• As in 1998, the 1999 Gu season has largely failed due to poor and erratic rains, uncontrolled crop pests, and renewed civil conflict in parts of southern Somalia.

  • The total 1999 Gu cereal production is forecast at nearly 136 000 tonnes, 32 percent below the post-war average (1993-1998) but about 18 percent above last year's much reduced harvest.

  • Sharp increases in sorghum and maize prices have severely reduced access to food for large sections of the population.

  • Cereal import requirements for the 1999/2000 marketing year (August/July) are estimated at 310 000 tonnes. Commercial imports are anticipated at 240 000 tonnes, while food aid pledges amount to 63 000 tonnes, leaving a deficit of 7 000 tonnes.

  • With traditional coping mechanisms virtually exhausted for most households due to successive crop failures, more than 1.2 million people face serious food shortages and are in need of international assistance.


Amidst reports of a rapidly deteriorating food supply situation due to drought, pest infestations and renewed inter-factional fighting, an FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission was fielded to the country from 5-15 August 1999 to assess the 1999 main "Gu" season crops and the overall food supply situation and to estimate cereal import requirements, including food aid, in the marketing year 1999/2000 (August/July). The Mission consulted extensively with bilateral and multilateral donors and NGOs in Nairobi and reviewed the results of a just-completed crop assessment survey undertaken in Southern Somalia by the Food Security Assessment Unit (FSAU).1 The Mission also participated in a workshop of Field Monitors held in Jowhar (Middle Shebelle) and undertook an aerial survey across southern Somalia with some field assessments in Jowhar. Prior to the workshop, meetings were held with the field monitors for an in-depth review of the assessments.

The Mission found that, after some short-lived early rains in March, the Gu season started late in April followed by erratic and below-average rains in May and a dry June. The low and poorly distributed rains resulted in poor yields and in many places outright crop failures. Irrigated maize suffered from low levels of the Shebelle and Juba rivers at the beginning of the season and lack of pumps. However, favourable small rains of Hagai (in southern coastal areas) and Karin (in the north-west) from July improved somewhat production prospects for maize. Harvested area for sorghum and maize during this Gu season is estimated at 283 530 hectares, compared to last year's Gu area of 163 270 hectares and to 423 059 hectares in Gu 1997. Yields were generally below the average for the post-war (1993-1998) period.2

The 1999 Gu cereal production, accounting for some 75-80 percent of annual production in normal years, is forecast at about 135 683 tonnes (37 135 tonnes of sorghum and 98 548 tonnes of maize), about 18 percent above last year's Gu, but 32 percent below the post-war average. At this level, the sorghum crop amounts to little more than one-third of the post-war average of about 100 000 tonnes, while maize is about average. Regionally, cereal production, estimated at 128 883 tonnes in southern Somalia and 6 800 tonnes in north-western Somalia, is about 27 percent and 59 percent below the post-war average respectively. The sorghum crop failed mainly in the rainfed areas of Bay, Bakool, Hiran and Gedo, but some crops were harvested in the irrigated areas of the Shebelle and Juba regions.

Reflecting yet another poor Gu harvest, cereal retail prices have risen sharply compared to the same period last year, though with wide regional variations. Sorghum prices were up by 27 to 79 percent, with maize prices following a similar pattern. In addition to short supplies, cereal price increases, notably in Mogadishu, are driven by an increase in money supply, as factions inject new currency into the market with the attendant depreciation of the Somali Shilling (SoSh).

The outlook for the 1999/2000 Deyr season (October to February) is uncertain with latest weather forecasts suggesting a high probability of below-normal rainfall. The Mission has projected the Deyr cereal output at the post-war average of 70 000 tonnes, compared to 95 000 tonnes in a normal pre-war year. Total cereal production in 1999/2000 is, therefore, estimated at about 206 000 tonnes, about six percent above last year's poor output and 23 percent below the post-war average. With an opening stock of about 18 000 tonnes, total domestic cereal supply is estimated at 224 000 tonnes for the 1999/2000 marketing year (August/July). The country's total cereal utilisation requirement for the 1999/2000 marketing year is estimated at 534 000 tonnes, leaving an import requirement of about 310 000 tonnes. With commercial imports estimated at 240 000 tonnes, the cereal gap amounts to 70 000 tonnes. Food aid pledges by WFP and Care (USA)/Bread-for-Life amount to 63 000 tonnes (35 000 tonnes and 28 000 tonnes respectively) leaving an uncovered deficit of 7 000 tonnes.



