FAO/GIEWS - Foodcrops & Shortages No.2, April 1999


BURUNDI* (1 April)

Normal to above normal rains during the past two months favoured planting and establishment of 1999 second season foodcrops. Until March FAO has distributed 2 874 tonnes of bean seeds to 243 000 most affected households. Prospects for the harvest from late May are favourable so far.

Due to irregular rains, which mostly affected cereals and beans, 1999 first season production is estimated at 1.1 million tonnes, 3 percent lower than the previous year and well below the pre-crisis average. Productions of these crops are estimated to have declined 5 percent and 14 percent respectively from 1998. Most affected areas are Bugesera, Buyogoma, Imbo and Moso.

Results of recent nutritional surveys indicate that the nutritional situation has improved since the second half of last year. This reflects a relative improvement in the security situation and increased access to land, markets and health centres. Distribution of food aid to 138 000 most vulnerable displaced persons continue.

ERITREA* (1 April)

Preliminary estimates of 1998 grain crops, harvested at the end of last year, point to a record production of 458 000 tonnes of cereals and 33 000 tonnes of pulses, substantially above the previous year's level. As a result, import requirements in 1999 have declined by two-thirds from 1998 to 109 000 tonnes, mainly in the form of wheat for urban areas.

While the overall food supply situation has improved with the bumper harvest, the food position remains very tight for people in border areas of Gash-Barka and Debub affected by the war with Ethiopia since May 1998. Under an Emergency Operation recently approved by FAO and WFP, international food aid assistance will be distributed to 268 000 of the most affected population, including 246 500 displaced and 21 500 deportees from Ethiopia for a period of nine months starting in April.

ETHIOPIA* (1 April)

Adequate rains in March in growing areas favoured planting and establishment of the secondary "Belg" crops. The Belg season accounts for about 5 to 10 percent of aggregate annual cereal production, but it is important in Belg growing areas where it provides most of the annual food supplies.

The main 1998 "Meher" season was good with a bumper cereal and pulse crop of 11.7 million tonnes, one-third higher than in the previous year. However, in southern and eastern pastoral areas, dry weather during the rainy season from October to November, has resulted in poor conditions of pastures and animals, as well as severe shortages of water. Distribution of emergency water is underway in some areas. A recent Government/donor/international agency assessment of the situation indicates that most affected areas are Somali region and lowland Bale and Borena zones of Oromya regions. The food and water supplies in this area gives cause for concern. Prices of grains are increasing while those of livestock have declined markedly from last year. The current ban on livestock imports from these areas by Saudi Arabia has further affected incomes of the pastoral population. It is estimated that about 1.1 million people will require 89 000 tonnes of food aid for a period of six months. However, insecurity in the Somali region has prevented access to the needy population.

This year, despite a satisfactory food supply situation overall, some 2 million vulnerable people are estimated to require 180 000 tonnes of food aid during 1999. Food assistance is also required for 272 000 persons displaced by persistent armed conflict with neighbouring Eritrea. In view of ample domestic supplies, donors are recommended to support local purchases to provide some strength to the market. So far, pledges for local purchases amount to 108 000 tonnes of grains while those of imported food aid to 285 000 tonnes.

KENYA (1 April)

Planting of the 1999 main season "long rains" cereal crops has started favoured by adequate rains in March.

The output of the recently harvested 1998/99 "short rains" crops in western and eastern parts was sharply reduced by late and insufficient rains during the growing season. Preliminary estimates indicate a maize output of 100 000 tonnes, only one-quarter of average. Although the short rains accounts for only 15 percent of national production, it is the main crop in Eastern, Nyanza, Coast and parts of Central Province. In pastoral areas of these provinces, the dry weather has also resulted in shortages of water for humans and animals and in poor pasture conditions.

Despite a satisfactory food supply situation overall, following a good 1998 main season cereal crop, the food situation is difficult in areas affected by the failure of the short rains. Severe food shortages have been reported, particularly from Kiambu, Kirinyaga, Maragua, Thika and Nyeri districts in Central Provinces, as well as from several locations in Eastern Province. The situation is likely to deteriorate in the coming months with the depletion of food stocks. Food aid is urgently needed for the affected population.

RWANDA* (1 April)

Normal to above-normal rains in March benefited recently planted 1999 second season foodcrops. The early outlook is favourable.

Latest estimates of the 1999 first season indicate a total foodcrops production of 2.34 million tonnes, 14 percent above last year but slightly below the normal pre-war level. This includes 64 000 tonnes of cereals, 92 000 tonnes of pulses, 1.5 million tonnes of bananas, 646 000 tonnes of root and tubers and 50 000 tonnes of fruit and vegetables. While there has been a significant increase in production of root and tubers, and the output of bananas and plantains remains similar to last year, the season was mediocre for cereals and beans. Insufficient rains during the growing season resulted in reduced yields of grains and production is estimated to be some 15 percent lower than in the 1998 A season.

Supplies of basic staples, other than grains, is satisfactory. Prices of sweet potatoes and cassava have declined to one-third their level a year ago. This has improved access to food of the poorest strata of population. Indications point to a general improvement in the nutritional status of the population. However, the food situation remains tight in the northwestern prefectures of Giseny and Ruhengeri where persistent civil strife has disrupted agricultural activities and continue to hamper food aid distributions. Relative improvements in security conditions early in the year allowed the Government to resettle part of the displaced population. From the approximately 600 000 internally displace people, including those living and those not living in camps, half have been resettled in new sites. International food aid for the most affected distribution is estimated at 52 000 tonnes for the period January-June 1999.

