ERITREA* (9 February)

Unseasonable rains in October at harvest time led to spoilage in stacks of harvested cereals and reduced yields of the crops already adversely affected by a dry spell in September, when the crops were at the critical maturing stage. The grain output is estimated at the same reduced level of 1996. Also, as a result of the unexpected heavy rains, high levels of locust infestations were reported in northern parts but control operations have been undertaken.

Cereal prices, which normally decline at harvest time, registered a sharp increase in November reflecting the anticipated poor output. With a below-average cereal harvest for the third consecutive year and a sharp reduction in grain import availability from neighbouring Ethiopia, the food situation will be tight in the year ahead.