FAO/GIEWS - Foodcrops & Shortages 11/98

CENTRAL AMERICA (including the Caribbean)

ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA (2 November)

The country was affected by hurricane rains and flooding and high force winds in late September, causing extensive damage to housing, to the agricultural and livestock sectors, as well as to forestry and fishery. A request for the emergency rehabilitation of agricultural activities has been made by the Government. COSTA RICA (23 November)

The country has been affected by storm rains and winds, caused by Hurricane “Mitch”, from 25 – 30 October. Preliminary assessments indicate that damage has been inflicted to crops such as coffee, paddy, sugar cane, and leafy vegetables particularly in the northern, central and southern parts of the country. Damage to the livestock sector is also reported. Maize output in 1998/99 is provisionally forecast at 32 000 tonnes compared to the 1997/98 crops of 24 000 tonnes. Production of paddy in 1998 is expected to be between 255 000 and 265 000 tonnes, subject to losses incurred by the hurricane. This compares to some 250 000 tonnes in 1997. Rice imports should decline in 1999 (January/December) from the estimated 100 000 tonnes imported in 1998. Imports of beans reached a record 20 000 tonnes this year, reflecting the low output obtained due to El Niño related adverse weather conditions principally in the first half of the year.

CUBA (2 November)

Hurricane rains and flooding, combined with high force winds in late September, affected particularly the provinces of Guantánamo, Holguín, Las Tunas, Granma, and Santiago de Cuba in the extreme eastern parts of the Island, which had suffered extreme El Niño-induced drought conditions earlier in the year. Extensive damage has been caused to housing and infrastructure, as well as to some important staple crops such as plantains. The vital foreign exchange earner sugar cane crop for 1998/99 was badly affected. Various sugar mills are reported damaged. Other cash crops like coffee and cocoa were also severely affected. The country had suffered a severe disruption to harvesting of the important sugar cane crop in April and subsequently experienced substantial foodcrop losses because of the prolonged drought. The current losses inflicted by the hurricane represent a further blow to the vulnerable agricultural sector and have aggravated the difficult food supply situation in the country.

An emergency appeal for 34 000 tonnes of relief food to assist some 615 000 persons, mostly nursing mothers, school children and drought victims in the eastern provinces was launched in early September. A request for the emergency rehabilitation of agricultural activities has also been made by the Government.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC (23 November)

f Torrential rains and flooding and high force sustained winds caused by Hurricane “Georges” in late September inflicted heavy loss of life and left more than 100 000 people homeless. Some of the affected areas are among the main crop growing areas of the country. An assessment of damages to the agricultural sector indicates that 90 percent of food and export crops were damaged to a varying extent in the affected areas. About 190 000 hectares under foodcrops have been severely affected, including some 20 000 hectares of paddy and extended cropped fields of roots and tubers, a main staple in the population’s diet. The important foreign exchange earners tobacco and sugar cane crops also sustained extensive damage. Severe damage was also incurred to banana crops, particularly in the south-western parts of the country. Consumer prices of this important staple have considerably increased. Significant losses were incurred by poultry and small animal farms. Emergency food aid to about 25 000 persons and other types of relief assistance are presently being provided by the international community. Plans for the rehabilitation of agricultural activities in the affected zones are being formulated.

EL SALVADOR (23 November)

Hurricane “Mitch “ left about 240 casualties and by 15 November, more than 235 persons were still missing. The affected population is estimated about 84 000 persons, of which 10 370 have totally lost their homes or suffered severe damage in their properties. Enormous damage to the country infrastructure is reported. The agricultural sector was also severely affected, particularly the departments of Usulután, Morazán and the southern parts of the department of San Miguel. Some villages on the Pacific coast were also seriously affected by the floods. Harvesting of the 1998 first season cereal crops was well advanced when the hurricane struck and some planting of the second crop had been initiated. No detailed assessment of damage has yet been made, but extensive damage is reported to fields of standing crops in the aforementioned areas, which are some of the most economically depressed zones in the country. Early estimates indicate that possibly as much as 80 percent of the maize grown in these areas have been lost. Other important crops for the affected population, such as sorghum and beans, are reported to have been seriously damaged. Important coffee plantations, a main agricultural export, have been seriously affected. Preliminary estimates indicate that about 10 percent of the 1998/99 coffee crop has been severely affected. The important sugar cane crop is also reported to be considerably affected. Damage has also been incurred to the foreign exchange earner cotton crop. Food assistance will be immediately provided for 60 000 people for six months from the large scale assistance is being provided by the international community. A detailed assessment of damage is in the process of being initiated for the rehabilitation of the agricultural activities in the affected areas.

