MALI (5 February)
Seasonably hot and dry conditions prevail. Higher than normal temperatures have been reported in early February in southern Mali. Harvesting of recession crops is underway and prospects are favourable. A joint FAO/CILSS Crop Assessment Mission estimated aggregate cereal production for 1997/98 at 2.4 million tonnes which is 7 percent higher than 1996 and above the five-year average. Rice production reached a new record level of 663 000 tonnes. Low numbers of Desert Locusts may be present in a few of the major wadis in the Adrar des Iforas and Tilemsi Valley and breed if rainfall occurs.
Following this good harvest, the overall food supply situation is satisfactory. Markets are well supplied and cereal prices decreased since August/September, reaching levels generally much lower than those of 1996 at the same period. However, the national early warning system (SAP) classified the arrondissement of Aourou in Kayes region an several arrondissements in the north and west of Tombouctou region as at risk of food supply difficulties following poor harvests due to unfavourable growing conditions or pest attacks. Several other arrondissements may also face economic difficulties. The SAP recommended the development of activities generating income for the populations and constitution of local security stocks, notably through cereal banks. It estimated at 2 500 tonnes of cereals the possible emergency needs for the affected populations in Tombouctou area and at 205 tonnes in Kayes region. The national security stock is at 29 500 tonnes of millet or sorghum, which is higher than last year and will facilitate interventions during next marketing year, if needed. Stocks are available in the most at-risk areas, notably in Tombouctou and Gao regions. Food assistance is given to the Tuaregs who have returned from neighbouring countries. In contrast, refugees from Niger are reported in the north-east. Exportable surpluses are available for triangular transactions with neighbouring countries affected by deficits, notably northern and central Senegal, Mauritania and some areas of Niger or Burkina Faso.