock is almost exhausted. Its level is now at about 2 500 tons plus 1 500 tons in financial reserve. The marketing board, the Office des Produits Vivriers du Niger (OPVN), is planning to buy about 10 000 tons and 15 000 tons are expected to be received from a donor contributions for the reconstitution of the national security stock. Millet prices are relatively high, possibly due to strong demand for the OPVN or donors local purchases.