GUATEMALA (23 November)

The country was severely hit by end-October by Hurricane “Mitch” torrential rains and flooding, particularly affecting the north- and south-eastern parts of the country. By 15 November, about 263 persons had been confirmed dead while 121 were missing. The affected population is estimated at some 105 700 people, of which 21 111 have totally lost their homes or have been inflicted severe damage in their properties. Various zones remained isolated and some of the main connecting roads closed. Preliminary official assessments confirm extensive damage to coffee, tobacco and banana plantations, melons and other fruit and garden vegetables. About 80 percent of the area planted to bananas, a vital foreign exchange earner, has been severely affected, while some 15 percent of the coffee crop has been reportedly lost. Further losses could be incurred as a result of blocked access to coffee farms. Thousands have lost their jobs because of the damage incurred to plantations. Serious damage has also been inflicted to maize, sorghum, paddy, bean, vegetable and various food crops in the important producing areas of Izabal, Zacapa and Jutiapa. Significant damage to irrigation systems in the latter area is reported. Increases in consumer prices for most of the important staples have been reported. The livestock sector also suffered from the effects of the hurricane. Significant losses are reported in the main cattle raising areas of the country. An FAO emergency project for the rehabilitation of agricultural activities in some of the most affected areas is about to be implemented. Large scale emergency assistance is being provided by the international community. Some 65 000 persons will be receiving food aid for six months.

HAITI* (23 November)

Virtually the whole country has been affected by Hurricane “Georges” rains and flooding, and mudslides, combined with high force winds in late September. Extensive damage has been caused to the 1998 second season sorghum crop, as well as the millet crop, mostly grown in the central plateau, the large producing Artibonite valley, the south-west and northern parts of the country. In the flooded zones, beans, in particular, as well as vegetables, roots and tubers and other minor food crops are ruined. About 80 percent of the important banana plantations in the south-west have been destroyed. Great losses have been also inflicted to small animal farms. Food assistance from the international community is expected to continue. A project for the immediate rehabilitation of agricultural activities in the most affected areas is in the process of being approved.

HONDURAS (23 November)

Torrential rains, flooding, landslides and winds of different intensities caused by Hurricane “Mitch “affected the country for the full week extending between 26 and 31 October. “Mitch” started as a hurricane off the Caribbean coast and swept through the country as a tropical storm before moving north- west into the neighbouring country of Guatemala by 30 October. By 15 November, about 6 600 persons had been confirmed dead while 8 000 had been declared missing. The affected population is estimated at about 2 100 000 persons, of which 70 000 have totally lost their homes or have suffered severe damage to their properties. Disastrous flooding has swept away over 25 small villages in the northern parts of the country and it is reported that as much as 60 percent of the country’s infrastructure has been destroyed or seriously damaged. Immense damage has been inflicted to the agricultural sector. Every important coffee producing area, a vital foreign exchange earner, has been affected, and large warehouses and coffee store rooms of main exporters inundated. Preliminary estimates put the coffee losses at about 20 percent of expected production this year and further losses are anticipated because of blocked access to coffee farms. Planting of the country’s 1998 main season cereal crops, which includes about 80 percent of annual maize production, was underway when the hurricane struck. Beans, oil palms, citrus and other fruit crops, some of which for export, including the important banana crop, have also suffered immense damage. Severe losses have been inflicted to the livestock sector with large scale animal deaths reported. Tourist resorts have been severely affected. The losses incurred represent a significant blow to the economy of Honduras, which is one of the poorest countries in Latin America. A large scale relief assistance is being provided by the international community. About 600 000 people will be receiving food aid for the next six months. Plans are being prepared for the immediate rehabilitation of agricultural production.

