FAO GLOBAL INFORMATION AND EARLY WARNING SYSTEM ON FOOD AND AGRICULTURE
WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME

SPECIAL REPORT : DROUGHT CAUSES EXTENSIVE CROP DAMAGE IN THE NEAR EAST RAISING CONCERNS FOR FOOD SUPPLY DIFFICULTIES IN SOME PARTS

16 July 1999

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OVERVIEW

The worst drought in decades has severely reduced food output in several countries in the Near East, with particularly sharp falls in Jordan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq and Syria. Current estimates suggest that aggregate cereal output in the sub-region will amount to around 52.4 million tonnes this year (including rice in milled terms), some 10 million tonnes or 16 percent lower than in 1998 and 12 percent lower than the average over the last five years. In Turkey, which normally contributes approximately 50 percent of sub-regional grain production, output is expected to fall by over 2.7 million tonnes to around 26.9 million tonnes, some 9 percent lower than last year and 6 percent lower than the five year average. As Turkey is also the sub-region's main exporter, export availability from the country is also projected to decline appreciably, by around 50 percent, compared to the 4.1 million tonnes exported last year. For the sub-region as a whole, the volume of exports is anticipated at around 2.4 million tonnes, compared to almost 5 million tonnes last year, a relative decline of 51 percent.

In sharp contrast, to meet requirements, cereal imports into the Sub-region are expected to increase by over 3 million tonnes or 13 percent over last year. This inevitably will increase the cereal import bill significantly in a number of countries, putting further pressure on scarce foreign reserves, particularly in oil-producing countries which have experienced falling revenues in recent years.

The outlook is also bleak for livestock producers, as livestock mortality rates have increased due to a shortage of fodder and water. This will have serious repercussions particularly in countries where livestock and livestock products constitute an important export and/or provide a livelihood for large segments of the population.

The drought will have a serious impact on vulnerable sections of the population, particularly in rural areas, which have limited alternative sources of income. FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) has responded to the drought emergency by fielding a number of assessment mission, including ones to Afghanistan, Jordan and Syria. In addition, FAO has fielded a Mission to the Islamic Republic of Iran to assess drought damage and rehabilitation needs and assist in preparing plans for future disaster preparedness. Sub-regional trends in cereal production, imports and exports, over the last ten years, are indicated in Chart 1, whilst Table 1 shows comparative figures for 1998 and 1999.

Table 1: Sub-regional cereal production, imports and exports, 1998/99 (`000 tonnes)

Country
Production
Imports
Exports
1998
1999
% Change
99 over 98
1998
1999
% Change
99 over 98
1998
1999
% Change
99 over 98
Afghanistan
3 709
3 151
-15
740
1 126
52
60
10
-83
Bahrain
-
-
-
150
150
0
-
-
-
Cyprus
65
90
38
638
643
1
-
-
-
Iran, Isl. Rep. of
17 897
13 660
-24
5 730
7 830
37
-
-
-
Iraq
2 365
1 894
-20
3 150
3 560
13
-
-
-
Israel
175
159
-9
2 596
2 598
0
-
-
-
Jordan
105
13
-88
1 800
1 936
8
58
50
-14
Kuwait
-
-
-
420
440
5
10
10
0
Lebanon
67
67
0
730
750
3
-
-
-
Oman
4
4
0
475
475
0
30
30
0
Qatar
-
-
-
160
160
0
4
4
0
Saudi Arabia
2 414
2 426
0
7 073
7 273
3
-
-
-
Syrian Arab Rep.
5 426
3 242
-40
750
840
12
400
10
-98
Turkey
29 603
26 898
-9
1 950
2 250
15
4 132
2 059
-50
United Arab Em.
9
9
0
1 042
1 050
1
52
52
0
Yemen
834
749
-10
2 670
2 855
7
200
200
0
Total
62 673
52 362
-16
30 074
33 936
13
4 946
2 425
-51

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SITUATION BY COUNTRY

AFGHANISTAN

The mildest winter in the last 40 years and an outbreak of pests sharply reduced 1999 cereal output. An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission in May/June this year, estimated 1999 cereal production at 3.15 million tonnes (milled basis), about 15 percent below last year's bumper output of 3.71 million tonnes. Consequently, the cereal import requirement (95 percent wheat), for the1999/2000 marketing year (July/June) is estimated at a record 1.12 million tonnes. It is estimated that some 800 000 tonnes of the requirement will be commercially imported, leaving a deficit of 323 000 tonnes. Of this, emergency food aid requirements (food-for-work and seed) are estimated at 97 000 tonnes, which are already in the pipeline, leaving 226 000 tonnes to be covered by programme food aid.

Despite stable prices and well stocked markets, access to food is severely constrained by low incomes and lack of employment outside agriculture. In addition, recovery in agriculture remains severely constrained by damage to irrigation structures and by land mines. Of immediate concern are returnees and internally-displaced persons (IDPs) who are in need of urgent assistance. Food supply problems are most serious in Bamyan, Saripul, Faryab and Balkh where damage to dry-land production has been relatively high leaving most people requiring emergency assistance.

Currently, international food assistance is being distributed to about 8 000 vulnerable households in the central highlands and to 21 000 people in Badakhshan province in the north-east. An estimated 63 000 returnees from Iran and Pakistan also receive food assistance. Vulnerable groups are being provided assistance through institutional feeding programmes in hospitals, orphanages and health centres.