After the collapse of the State and a decade of civil strife, Somalia remains deeply divided. It is split into zones in crisis, zones of recovery and zones in transition. Much of central and southern Somalia, the centre of agricultural production, belongs to the first category. In recent weeks, fighting has intensified in many parts, and insecurity is constraining food production and assistance to war and drought victims alike. The zones of recovery are, above all, "Somaliland" in the North-west, which declared independence in 1991, established its own government and introduced its own currency, the Somaliland Shilling, in 1994, (SlSh) and the North-east, which in July 1998 declared regional autonomy for "Puntland", with its own regional administration. The zones of transition include Middle and Lower Shebelle, Hiran, Middle Juba and parts of Gedo, characterised by localised (clan based) administration but with relative security.

Although it is difficult to make generalised statements on Somalia as a whole, it can nevertheless be said that for much of the country development has virtually come to a halt over the past decade.3 Life expectancy is estimated to be declining, reaching 41-43 years in 1998 (against 46 in 1990); the mortality rate for children under five is nearly 25 percent; adult literacy rates have plummeted to 14 percent from 24 percent in 1989; and primary school enrolment is between 13 and 16 percent.

2.1 Revised Population Estimates

After much debate about population estimates, which until recently ranged between five and ten million, the United Nations Development Office for Somalia (UNDOS) undertook in 1995 a thorough review of various estimates and issued its estimates in December 1997. Based on these revised figures, the population of Somalia in 1999 is estimated at 6.04 million with an annual growth rate of 2.7 percent. The Mission used the above revised population figure to derive the country's cereal consumption requirements in 1999/2000.

Internal population displacement is considerable, although the concept of "internally displaced persons" (IDPs) is difficult to define in a society with a tradition of high population mobility. Given the fluidity of the situation, with new movements occurring regularly, it is difficult to estimate the number of IDPs: a recent estimate puts them at 300 000, with the majority currently in Mogadishu. A similar number lives as refugees in camps in Ethiopia and Kenya.

2.2 Recent Economic Developments 2/

2/ This section draws largely on UNDOS research.

Somalia has been called an "unconventional economy", and it is indeed remarkable that in the circumstances of a chronic complex emergency compounded by adverse natural factors, the economy has not totally collapsed. In regions of relative stability and security, the private sector is flourishing in sectors such as construction and services that are fuelled by inflows of remittances which play a pivotal role in what is left of the economy. In 1998 the country's GDP was estimated at US$ 750 million, about 75 percent of the GDP in 1990, while the GNP, defined as GDP plus net external income, was put at US$1 050 million. The net external income, estimated at about US$ 300 million annually, consists essentially of remittances and plays a critical role in financing the country's external trade. While remittances primarily benefit the urban population, they also trickle down to rural areas. On the basis of these approximations, per capita GNP for 1998 has been estimated at $178.

The recent injection of new local currency, estimated at US$ 4 million, into the national economy by some factions has led to a dramatic depreciation of the SoSh (Figure 1). So far this year, money supply has increased by 30 percent compared to 1998. The SoSh depreciated by 35 percent in Mogadishu, from 7,500-8,500 to the dollar in June 1998 to 12,550 in June 1999. By contrast, the "Somaliland" Shilling (not shown) has been relatively stable over the past 12 months and slightly strengthened against the US dollar from SISh 3,875 in June 1998 to SISh 3,525 to the dollar in June 1999 in Hargeysa.

Undisplayed Graphic
Source: UNDOS

The contribution of the export sector to the Somali economy has generally been declining with formal trade virtually collapsing after 1990. Exports have traditionally been dominated by livestock and bananas, with some hides and skins. Livestock exports are recovering from a 15-month import ban imposed by Saudi Arabia on the grounds of suspected Rift Valley fever. The ban, which was imposed in February 1998 and lifted in May 1999, resulted in lost revenue estimated at US$ 22 million. Somalia's banana exports, once the second largest source of export revenues, have been declining since 1991 due to falling production. In addition, the change in the European Union's banana import regime, following a recent World Trade Organisation ruling that removed the specified quota that Somalia used to enjoy, is anticipated to further damage the industry. This year's banana production is estimated at 30 000 tonnes compared to 53 000 tonnes last year and an average of about 106 000 tonnes in the second half of the 1980s. With reduced access to major export markets, bananas may enhance domestic food sources at a time of scarce cereal supplies. However, their contribution would be of modest importance (30 000 tonnes of banana fruit would provide only 4 500 tonnes of cereal equivalent).