MEXICO (23 November)

The south-western parts of the country were affected by storm rains and winds caused by Hurricane “Mitch” at the end of October. The area had been formerly affected in September by tropical storm “Javier” with considerable damage to crops in certain zones. In the north-west, planting of the 1998/99 wheat crop in the large irrigated areas continues under generally dry weather. Above-normal rains in September contributed fill water reservoirs in the main growing states of Sonora and Sinaloa, as well as in Baja California, which had been previously affected by a long dry spell. The outlook is good and the area planted should be close to 1997/98 average level but improved yields are anticipated. Harvesting of the important spring/summer maize crop in the southern parts has benefited from recent dry weather, a recovery from the heavy rains due to Hurricane “Mitch “ which had affected the areas. For the country as a whole, an average maize output is anticipated despite damage incurred by the adverse weather. Harvesting of the recently planted (spring/summer) sorghum crop has started. The fall/winter crop was better than earlier estimated and aggregate sorghum production for the year is forecast at an above-average 6.4 million tonnes, but production is still short by some 3 million tonnes to meet domestic demand.

NICARAGUA (23 November)

Disaster caused by Hurricane “Mitch” was of enormous proportion. By 15 November, about 2 447 casualties had been confirmed and some 885 persons missing. The affected population is estimated at some 868 000 persons which accounts for some 20 percent of the country’s population. Of these, about 36 368 have totally lost their homes or have had severe damage to their properties. The impact of the hurricane was particularly felt in the north-central and north- western parts of the country. A huge landslide caused by the torrential rains in the north-west, near the country’s border with Honduras, swept away a group of small villages. Many populated and cropped areas on the Atlantic coast were water-logged as a consequence of the high tides and flooded rivers. Damage to infrastructure is immense. It is reported that about 2 500 km of highways and roads and 174 bridges have been damaged or destroyed, cutting off towns and villages from the capital and the rest of the country. Significant losses have been incurred to the agricultural, livestock and fishery sectors. Planting of the 1998 second season cereal and bean crops was underway when the hurricane struck. The rainfed paddy crop was seriously affected, as sell as maize and the important bean crop, which constitutes the main sources of protein for the rural population. Losses inflicted to the bean crop represent about 6 months of domestic consumption. Significant damage has been also incurred to other food and cash crops. Preliminary indications are that about 20 percent of the important foreign exchange earner coffee crop has been lost, but losses could be much larger because of blocked access to coffee farms. About 400 000 people will be receiving food aid for six months. An FAO project for the immediate rehabilitation of agricultural activities in the Department of Matagalpa, one of the most affected areas by the hurricane, benefiting some 5 120 small farmers, is about to be implemented. Massive assistance is being provided by the international community.

PANAMA (23 November)

Heavy rains and flooding caused by Hurricane “Mitch” struck the country by late October, affecting about 7 000 persons in the southern province of Darién alone, near the border with Colombia. It is reported by the country’s civil protection agency that thousands have remained homeless. Some casualties are also reported. Serious damage to the coffee crop is reported. Official estimates indicate that 20 percent of the 1998/99 coffee crop has been lost. A detailed assessment of damages has not been made yet.

ST. KITTS AND NEVIS (28 October)

The country was affected by hurricane rains and flooding, and high force winds in late September. About 85 per cent of houses have seen some damage and about 3 000 to 3 500 persons have been left homeless (in a total population of 39 000). The agricultural sector was also damaged, particularly the most important foreign exchange earner sugar cane crop. Early estimates indicate that about 50 percent of the sugar cane crop has been destroyed. Banana plantations were seriously damaged and other fruit and minor foodcrops equally affected. A request for food relief assistance and the emergency rehabilitation of agricultural activities has been made by the Government.