FAO/GIEWS: Africa Report No.2, August 1999 5

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The harvesting of the 1998/99 coarse grain crops is virtually complete in southern Africa. In several countries of eastern Africa, the main season crops are either being harvested or are in the ground, however, the planting season of the main cereal crops has started in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan. Coarse grain crops are maturing in parts of the coastal countries of western Africa and are at flowering or grain formation stages in parts of central Africa. In the Sahelian countries of western Africa main season cereal crops are being planted.

Cereal Crop Calendar

Sub-Region   Cereal Crops
Planting Harvesting
Eastern Africa 1/ March-June Aug.-Dec.
Southern Africa Oct.-Dec. April-June
Western Africa    
- Coastal areas (first season) March-April July-Sept.
- Sahel zone June-July Oct.-Nov.
Central Africa 1/ April-June Aug.-Dec.

1/ Except Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo which have two main seasons and Tanzania whose main season follows the southern Africa planting calendar. For Sudan, the planting period for the staple coarse grain crop is June-July and the harvesting period is October-December.

In eastern Africa, prospects for 1999 foodcrops are unfavourable. In Somalia, the current main "Gu" season has largely failed due to erratic and insufficient rains, armyworm outbreaks, and unusually high temperatures. It is estimated that 1 million people face serious food shortages, with 400 000 at risk of starvation. In Ethiopia, the 1999 "Belg" crop, normally harvested from June, has also failed and early prospects for the 1999 "Meher" season crops are uncertain due to inadequate rainfall so far. In Tanzania, serious localised crop failures are reported in several regions, particularly in Shinyanga Region, where cash and food crop production is anticipated to fall by as much as 40 percent. Total cereal production in 1999 is estimated at 3.76 million tonnes, about 9 percent below last year's output due to erratic rains, reduced use of improved seeds and fertilisers and an outbreak of armyworms. In Uganda, a prolonged drought has severely affected the main season crop production and livestock in the western parts of the country. In Kenya, preliminary official forecasts indicate a reduced 1999 main season maize output of about 1.95 million tonnes compared to last year's output of 2.44 million tonnes and an average of 2.5 million tonnes over the last five years, due to erratic rains, inadequate agricultural input supply and armyworm infestation. Significant output reductions are reported in the Eastern, Central and Rift Valley Provinces. In Eritrea, early prospects for 1999 cereal crops are uncertain following below average rains in June. In Sudan, early prospects for the 1999 main season cereal crops have improved in the central and northern parts due to beneficial rains in July. In the south, crop growing conditions are favourable but agricultural activities continue to be disrupted by civil strife.

The aggregate cereal import requirement of the sub-region in marketing year 1998/99 is estimated at 3.1 million tonnes. Commercial imports are estimated at 2.3 million tonnes and the food aid requirements at some 0.8 million tonnes.

In southern Africa, harvesting of 1999 main season cereal crops is complete. Despite abundant rains at the beginning of the season, dry spells and high temperatures from February in some countries reduced yields. Aggregate cereal output is estimated to be below average, as last year's. However, production varied considerably. Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia had good crops, while production in Madagascar and Swaziland is estimated at close to average. In South Africa, cereal output is estimated to be lower than last year's reduced crop due to floods and dry spells. In Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe, cereal production is higher than in 1998 but remains below average. In Angola, despite favourable weather during the season cereal production is below last year due to renewed civil war.

The sub-region's aggregate cereal import requirement for 1999/2000 is estimated at 5.5 million tonnes. Commercial imports are expected to reach 5.1 million tonnes, while aggregate food aid requirement is anticipated at 0.4 million tonnes.

In western Africa, the rainy season in the coastal countries generally has been normal so far. However, despite good climatic conditions, agricultural activities in Sierra Leone have been disrupted by insecurity and crop output is expected to be reduced. The 1998 aggregate cereal output for the eight coastal countries along the Gulf of Guinea (Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Togo) is estimated at some 26.9 million tonnes compared to 26.2 million tonnes in 1997. Average to above-average harvests were gathered in all the coastal countries, except in Sierra Leone and Togo.

In the Sahel, the growing season is now well established and prospects are generally favourable so far. Following the release of final production estimates in 1998 in most CILSS member countries, the aggregate output of cereals (including rice in milled equivalent) has been revised to 10.5 million tonnes. This is about 35 percent higher than in 1997 and 21 percent above the average for the last five years. Record crops were harvested in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger, while output was above average in The Gambia and Mauritania, average in Senegal and below average in Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau. Seed availability is generally adequate following the good harvests in 1998.

In the countries along the Gulf of Guinea, the food supply situation is expected to remain satisfactory through the 1998/99 marketing year, except in Liberia and Sierra Leone where production was affected by civil strife. In the Sahel, the food supply situation is expected to be stable until the next harvest from October. However, several areas within countries remain at risk of food shortages and may require some assistance, notably in Mauritania and Chad. Localised deficits can be covered by transfers from surplus areas or through triangular transactions. In Guinea-Bissau, the security situation has improved and economic activities have resumed.

The aggregate cereal import requirement of the western Africa sub-region in the 1998/99 marketing year is estimated at 5.3 million tonnes. Commercial imports are estimated at 4.9 million tonnes and food aid requirement at 0.4 million tonnes, mainly wheat and rice.

In central Africa, average to above-average harvests were gathered in 1998 in most countries except the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo, affected by civil strife. Crops are currently growing under generally favourable conditions in Cameroon and Central African Republic. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, maize is growing satisfactorily in the centre and south not yet affected by the ongoing civil strife. Intensified civil strife in Republic of Congo has disrupted agricultural and marketing activities, pointing to another reduced harvest in 1999, while prospects in the Democratic Republic of Congo remain uncertain depending on developments in the security situation following the recent cease-fire agreement.

For the current season, the food supply situation remains tight in Democratic Republic of Congo due to insecurity and transport constraints. Despite the cease-fire agreement signed on 10 July in Lusaka between all the countries involved in the war, the food situation is likely to remain very tight for some time, notably in Kivu provinces and in Kinshasa. In the Republic of Congo, population displacements in and out Brazzaville continue. Food prices are very high and the food marketing system has been seriously disrupted.

For the 1999 marketing year, the cereal import requirement for the seven countries of the sub-region is estimated at about 800 000 tonnes, to be met almost entirely through commercial channels.

The table below summarizes sub-Saharan Africa's cereal import and food aid requirements by sub-region. Food aid pledges and deliveries are shown in Tables 1 and 2 .

Sub-Saharan Africa: Cereal Import and Food Aid Requirements by Sub-Region
(in thousand tonnes)

Sub-Region   1998
1998/99 or 1999
Food aid
Eastern Africa 22 561 3 116 2 294 822
Southern Africa 18 317 5 554 5 107 447
Western Africa 37 418 5 313 4 885 428
Central Africa 3 127 796 765 31
TOTAL 81 423 14 779 13 051 1 728

FAO/GIEWS - August 1999
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