Cereal production in southern Somalia contributes nearly 70-75 percent of the total food produced in the country. Sorghum and maize are the major staples mostly grown in erratic and unpredictable rainfall conditions. Along the major rivers of Shebelle and Juba, small farmers using motorised pumps and gravity flow normally put a substantial area under irrigation estimated at 30 percent of total plated area. Maize, cow pea, banana and vegetables are the major crops grown under irrigation. Basically, Somalia has two distinct agricultural seasons, the main Gu season running from late March to June with harvesting in July/August, and the secondary season, Deyr, which starts in October, with harvesting in January. Between the Gu and Deyr seasons, there is the "Hagai" season with intermittent rains falling between July and September and the dry "Jill", which falls between January to March.

In north-western Somalia, the main Gu season is normally followed by the secondary "Karen" season with rains falling from late July to September. The Karen cereal production is normally added to the main Gu production. Depending on their reliability, the Hagai and Karen rains are of crucial importance in replenishing soil moisture, particularly during times of premature cessation of the main season rains. The rains are also beneficial to the livestock sector as they extend periods of pasture and water availability between the main seasons.

Since the beginning of the civil strife in the early 1990's, levels of food production have been generally low. Adverse weather and lack of inputs compounded the impact of insecurity and displacement. Inadequate supply of spare-parts and fuel has reduced the use of the few tractors in stock. Successive crop failures also denied farmers surplus production for seed retention. Lack of pesticides contributed to the proliferation of pests, notably army worms, stalk borer and quelea birds. The livestock sector has equally been affected by the vagaries of weather, insecurity, shortage of drugs and veterinary services.

3.1 The 1999 Gu Season

After some short-lived early rains in March, the Gu season started late in April followed by erratic and below-average rains in May and a dry June. Most agricultural areas recorded erratic and poorly distributed rainfall that affected rainfed crops, resulting in poor yields and, in many places, outright crop failures. In addition, low water levels in the Shebelle and Juba rivers earlier in the season due to low rainfall in the Ethiopian highlands affected gravity irrigation and delayed the planting of maize.

Harvested area for cereals this season is estimated at 283 530 hectares, better than last year's reduced area of 163 270 hectares due to El Niño, but much below the 1997 estimate of 423 059 hectares. Overall, yield estimates this season are similar to the post-war average levels. Sorghum yields generally range from 100 kg/ha to 400 kg/ha with the exception of Balad district in Middle Shebelle region and Beletweyene in Hiran region, which recorded the lowest and highest yields of 60 kg/ha and 600 kg/ha respectively. Maize yields range from 50 kg/ha to 800 kg/ha, averaging 250 kg/ha in rainfed areas and 650 kg/ha along the Juba and Shebelle River valleys reflecting the availability of irrigation water.

Table1: 1999 Gu Sorghum and Maize Area
and Production Estimates by Region

6 700
3 680
6 000
3 550
12 700
7 230
73 950
18 830
11 400
2 170
85 350
21 000
11 800
1 705
12 360
1 760
5 600
8 800
3 900
14 400
4 560
19 100
2 865
77 200
65 270
96 300
68 135
9 900
2 610
11 100
8 720
21 000
11 330
12 450
8 905
13 000
9 070
13 100
1 320
6 220
4 478
19 320
5 798
140 700
31 835
133 730
97 048
274 430
128 883
NW Somalia
6 600
5 300
2 500
1 500
9 100
6 800
147 300
37 135
136 230
98 548
283 530
135 683

: Food Security Assessment Unit.

This year's Gu season has seen outbreaks of pests and diseases, notably army worms, stalk borers, aphids and quelea birds. Field assessments indicate a reduction of up to 40-60 percent of the expected harvests in some areas. Sorghum and maize crops at their early to middle vegetative stages particularly suffered attacks from stalk borers and army worms. Lack of pesticides contributed to the failure to contain the pests. Head smut was the only major crop disease mentioned to have attacked sorghum, particularly at early maturing stage. This fungal disease spreads easily through air currents and, being a seed borne disease, it can persist from one season to another through use of carry-over untreated seeds. With expected seed assistance during the coming Deyr season, farmers stressed the need to have seeds treated with appropriate fungicides before being distributed for sowing.

Table 1 indicates estimated total Gu cereal production at 135 683 tonnes, about 18 percent above last year's poor Gu season but 44 and 22 percent below 1997 and the post-war average respectively. Sorghum production, estimated at 37 135 tonnes, has almost failed in the rainfed areas of Bay, Bakool, Hiran and Gedo. Maize production, estimated at 98 548 tonnes, including an estimated 6 620 tonnes of off-season (Hagai) production, is about 14 percent above the post-war average. The Hagai production may be revised upwards, due to beneficial rains that prompted active farming in several southern regions. The Hagai rains will also benefit other short cycle crops such as cow pea, sesame and vegetables as well as replenishing water and pasture for livestock.

