The worst floods in 40 years in early February devastated many countries in Southern Africa, leaving thousands stranded and homeless. Continuous rains are impeding access and relief operations. Southern Mozambique was the worst hit, with an estimated 300 000 people displaced, whilst ongoing rains continue to hamper relief operations. In East Africa severe drought has caused serious food supply difficulties in a number of countries, with Bakool in southern Somalia giving particular cause for concern. Food supplies also remain tight in Liberia and Sierra Leone, which continue to depend on food aid, though other countries in the region had a favourable crop harvest in 1999. Major relief operations continue in the North Eastern States of India, devastated by a cyclone last October when many thousands were killed and thousands more displaced and left homeless. More food assistance is needed in DPR Korea as the lean season approaches, whilst in East Timor international aid is urgently needed to rehabilitate agriculture and the economy on which future food security depends heavily. In the CIS countries, the humanitarian crisis in Chechnya continues with a large section of the affected population needing urgent food and medical assistance. Many countries in the Balkans remain affected by food supply problems to varying degrees; the problem is being exacerbated by acute economic crisis. In Kosovo province, food assistance continues to be provided to around 600 000 people.
No significant weather events occurred to affect short term crop prospects in Asia, where the main wheat crop is developing in China, India and Pakistan, whilst prospects for main and second season rice in most other countries are generally satisfactory. In the CIS countries in Asia, it is too early to forecast crop outturn, but the 1999 production is estimated to have increased by some 7 million tonnes compared to 1998. In the Near East recent rainfall improved crop prospects, suggesting recovery from last year when a number of countries were affected by a devastating drought. In Europe, winter weather conditions have been generally favourable and soil moisture levels are adequate for crops. Aggregate wheat area is estimated to have increased by around 5 percent. In most South American and Caribbean countries, production is anticipated to continue recovering, following the devastation caused by hurricane Mitch in late 1998.
In northern Africa, early prospects for the 1999/2000 cereal crops, to be harvested from around April, are generally favourable in Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia, despite some delay in planting in parts due to below-normal rainfall at the beginning of the season. In Egypt and Morocco in response to government initiatives to increase production and food security, output is expected to increase over last year, due to greater emphasis placed on promoting the use of high yielding varieties and technologies and an expansion in the areas under cultivation respectively. In most parts final output depends considerably on timely rainfall for the remainder of the season. The food supply situation in the sub-region remains stable.
In western Africa, currently there is little agricultural activity, except for limited cultivation of recession or off season crops. Prospects are generally favourable, notably in Mauritania and Senegal where rivers flooded large areas. However, flooding also affected some irrigated rice fields or crop zones in Mauritania, Senegal, Niger and Chad. Following above normal to record harvests in most countries in 1999, the overall food supply situation is favourable.
Generally abundant and regular rains were received in the Sahel during the main 1999 crop season, providing favourable growing conditions. Pest attacks were minimal. As a result, a bumper crop was produced for the second consecutive year. Aggregate cereal production in 1999 in the nine CILSS member countries is estimated by FAO/CILSS at a record 10.9 million tonnes, some 2 percent higher than 1998 and 16 percent above the five-year average. Cape Verde, The Gambia, Mali and Mauritania all had record production, whilst Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger and Senegal had above-average output.
Favourable 1999 production allowed replenishment of farm and national security stocks. Cereal prices decreased substantially in markets which are well supplied.
Elsewhere in western Africa, Liberia and Sierra Leone remain heavily dependent on international food assistance despite some improvement in food production, notably in Liberia. An FAO assessment mission to Sierra Leone in December estimated paddy production at around 45 percent of pre-war production and 60 percent that in 1997, when the security situation improved. Steady substitution of roots and tubers for cereals during the war years has reduced cereal imports to meet needs.
In central Africa, production was favourable in the Central African Republic and Cameroon. Civil strife in both the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo, however, continues to hamper agriculture and marketing. In the Republic of Congo, floods affected the north and the capital Brazzaville in November/December. There are concerns regarding the nutritional situation of displaced people.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, severe food shortages and malnutrition are reported among large numbers of displaced people, mainly in northeastern Katanga and South Kivu areas, which remain inaccessible due to insecurity.
In eastern Africa, due to drought, significant crop and livestock losses have occurred, causing serious food supply difficulties, and substantial food assistance is required throughout 2000.. In general, successive poor rains in most pastoralist areas in the sub-region, including most of Somalia, eastern Ethiopia and northern Kenya, have severely affected pastures and livestock, resulting in critical food shortages and migration of large numbers of people in search of water and food.
Past or ongoing civil conflicts in parts, particularly in Somalia, Sudan and Uganda, are also seriously disrupting food production and distribution, resulting in food shortages and population displacement. Appeals for food assistance have recently been launched for millions of people affected by drought and/or conflict in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya and Sudan while food aid is being distributed in Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda.
