A grave humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in and around Kosovo Province of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia where recent escalation in violence has led to large scale population displacement and severe deterioration in food security. Urgent food and medical assistance continues to be needed for the growing number of refugees in neighbouring countries. The food and health situation of the large number of internally displaced persons in Kosovo also gives cause for great concern. FAO is investigating the possibility of boosting agricultural production in Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia hosting large numbers of refugees
Food supply difficulties persist in several parts of eastern Africa despite good 1998/99 production. The food situation is particularly serious in SoMalia, which has been affected by six consecutive poor harvests. In Kenya, food shortages persist in the eastern provinces, whilst in Tanzania, severe food shortages are reported in Dodoma, Singida and Morogoro. The food situation also remains tight in southern Sudan, northwestern Rwanda and northern Uganda which have been affected by civil strife.
Food outlook is bleak in Angola, but overall harvest prospects generally favourable in southern Africa. 1999 crop production in Angola is expected to fall sharply due to renewed civil strife. Elsewhere in southern Africa, crop prospects are good as a result of generally favourable rainfall in most countries.
Food outlook remains grim in Sierra Leone due to insecurity and transportation problems. While the security situation has improved in Freetowm, insecurity and violence persist in rural areas, displacing farming households. In neighbouring Liberia the food outlook is improving with the implementation of rehabilitation programmes, but the country remains heavily dependent on food aid. In the Sahelian countries, the food supply situation is generally satisfactory following record 1998 harvests, but remains tight in Guinea Bissau due to civil disturbances.
The prospects for 1999 winter grains in Asia is mixed. In China, severe drought and pests have seriously damaged winter wheat, but in India a record harvest is forecast. Recent rains have improved conditions for wheat in Pakistan and for the second rice crop in Thailand. Prolonged drought in Bangladesh has reportedly affected boro rice in some areas, while prospects for the main rice crop in Indonesia are favourable.
In the Near East, low rainfall may reduce the cereal harvests in several parts. The worst affected country is Jordan where concerns are mounting over imminent food supply problems. Many water reservoirs are depleted, raising concerns over water shortages later in the year. An FAO/WFP Mission is scheduled to visit the country in early May to make an on-the-spot assessment of the situation.
In the Caribbean, unusually dry weather in Cuba continues to affect crops particularly in areas severely affected by El Niño last year. In South America, 1999 maize production in Chile is expected to fall significantly due to extremely dry weather over several months.
In the CIS, 1999 grain and pulse production is expected to recover from the poor crop last year, but to remain below average. The outlook for winter wheat and rye has improved but substantial damage by winterkill is reported in the Russian Federation, where the area sown also declined.
In the United States, wheat output is expected to fall by 15 percent as a result of the lowest winter plantings since 1972/73. Planting of coarse grains is already underway in southern parts, with the area of maize and sorghum projected to decrease. In Canada, little change is expected in the spring grain area, to be planted shortly.
In Australia, prospects for the small 1999 summer coarse grains crop are good. Early indications point to little change in winter grain area to be planted soon.