3.2 The 1999/2000 Deyr Season

The secondary Deyr season, which generally lasts from October to January/February, produces on average 20-30 percent of the annual domestic cereal supply. According to pre-war data, a "normal" Deyr harvest would be about 95 000 tonnes of cereals. However, the post-war five year average (1993-1998) indicates a Deyr cereal output of 70 000 tonnes. Furthermore, the latest weather forecast available for the period October to December 1999 from the International Research Institute for Climate Prediction (IRI) suggest a probability for normal rainfall of only 35 percent, for above-normal rainfall of 25 percent, with the highest probability, 45 percent, for below-normal levels. The Mission, therefore, projected the 1999/2000 Deyr cereal output at the post-war 1993-98 average of 70 000 tonnes.

3.3 Total Cereal Production in 1999/2000

Total cereal production in 1999/2000 is forecast at 205 683 tonnes, comprising a Gu harvest of 135 683 tonnes and a projected Deyr harvest of 70 000 tonnes. At this level total cereal production in 1999/2000 is about 6 percent above the poor 1998/99 output but about 23 percent below the post-war average. Figure 2 indicates that the 1999/2000 cereal crop is the third lowest harvest in the last seven years and less than half the pre-war (1982-1988) average.

Undisplayed Graphic

3.4 Livestock Production

The livestock sector is central to the economic and cultural life of the Somali people, particularly in the northern and central regions. Camel, the most valued animal, thrives well in the semi-arid low lands and coastal areas, whereas cattle are increasingly raised in the higher elevations where rainfall is better. Goats and sheep are generally distributed across the range lands. According to the livestock baseline information released in 1998, the sector contributed about 60 percent of the GDP and accounted for 80 percent of the export earnings.

Information on the estimated animal population and its distribution in the country is scanty and varies by source, mainly because no census has been carried out for the entire period of civil strife. Information availed to the mission indicated a total number of 39 million, comprising 19 million goats, 6 million each of cattle and sheep and 8 million camels.

Improvement of pasture and drinking water for animals from the Haggai and Karen rains is reflected by the fairly good condition reported for the livestock. This includes pastoral areas along Lower and Middle Shebelle as well as Lower and Middle Juba regions. Elsewhere, crop residues supplement the scarce natural pastures. Although the incidence of animal diseases was reported to be generally low compared to the previous Gu season which was affected by El Niño rains, inadequate supply of drugs and limited veterinary services were cited as major factors contributing to low productivity of the sector.

Livestock sale is one of the major sources of livelihood for the Somali people. The livestock sector, and thus the economy as a whole, was severely hit by the Saudi Arabian livestock ban imposed in February 1998 on grounds of suspected Rift Valley Fever. However, following lifting of the ban in May 1999, livestock marketing started picking up. Consequently, prices for export-quality animals have begun to increase, although they are still relatively depressed.

Table 2: 1999 Gu Cereal Production Compared to 1997, 1998 and Post-war Average (1993-1998) Production (tonnes)

Gu 1999
Gu 1998
Gu 1997
Gu 1999/
Gu 1998
Percent Change
Gu 1999/
Gu 1997
Change Gu 19999/
7 230
2 917
6 605
6 954
21 000
11 160
56 304
52 664
1 760
2 914
4 388
4 560
10 300
21 210
24 426
68 135
43 090
65 394
54 539
11 330
15 696
18 361
13 253
9 070
11 644
12 235
8 363
5 798
6 275
22 829
10 964
Sub Total
128 883
101 952
205 852
175 551
NW Somalia
6 800
12 790
23 720
16 458
11 500
7 333
135 683
115 342
241 072
199 342

: Food Security Assessment Unit.



The Hiran region forms part of Shebelle valley regions and borders Ethiopia to the west where substantial cross-border trade for both crops and animals takes place. Crops and livestock are the main livelihood of the region's community based on pastoral and agro-pastoral farming systems. This Gu season started late, picked up and then diminished to below-normal levels, adversely affecting crop yields. Lack of effective control of pests and diseases further affected the crops.