Currently, harvesting of the secondary 1999/2000 cereal crop is well underway in several countries and the outlook is mixed. Following delayed and erratic rainfall during the season, lower production is anticipated in Kenya and Tanzania. In contrast, overall prospects remain favourable in Somalia, Sudan and Uganda due to good weather during the season. In Somalia, however, poor "Deyr" rains over large areas of Bakool region in the south, resulted in the seventh successive poor harvest. Nearly 68 000 agro-pastoralists in the region are facing severe food shortages that have already claimed some human lives. Thousands of cattle have also perished from water and pasture shortages. Elsewhere, in Rwanda, production of the recently harvested 2000 season A crops was estimated substantially above last year, mainly reflecting an increase in the area planted. However, despite the general improvement in production, food shortages persist in parts. By contrast, in Burundi, dry weather and massive displacement of the population due to insecurity resulted in a decline in the 2000 season A food production. Overall food supplies in the country are tight following the 2000 season A reduced harvest and the food and health situation is particularly critical for some 800 000 displaced people in regroupment camps, most of whom do not have access to fields. Rising malnutrition is reported in this population. The Government recently announced that it will start closing some camps.
In southern Africa, overall prospects for 2000 cereal crops, to be harvested from April/May, remain uncertain. The situation, however, varies from country to country, with rains having been erratic since the beginning of the season. In some areas, excessive rainfall was received, whilst in others there were prolonged dry spells. Torrential rains in the first dekad of February in Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland, resulted in loss of life and severe damage to housing and infrastructure, compounding the problem. An assessment of crop losses is not yet available but the floods, reported to be the worst in 40 years, affected agricultural areas at the critical flowering stage of growth. Thousands of people have been left homeless and many towns have become isolated due to severe damage to roads and bridges. This has hampered evacuation and relief operations. In Mozambique, the number of people severely affected by the floods is currently estimated at 300 000. The Government of Mozambique has appealed for US$ 2.7 million in international assistance to cope with the emergency. WFP is currently distributing emergency food aid to 150 000 people in the country. In South Africa, the number of people left homeless is provisionally estimated at 100 000 and in Botswana at 4 000. No assessment is yet available for Swaziland. In Lesotho, abundant rains in early February brought relief to crops stressed by previous dry weather but may have been too late to prevent a reduction in yields. In contrast, more rains are needed in Malawi, Namibia and Zambia, where precipitation in February has been below average. In Madagascar, the outlook for the 2000 paddy crop is unfavourable; dry weather from the third dekad of January until mid-February negatively affected planting and yields. In Zimbabwe, while growing conditions are satisfactory due to favourable rains since the beginning of the season, maize production is likely to be affected by a reduction in area planted due to diversion of land to more profitable crops.
Elsewhere in the sub-region, the food situation remains extremely serious in war-affected Angola, where emergency food aid continues to be necessary for some 1.1 million displaced people, as well as for large numbers of Angolan refugees in Zambia and Namibia. The food situation is also tight for large numbers of vulnerable people in the urban areas of Zimbabwe, due to high levels of inflation and fuel shortages.
Despite some floods in the Philippines and the Islamic Republic of Iran, and relatively minor earthquakes in Nepal and on the borders of Thailand and Laos, in the period December to the beginning of February, there were no natural disasters that seriously affected food production or resulted in large population displacement. Agriculturally the main activities in the region's largest producers, China and India are centred around wheat, where it remains dormant and at development stage respectively. Early prospects for the crop in both countries were favoured somewhat by increased precipitation in January. However, the overall area planted in China this year declined by some 7 percent compared to 1998 due to lower producer prices, whilst in India the area decreased by some 2 percent to 26.2 million hectares. Early wheat prospects were also favoured by increased precipitation in Pakistan, which, together with higher support prices for this year's crop, is officially estimated to result in an increase of around 2 million tonnes compared to 1999.
With regard to rice production, coinciding with the north-east monsoon, the main crop is currently developing in Indonesia and Sri Lanka and early prospects are generally satisfactory. In Vietnam the main winter/spring crop is being planted, whilst in most other rice growing countries in the region, the main crop has already been harvested and only secondary, dry season/irrigated crops are presently being planted or are at early stages of development. The prospects are generally favourable. In the Philippines, forecast production of the current crop, at 5.4 million tonnes, is around 2 percent higher than 1999. In Thailand planting of the second season crop is underway, for harvest in May/June. This crop accounts for around 20 percent of aggregate rice production per year, with the bulk coming from the main crop planted mainly around June/July. In Bangladesh, overall 1999/2000 rice prospects are also good, with output of the first and second (Aus and Aman) crops registering an increase, whilst planting of the irrigated boro crop is underway. The target for the boro crop is 9.2 million tonnes (milled). The harvest of the main wet season crop in Cambodia is near completion and prospects are generally favourable, with aggregate paddy production forecast at 3.8 million tonnes, some 8 percent above 1998/99.