SOMALIA* (1 April)

Rains in the first two dekads of March, improved pastures conditions and water supplies in pastoral areas in Northwestern areas affected by dry weather in the previous "Deyr" season. The rains also improved soil condition for planting of the next main "Gu" season, about to start. FAO is currently distributing 560 tonnes of sorghum seeds to 28 000 drought-affected farmers in Bay and Bakool regions.

The recently-harvested 1998/99 secondary "Deyr" cereal crops was estimated at 80 000 tonnes, twice the poor level of 1997/98 which was affected by severe floods, but still 25 percent below pre-civil strife levels. Despite an increase in plantings, late and below-average rains from October to December negatively affected yields. Insufficient rainfall also caused the deterioration of pastures and water supplies for livestock and humans. Although "Deyr" crops normally account for only 20 percent of annual cereal production, this “Deyr” crop follows on from the failure of the 1998 main "Gu" cereal crop, which was only one-quarter of the level pre-war.

The already difficult food supply situation is anticipated to deteriorate in the coming months, with an estimated 1 million people at risk of food shortages and 400 000 most at risk. Prices of cereals have increased sharply in recent months and are well beyond the reach of the majority of the population. Coping mechanisms are becoming exhausted after five consecutive reduced harvests and the ban on livestock imports from Somalia by Saudi Arabia. Population movements, particularly from the worst affected Bay and Bakol regions, in search of food and water, are on the increase. The situation has been aggravated by renewed fighting in many areas. Current estimates indicate that some 30 000 people have been displaced by food shortages and insecurity. Emergency food aid is being distributed.

SUDAN* (1 April)

Harvesting of the 1998/99 irrigated wheat crop is underway. The outlook is unfavourable. The area planted is estimated to have declined by a half from last year's level to 140 000 hectares. High production costs and comparatively lower prices of imported wheat and wheat flour, coupled with planting delays due to early flood damage to pumps and irrigation infrastructure negatively affected plantings. Yields are also expected to be reduced because of unseasonable high temperatures in December and January. The latest forecast points to a crop of 280 000 tonnes, a decline of 48 percent from last year.

The 1998 coarse grains harvest is estimated at a record 5.3 million tonnes. Production of sorghum increased 36 percent from the previous year to 4.3 million tonnes, while that of millet rose by 56 percent to 1 million tonnes. Export availabilities, mostly sorghum, are currently estimated at 719 000 tonnes. Prices of sorghum have fallen below production cost in main producing areas following a bumper harvest and large carryover stocks. This may depress plantings for the next season from June.

Despite abundant food supplies, the food situation remains tight in the South affected by prolonged civil conflict, which has resulted in the collapse of all economic activities. It is estimated that 2.3 million war affected people are in need of 173 000 tonnes of emergency food assistance during 1999. In view of the ample domestic availability, local purchases for food aid are highly recommended in order to support markets. However, more pledges are urgently needed to avoid a break in distributions as food stocks, particularly of non-cereal items, are at dangerously low levels.

TANZANIA (1 April)

Abundant rains in March, which followed a dry spell in February, improved prospects for the 1999 main "msimu" crops in southern, central and southwestern highland regions. The outlook for the harvest from June is satisfactory so far. The rains in March also benefited planting and establishment of early sown crops of the "masika" season in bi-modal areas of the north and northeast. In these areas, affected by severe dry weather during the previous "Vuli" season, the precipitation helped to regenerate pastures and livestock conditions.

The food supply situation is satisfactory for basic staples, other than cereals. However, as a result of poor second season ("Vuli") maize production and higher than anticipated storage losses last year, maize supplies remain tight. The price of maize, which reached a peak in January this year, declined in February and March but still remains one-third above last year. In contrast, prices of rice, beans and non- cereal crops have declined in most regions.

The number of people vulnerable to food shortages due to localized crop losses during the 1998 main season has increased with the failure of the 1998/99 "Vuli" season. It is now estimated that 1 million people in thirteen regions affected by reduced harvests are in need of food assistance. The food supply of this population is precarious, particularly in the regions of Dodoma, Singida and Morogoro, where deaths by starvation have been reported. Against a requirement of 29 000 tonnes of food aid for the period April to June, until the next harvest, international food aid is estimated at 20 000 tonnes, all of which has been pledged. The Government has pledged the remaining 9 000 tonnes but its emergency reserves have been virtually depleted.

UGANDA (1 April)

Above-normal rains in the two first dekads of March favoured completion of planting of the 1999 first season food crops and benefited early sowed crops. Early prospects are favourable. The rains also improved pasture and livestock conditions in eastern pastoral parts previously affected by dry weather.

The 1998/99 second season maize and bean crop was reduced, but remained satisfactory for other staples. Prices for most commodities have stabilized during the past month. The overall food situation remains satisfactory. However, severe food difficulties persist in Rakai District, where a succession of poor harvests has depleted farm stocks. Food aid distributions have improved the situation but a recent assessment Mission to the area estimated that 30 000 people are still suffering acute food shortages. Food difficulties also persist in northern areas, where 400 000 people remain displaced because insecurity. International food aid is being distributed.

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