The total cereal production in the region is estimated at 7 230 tonnes divided almost equally between maize and sorghum. At this level, production is slightly higher than the post-war average of 6 954 tonnes. Despite severe pest attacks, sorghum production increased significantly from the near-total failure of only 67 tonnes in the 1998 Gu season to 3 680 tonnes this season. Maize production, at 3 550 tonnes, is about by 62 percent above the previous Gu harvest. Farmers in the rainfed areas of the region were seriously affected and now face a high degree of food insecurity until at least the next Deyr harvest in January.

However, rainfall in pastoral areas was slightly better this season. Most animals were reported in fairly good condition. The Hagai showers in July were localised in the southern parts of the region, especially in Jalalaqsi district where pastures and water supplies markedly improved.


Bay region is one of the major sorghum producing areas in the country. The 1999 Gu rains started late affecting land preparations and planting. The rains picked up in late April into May, enabling a favourable early crop establishment. Below normal and poorly distributed rains in late May and June, however, reversed the production prospects to below normal. Outbreaks of pests and diseases, particularly quelea birds, led to substantial loss of the grains that were about ready for harvesting.

Total cereal production for the region is estimated at 21 000 tonnes comprising of 18 830 tonnes of sorghum and 2 170 tonnes of maize. Production in Baidoa, Quansasdheer and Dinsor districts accounted for nearly 80 percent of the total sorghum production in the region. The low maize production is largely a reflection of the crop's low resistance to moisture stress compared to sorghum.

Livestock activities in the region contribute significantly to the livelihood of the people, particularly during times of reduced cereal production. The condition of the animals was assessed as fairly good particularly in Quansadheere and Baidoa districts, as a result of fodder availability and improved water supply under the UNICEF-funded water point rehabilitation programme. The incidence of animal diseases was generally low, but drugs and veterinary services are lacking in the district.


Bakool region is important for both crop and livestock production in the country. Bordering Ethiopia to the west, substantial trade takes place along the frontier involving mostly livestock. Levels of production on the two sides largely influence the amount and direction of cereal flows across the border. The Gu rainfall this season was erratic and below normal. The long dry spell in May and June depleted soil moisture at a time of high water demand by crops leading to sharply reduced yields.

Sorghum production has been estimated at 1 705 tonnes. Maize production in the region is insignificant. With household stocks already depleted, this season's maize crop was consumed green. The harvest from this Gu season will only last a few months.

Middle Shebelle

Crop conditions in the rainfed areas were poor due to moisture stress. Although the July Hagai rains were too late to rescue the crop, farmers used the off-season rains to plant early-maturing varieties of maize, cow pea, sesame and variety of vegetables. Total maize production is estimated at 3 900 tonnes, contributing about 86 percent of the total cereal production in the region. Significant production came from Jowhar and Balad districts.

Livestock conditions have improved due to increased feed from crop residues and rejuvenating pastures from Hagai rains. Replenished water supplies have alleviated the shortage of water for animal and domestic use.

Lower Shebelle

The Lower Shebelle region has a large potential for agricultural production, especially for irrigated maize and paddy. Farmers' efforts to diversify from cereal production has seen a steady increase in the area under cash crops such as cow pea, sesame and horticultural crops. The Gu season was generally poor with late onset of rains and low river levels delaying planting. However, some of the late planted crops as well as long cycle varieties benefited from the Hagai rains which started in early July.This season's maize production, estimated at 65 270 tonnes, accounts for nearly 66 percent of the total maize produced in the country. However, despite the relatively large area (19 100 hectares), put under rainfed sorghum, production is estimated at only 2 865 tonnes, affected by adverse weather and bird attacks. Water, pastures and livestock conditions have improved.

Middle Juba

Middle Juba is a predominantly irrigated area along the valleys of river Juba where substantial quantities of maize are produced. Other crops such as banana, cow pea, sesame and pulses are grown during the main Gu season but may also extend to the off-season Hagai rains depending on the their reliability. Substantial plantings also take place in areas of receding floods along the banks of river Juba, making the region one of the main cereal producers in the country.

This season, rainfed areas of the region were adversely affected by drought at crop establishment and grain filling stages. Yields of maize grown under irrigation were relatively good, ranging between 700 to 800 kg/ha while in rainfed areas the crop was almost a total failure. Sorghum production was severely reduced by birds particularly in Sakow and Buáale districts. Total cereal production in the region is estimated at 11 330 tonnes comprising 2 610 tonnes of sorghum and 8 720 tonnes of maize.

The livestock sector was reported to have improved due to heavy Hagai showers that regenerated pastures.