IRAN, Islamic Republic of

Drought and the worst water shortage in three decades have severely affected domestic crop production this year. The Government is urging farmers to reduce water consumption and dig wells to counter the shortage in rainfall. The worst affected areas are reported to be in dry land areas around Ardebil province in the north west, which depends almost entirely on rainfall. Rice producing areas in the north are also reported to be seriously affected. As a result of drought, a serious water problem is also expected in the country from June. Domestic wheat production is projected to fall to around 9 million tonnes this year, some 25 percent lower than last year, whilst rice production is also expected to fall though to a lesser extent than previously anticipated. As a result of the shortfall in crop output, imports are likely to be appreciably higher this year. In addition to cereals, the outlook is also bleak for livestock production on which large segments of the population depend. It is expected that the drought will have a serious impact on vulnerable sectors of the population, particularly in rural areas, which have limited alternative sources of income.

IRAQ

The worst drought in decades severely damaged 1999 winter crops. In most areas, rainfall during the main season from October to March was about 30 percent of normal whilst the level of water in main rivers has fallen by more than 50 percent. In addition, crop production remains constrained by serious shortages of essential agricultural inputs and the widespread incidence of pests, weeds and animal diseases. It is estimated that more than 46 percent of total cultivated area has been severely damaged by the drought. The livestock sector, which has already been extensively affected by foot and mouth disease, has also been seriously damaged.

In May, the UN Secretary-General approved a distribution plan for the sixth phase of the "Oil-for-Food" agreement, which allows the country to sell up to US$5.26 billion of oil over six months to buy food, medicine and health supplies and to be used for emergency rehabilitation of essential infrastructure.

Despite some improvement in the overall food supply situation following implementation of the "Oil-for-Food" agreement, health and nutritional problems remain widespread in many parts of the country. The drought is anticipated to exacerbate existing food supply problems in the country.

ISRAEL

The outlook for the 1999 wheat crop is unfavourable due to severe drought conditions resulting in damage to large areas of wheat. In April, the Government declared an official drought emergency and introduced a 40 percent cut in water allocation to farmers. Current projections suggest that cereal production this year will be some 10 percent lower than last year's output of 175 000 tonnes. Cereal imports in 1999/2000 (July/June) are forecast at 2.6 million tonnes, similar to the previous year.

JORDAN

A recent FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission found that the severest drought in decades seriously damaged cereal and horticultural crops. The livestock sector was also affected and many sheep farms face financial ruin as costs increased and products diminished in quality and quantity. An outbreak of foot and mouth disease has exacerbated drought-induced production losses. Further outbreaks of diseases are anticipated.

The unprecedented drought could not have come at a worse time as the country's capacity to increase imports is seriously constrained with high unemployment, reduced exports, a fall in foreign currency reserves and an unsustainable debt repayment rate of US$850 million per annum.

The Mission forecast the lowest recorded domestic cereal harvest at 13 000 tonnes in 1999. At this level, only about 0.6 percent of the domestic consumption needs, instead of the normal 10 percent, will be met. The Mission estimated a total cereal import requirement of 1.94 million tonnes comprising 742 000 tonnes of wheat, 725 000 tonnes of barley, 370 000 tonnes of maize and 99 000 tonnes of rice for the 1999/2000 marketing year (July/June). About 80 percent of the requirement is anticipated to be covered commercially, leaving a deficit of 387 000 tonnes to be covered by emergency and programme food aid, of which 100 000 tonnes are already pledged. Of particular concern are some 180 000 small scale herders and landless rural households who need an estimated 14 400 tonnes of wheat and 1 300 tonnes of pulses in emergency food assistance for eight months. Emergency support to the agricultural sector is also urgently needed to revive production for next year.

LEBANON

The output of 1999 wheat and barley, now being harvested, is expected to be about 62 000 tonnes about the same as last year. Imports of wheat in 1998/99 (July/June) are forecast at some 0.5 million tonnes.

SAUDI ARABIA

Production of wheat in 1999 is forecast at 1.8 million tonnes, about the same as last year. The Saudi Grain Silos and Flour Milling Organization (GSFMO) decided in May to sell off its current stocks of barley estimated at 890 000 tonnes. The sell-off is anticipated to cause a decline in Saudi imports in the next few months. Saudi Arabia is the world's largest importer of barley accounting for nearly one-third of the world barley trade.

SYRIA

The worst drought in recent years severely damaged the wheat and barley crops being harvested. Rainfall this year is reported to have been less than fifty percent of average. Several rivers were reported to have dried up affecting irrigated summer crops. Wheat production in 1999 is forecast at 2.6 million tonnes, well below last year's 4.1 million tonnes and about 30 percent below average. The barley crop is estimated at 365 000 tonnes, about 63 percent below average. The livestock sector has also been seriously affected by the drought.

Wheat stocks are reported to be adequate but barley imports are anticipated to meet increased feed demand as a result of the loss of pasture.

An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Mission will visit the country in late July to assess the situation.

TURKEY

Drought has resulted in extensive crop damage in several parts of Turkey, including Central Anatolia, the country's bread basket. The effects of drought were most serious in the south where it is expected an estimated 30 percent of production will be lost. Wheat production in 1999 is currently forecast at 17 million tonnes, some 8 percent below last year, while barley production is forecast to decline by around 3 percent. Wheat imports in the current 1999/2000 (July/June) marketing year are expected to be around 1.2 million tonnes, some 33 percent above 1998/99.

YEMEN

Total cereal output in 1999 is forecast at 748 000 tonnes, about 10 percent below last year's bumper crop but about average. Imports of cereals in 1999 - mainly wheat - are estimated at some 2.9 million tonnes.

Isolated adults of Desert Locusts may persist on the northern Red Sea coastal plains near the Saudi Arabian border and breed if additional rains fall.

This report is prepared on the responsibility of the FAO Secretariat with information from official and unofficial sources. Since conditions may change rapidly, please contact Mr. Abdur Rashid, Chief, ESCG, FAO, (Fax: 0039-06-5705-4495, E-Mail (INTERNET): GIEWS1@FAO.ORG) for further information if required.

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