FAO/GIEWS - Food Outlook, February 1998

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Although cereal production in developing countries in 1997 is estimated to have declined only slightly from the good level of the previous year, the number of countries facing food emergencies has increased to 37 compared to 31 towards the end of last year, mainly due to the effects of El Niño. 

In Africa, food supply difficulties have been caused mainly by alternating droughts and floods in most of eastern Africa, where there have been substantial losses of crops and livestock. In Somalia, torrential rains associated with El Niño in the second half of October caused serious floods and resulted in loss of life and damage to food production systems. This disastrous situation followed a succession of poor harvests that has already seriously affected the country’s food security. In Kenya, heavy rains associated with El Niño in the two first dekads of January, which followed two months of persistent rains, resulted in severe damage to housing and infrastructure and left many villages isolated by floods. The Government has appealed for international assistance for the flood-affected areas. An outbreak of Rift Valley Fever since October has reportedly spread from livestock to humans and has resulted in human deaths and substantial animal losses. In Uganda, torrential rains from mid-November, mainly in eastern parts, resulted in floods, loss of life, damage to housing and infrastructure and localized crop losses. In Tanzania, torrential rains in the first half of January, associated with the El Niño phenomenon, resulted in widespread floods, damage to infrastructure and isolation of several areas of the country. The heavy rains also resulted in localized losses of crops. In Ethiopia, production was affected by erratic rains during the growing season, unexpected heavy rains at harvest time and lower use of fertilizers. In Burundi, persistent insecurity throughout the country, a significant delay in the start of the rainy season in most parts and heavy rains and floods in areas have negatively affected food production during the current season. In Rwanda, crop yields were affected by a delay of one month in the start of the rainy season and by localized weather problems. Civil strife in the northwest of the country continues to disrupt farming activities. In western Africa, while the food supply situation is generally satisfactory, food production in Liberia is still below pre-civil strife levels despite recent gains due to relative peace and stability. In Sierra Leone, insecurity still prevails in various parts of the country, notably in the east and south-east. While, agricultural output in 1997 is estimated to be some 20 percent higher than last year, many areas have been adversely affected by population displacements. In several Sahelian countries, some areas gathered poor harvests and external assistance is needed to assist the affected population. In southern Africa, conditions have so far been favourable for crops in most parts of the subregion, despite fears of a possible El-Niño-induced drought. However, in Angola, agricultural activities and the food supply situation continue to be hampered by security problems in several parts of the country. In Mozambique, a few areas of concern include the western provinces of Tete and Manica, where dry spells in November and December may have affected early planted crops in some districts. 

In Asia, a severe drought in Korea, D.P.R. last summer, coupled with a destructive typhoon, both occurring after two successive years of floods, resulted in a most desperate food situation. Elsewhere, food supply problems persist in Mongolia, particularly for vulnerable sections of the population. In Iraq, despite the easing of the food supply situation following the implementation of the oil-for-food deal, malnutrition remains a serious problem throughout the country. Elsewhere in Asia, El Niño-related droughts have affected cereal production in Indonesia, China, the Philippines, and Thailand as well as Papua New Guinea in the Pacific Rim. 

In Central America, emergency food problems are being experienced in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, where first season cereal crops were severely affected by an El Niño associated dry spell and second season crops failed to ease the situation due to the persistence of adverse weather. In the Caribbean, the food supply situation remains tight in Haiti, reflecting substantially reduced main season cereal output caused by a prolonged drought, while in the Dominican Republic torrential rains in the west and northwest have seriously affected many crops which are significant for the food security of the area. 

In the CIS, vulnerable populations including the internally displaced, refugees and the elderly in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and particularly Tajikistan, continue to need targetted food aid. 

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