Lower Juba

At the extreme south of Somalia, Lower Juba has four districts namely Afmadow, Badhad, Jamame and Kismayo. The region has high potential for both crop production, notably in Jamame, as well as livestock production in the districts of Kismayo and Afmadow. When in operation, the Kismayo port plays a strategic role in the export of livestock and importation of goods for the domestic market.

Total cereal production this season is estimated at 9 070 tonnes with maize at 8 905 tonnes accounting for 98 percent of production. Sorghum, with yields as low as 300 kg/ha, was produced in Afmado and Badhad districts mainly under rainfed conditions.

Along the pastoral areas, livestock were reported to be in good condition but availability of drugs and veterinary services is inadequate.


Gedo is one of the Juba valley regions where most production comes from irrigation and flood recession areas. A shift from traditional irrigated maize and sorghum to cash crops such as vegetables, sesame and cow peas is on the increase. During the 1999 Gu season, rainfed cereal harvests were below average, mainly due to poor rainfall and pest infestation. Total cereal production is estimated at about 5 800 tonnes with maize constituting nearly 77 percent. The sorghum harvest was poor resulting in unseasonably higher prices.

Although livestock conditions were reported to be normal, pasture conditions have been deteriorating in many parts of the region. Some early movements in search of pasture and water were reported in some districts such as Garbaharey and Elwak. Marketing of livestock was reported to have improved following the lifting of an import ban by Saudi Arabia nearly three months ago.

North-western Somalia

The agricultural season in North-western Somalia is slightly different from that of the southern parts due to differences in the timing and pattern of rainfall. In northern parts of the country, the Gu rains fall between April and June and the Karen rains fall between August and September, after a dry spell in July. Major staples grown include maize and sorghum with diversification into vegetables, sesame and cow pea.

Livestock are the major source of income and livelihood of the people in the area. With the recent lifting of the ban, livestock exports, especially through Berbera port, to Saudi Arabia and beyond are expected to boost farmers' incomes. Although the rainfall onset was timely, its performance was generally poor and erratic particularly in the agricultural areas of Boroma and Gabley districts. The amount recorded during the season was about 50 percent below the long-term average.

The total area cropped is estimated at 9 100 hectares (6 600 hectares of sorghum and 2 500 hectares of maize). With average yields of sorghum and maize estimated at 800 kg/ha and 600 kg/ha respectively, production is estimated at 5 300 tonnes for sorghum and 1 500 tonnes for maize. Total cereal production is, therefore, estimated at 6 800 tonnes.

North-east Somalia

Agricultural activities in north-eastern Somalia, which in July last year declared its own regional administration of Puntland, are limited due to the arid and semi-arid nature of the land. The population largely depends on pastoral activities for its livelihood.

The poor rains this Gu season had a severe impact on the livestock sector. The amount of rainfall on an estimated 60 percent of the potential grazing land was less than 50 percent of normal. A large number of livestock in Hawd-Nugal and northern parts of Mudug has been severely affected.

The lifting of the ban on livestock has brought much needed relief. However, livestock marketing has not picked up well due unfavourable weather conditions at sea for small boats. The demand and prices for export-quality animals were still low during the month of August, about three months after the lifting of the ban.



5.1 Commercial Imports

Imports of cereals and other commodities, notably sugar and vegetable oil, play a prominent role in Somalia's total food supply. Cereal imports consist, predominantly, of rice, wheat flour and pasta. Over the past three years, cereal imports ranged between 200 000 to 240 000 tonnes, with rice accounting for 40 to 50 percent of all cereal imports (Table 3). Last year's rather low rice import level was largely due to weakened import capacity from reduced export earnings that followed the imposition of the ban on livestock imports by Saudi Arabia. With the lifting of the ban an improvement in livestock exports and hence food import capacity is anticipated.

Table 3: Annual Cereal Imports, 1996-1998 (tonnes of cereal equivalent)

Wheat flour
120 433
3 100
80 942
21 460
118 478
93 846
24 932
86 834
1 418
95 471
22 506
225 935
238 121
206 229

: Cereal equivalent conversion factors: wheat flour = 1.33, pasta = 2.00
Source: Mission estimates based on UNCTAD and FSAU statistics.

Import figures may be underestimated due to incomplete port recordings and diversion of commodities to clandestine landing places for security reasons. There is also brisk informal trans-border trade with notably wheat flour (and sugar) from Somalia into neighbouring Ethiopia and Kenya, and cereals in the opposite direction. Refugees in eastern Ethiopia, for example, sell some of their cereal food aid allocations across the border, mainly in the Hargeisa market. In some years, re-exports and informal trans-border exports from Somalia are balanced by inflows from neighbouring countries. This year, however, inflows into Somalia have been reported to be minimal due to the tight supply situation in the neighbouring countries. The increased use of Somali ports by Ethiopia is also expected to improve income and hence import capacity.

5.2 Market Prices

Overall, retail prices for most food commodities as of June 1999 were much higher than at the same time last year. Sorghum price increases ranged from 27 percent in Bardheere to 79 percent in Mogadishu. Most other markets recorded increases of some 40-45 percent. A similar pattern was recorded for maize, except in Bardheere where prices actually declined by 12 percent. In the "Somaliland" Shilling (SlSh) area, prices increased by only 11 percent. Besides shortages in cereal supply, rising transportation costs due disruption of traditional trade routes and deteriorating road conditions contributed to the high price rises.

Monthly price movements in selected markets from June 1998 to June 1999 indicate a price hike for sorghum during the fourth quarter of 1998, following the disastrous outcome of the Gu season, which eased with the relatively better incoming Deyr harvest in early 1999 (Figure 3). The second hike occurred in the second quarter of 1999, due to developing shortages but also as a result of an increase in money supply (injection of new currency) and the attendant price inflation.

Undisplayed Graphic

Maize prices were comparatively stable until the end of the first quarter of 1999. Prices were relatively stable in Berbera, in the SlSh area, for both commodities.

The terms of trade for pastoralists and unskilled labourers have generally deteriorated. Goat/sorghum terms of trade (the quantity of sorghum bought with the local sale of a goat) declined by 27 percent between June 1998 and June 1999. The decline was much more pronounced for camel-milk/sorghum which ranged between 17 and 54 percent in different markets. The most alarming decline was observed for unskilled labour/sorghum terms of trade. An unskilled labourer in Baardheere, for example, who a year ago bought 17 kg of sorghum with a day's wages could barely afford 3 kg in mid-1999. This illustrates how precarious the food security situation of vulnerable groups has become.

5.3 Cereal Supply/Demand Balance Forecast for 1999/2000

The cereal balance shown in Table 4 is based on the following assumptions:

With these assumptions, the Mission estimates total cereal utilisation requirements during the 1999/2000 marketing year (August-July) at 534 000 tonnes, against an estimated domestic availability of 224 000 tonnes. This leaves a gap of 310 000 tonnes, of which the Mission estimates 240 000 tonnes (similar to 1997) to be covered by commercial imports. Currently, food aid planned for Somalia from August 1999 to June 2000 amounts to 63 000 tonnes, comprising 35 000 tonnes from WFP and 28 000 tonnes from two other NGOs (Care-US and Bread-for-Life). The uncovered cereal deficit, therefore, is about 7 000 tonnes. In view of the fact that coping mechanisims are now virtually exhausted following a succession of poor cereal harvests, closing the gap will require international assistance.

Table 4: Cereal Supply/Demand Balance,
August 1999/July 2000 (`000 tonnes)

Opening stocks (1.8.99)
1999/2000 production
1999 Gu estimate
1999/2000 Deyr forecast
Food Use
Feed Use
Seed losses
Closing stocks (31.7.2000)
Estimated commercial net imports
Food aid pledges
Uncovered cereal gap


5.4 Emergency Food Assistance

Over and above the United Nations Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal for Somalia for 1999, the donor community launched, through the Somalia Aid Coordination Body (SACB) composed of bilateral donors, UN agencies and NGOs, an Emergency Appeal for South and Central Somalia for the period July-December 1999. The appeal in the amount of US$ 17.5 million calls, inter-alia, for 30 000 tonnes of emergency food aid for the next six months (US$ 10.7 million); 2 100 tonnes of sorghum seeds as well as tools for the farming communities in Bay, Bakool and Lower and Middle Shebelle (US$ 1 million); 1 500 tonnes of supplementary food for some 60 000 children under five (US$ 1.6 million); drugs and medical supplies to address problems related to measles, micro-nutrient deficiency, diarrheal diseases, cholera and malaria (US$ 1.8 million); as well as funds in support of water works (rehabilitation of bore holes, construction wells and provision of hand pumps, water treatment for cholera prevention - US$ 1.2 million).

Emergency Food Aid Requirement

Nine years of protracted civil strife, neglect and natural disaster (floods and drought) have destroyed much of Somalia's material resources, and continue to erode the coping mechanism and energies of the most resilient strata of the Somali society. Somalia's ability to feed itself is threatened by:

In addition, clan rivalry and insecurity have substantially eroded the effectiveness of traditional coping mechanisms to such an extent that chronic vulnerability tends to rapidly degenerate into acute vulnerability. The erosion of family wealth and the fragility of coping mechanisms in combination with decreasing numbers of livestock and reduced income render many communities in rainfed areas vulnerable to the effects of crop failure. Population groups with limited sources of food and income, particularly agriculturists with little or no livestock, and people dependent on wage labour are continuously faced with high levels of food insecurity. Similarly, weak clans and minorities tend to be chronically vulnerable.

In 1998, WFP distributed 25 195 tonnes of food commodities, of which 21 000 tonnes were cereal. Of the total amount distributed, 51 percent was through emergency relief assistance and the remaining 49 percent through food-for-work activities and support to social institutions. In total, 1.6 million Somalis benefited from WFP's assistance in 1998. During the first half of 1999, WFP distributed 14 454 tonnes of food commodities, of which 13 000 tonnes were cereal benefiting over 500 000 Somalis in Bay, Bakool, Gedo, Hiraan, Lower Shebelle, Middle Shebelle, Lower Juba, Middle Juba, Puntland and Somaliland.

WFP Somalia started implementing a Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO) in July 1999. The PRRO extends over a period of three years to July 2002 and requires 63 104 tonnes of food commodities, of which 52 708 tonnes are cereals, targeting 1.3 million vulnerable Somalis annually. The PRRO provides a broad framework for integrated rehabilitation programmes while maintaining flexibility to both grasp development opportunities and respond to emergency situations. The goal of the PRRO is to contribute to improved household food security and promote/strengthen local economies in Somalia through rehabilitation and recovery assistance, support to social institutions and emergency relief assistance.

Based on the WFP/FAO/FSAU/FEWS 1999 Gu crop harvest assessment, an estimated 1.2 to 1.5 million Somalis are at risk of food insecurity including 730 000 in Bay, Bakool and part of Gedo, 83 000 in Hiraan, 193 000 in Lower Shebelle and 160 000 in lower Juba. WFP is currently assessing the magnitude of the problem in rainfed and riverine areas to determine exact locations of the affected population and their coping mechanisms. Based on this assessment, WFP will design and implement appropriate programmes to respond to the food needs in partnership with local authorities and the NGO community working in affected areas.

Given the socio-economic and political environment in southern Somalia, geographic targeting, community-based targeting, and institutional targeting are employed to reach needy households. An extensive network of field monitors proved essential in assessment, prioritization and the design and implementation of interventions. Community-based programming and participation in all stages of implementation proved essential for successful implementation and outreach to remote areas.

WFP's transport contracting system with the private sector (Somali transporters) and the mandatory requirement of a performance bond equivalent to the CIF value of food commodities contracted proved efficient and ensured that affected targeted villages and sub-villages are reached with food assistance at no loss to WFP.

Indicative food aid by WFP, from August 1999 to June 2000 totals 35 000 tonnes. In addition, CARE, US and Bread for Life are programming 28 000 tonnes of food aid (23 000 tonnes and 5 000 tonnes respectively) from August 1999 to June 2000.



This report is prepared on the responsibility of the FAO and WFP Secretariats with information from official and unofficial sources. Since conditions may change rapidly, please contact the undersigned for further information if required.

Abdur Rashid
Chief, GIEWS, FAO, Rome
Fax: 0039-06-5705-4495

Mohamed Zejjari
Regional Director, OSA, WFP, Rome
Fax: 0039-06-6513-2839
E-Mail: Mohamed.Zejjari@WFP.ORG

The Special Alerts/Reports can also be received automatically by E-mail as soon as these are published, subscribing to the GIEWS/Alerts report ListServ. To do so, please send an E-mail to the FAO-Mail-Server at the following address: mailserv@mailserv.fao.org, leaving the subject blank, with the following message:

subscribe GIEWSAlerts-L

to be deleted from the list, send the message:

unsubscribe GIEWSAlerts-L

back to the table of contents Back to menu

1 FSAU is managed by WFP and funded by the EC.

2 The post-war average refers to the years of civil strife that followed the government collapse in 1991.

3 UNDP's 1998 National Human Development Report for Somalia ranks the country 175th out of 175 states - just below Sierra Leone- in its level of human development, based on an index combining economic factors with achievements in such areas as education, health, nutrition and life expectancy.

4 The assumed per caput cereal consumption figure, which is below previous FAO/WFP Missions of 90 kg per annum, is meant to reflect the adjustments in the populations' food consumption patterns, mainly to more livestock products, fish, bananas and pulses, in response to successive cereal crop failures.