Vulnerable populations in a number of countries in the region continue to be affected by serious food supply difficulties, due to past disasters and the effects of economic turmoil. Large-scale humanitarian assistance continues to be provided to people affected by a devastating cyclone in north-eastern India last year. Elsewhere, the food supply situation in DPR Korea continues to give cause for concern as domestic food production remains well below needs, whilst, due to economic problems, the country's capacity to import commercially, to cover the deficit, is heavily constrained. Economic problems have also meant that the supply of essential inputs to agriculture, on which the sector depends heavily for intensive production, also remains highly constrained. Elsewhere, in East Timor, food assistance needs were significant in the months between November 1999 and March this year when harvesting of main crops commences. However, overall food supply prospects in the medium term (2000/01 marketing year April/March) are less gloomy than envisaged at the height of the crisis following the August 1999 referendum. Nevertheless, considerable donor support continues to be needed for economic recovery. Concerns persist regarding the plight of refugees still in West Timor, with UNICEF reporting that around 24 percent of children in camps are suffering from moderate to severe malnutrition and four percent are severely malnourished.
It is too early to forecast the outlook for 2000 crops in the CIS countries in Asia. In Kazakhstan, by far the largest producer in the area, the bulk of 2000 grains will not be planted until the spring. In the other countries, indications are that the area sown to winter grains has continued to decline (in the Caucasus and Kyrgyzstan) as farmers shift to more profitable crops. In Tajikistan, serious crop losses due to yellow rust and smut in 1999 need to be addressed if output is to recover this year. In Uzbekistan, the area sown to winter grains has increased by 50 000 hectares. Turkmenistan plans to increase area sown by cultivating virgin land. Aggregate 1999 grain production (cereals and pulses) in the eight CIS countries of Asia is estimated to have increased to 24 million tonnes from 17 million tonnes in 1998. Wheat production increased by 6 million tonnes to 19 million tonnes mainly in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Coarse grain production increased by 1.4 million tonnes to 4.5 million tonnes. In Kazakhstan, the wheat harvest doubled to 11 million tonnes, while coarse grain production recovered to 2.8 million tonnes from 1.5 million tonnes in 1998. Turkmenistan achieved a record grain harvest of 1.5 million tonnes (mainly wheat). In Uzbekistan, the 1999 aggregate grain harvest is estimated at 4.45 million tonnes (1998: 4.2 million tonnes), and includes 3.7 million tonnes of wheat (1998: 3.6 million tonnes). In Kyrgyzstan, the grain harvest (1.6 million tonnes) equalled that of 1998, but wheat production (1.1 million tonnes) declined as land was moved to more profitable crops and feedgrains. Output declined significantly only in Tajikistan, by 20 percent to an estimated 400 000 tonnes. In the Caucasus, timely rains during the season and better land management by private farmers resulted in higher wheat yields, which on aggregate offset the reduction in the area sown.
The overall food supply situation has improved due to greater production, which has reduced import requirements, except in Tajikistan. Moreover, the large exportable surplus in Kazakhstan, estimated at up to 7-8 million tonnes in 1999/2000, means that grain is available in the CIS region to cover import needs of the Russian Federation and other neighbouring countries. In Tajikistan, the cereal import requirement is expected to rise to 455 000 tonnes, including 148 000 tonnes of food aid requirement. Indications are that the deficit is being covered by imports, mainly from Kazakhstan, which exported some 250 000 tonnes of wheat to the country between June and December 1999.
In all these countries, however, aggregate statistics hide increasingly large income discrepancies. As a result, all countries have socially and economically vulnerable people. In Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Tajikistan, countries where the sharp drop in GDP following independence was aggravated by prolonged civil strife, the vulnerable populations (including refugees and IDPs) continue to require humanitarian food assistance. In Kyrgyzstan also, the counterpart funds of a proportion of programme food aid pledges are being used to help fund more timely payment of social benefits to economically vulnerable people.
In the Near East, crop prospects improved recently due to favourable rains in Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. In Afghanistan, however, production is likely to be constrained due to serious shortages of agricultural inputs and population displacements caused by civil conflict. In Iraq, despite recent beneficial rains, extended drought conditions and shortage of agricultural inputs continue to affect cereal production.
Normally, most countries in the region, except Afghanistan, cover cereal import requirements commercially. However, in 1999, several countries in the region experienced the worst drought in decades severely reducing food production and leaving hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people in need of food assistance. In Iraq, despite some improvement in the overall food supply situation following the implementation of the "oil-for-food" deal, health and nutritional problems remain widespread in many parts.
In Central America and the Caribbean, the main agricultural activities include the completion of harvesting of the 1999/2000 second and third season ("apante") crops. Cereal output has increased considerably over 1998/99 in virtually every country, except in Honduras, where it declined, principally due to unattractive producer prices. Aggregate cereal output for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua is provisionally estimated at 3.3 million tonnes compared to 2.9 million tonnes in the previous year, when crops were severely affected by Hurricane "Mitch". In Mexico, harvesting of the 1999/2000 wheat crop is about to commence. Output is anticipated to be below-average, largely due to adverse weather at planting. In contrast, the 1999/2000 maize crop should be slightly above average. In Haiti and the Dominican Republic, harvesting of second season crops has been completed and average to above-average 1999/2000 cereal production is provisionally forecast. In Cuba, however, dry conditions persist and the situation needs to be closely monitored as the rainy season is still some weeks away.
In the southern parts of South America, harvesting of 1999 wheat has recently been completed and production was above-average in Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. In Chile, harvesting is still underway and a recovery from last year's drought-affected crop is anticipated. In the former countries, planting of the 2000 maize crop has been completed and early production forecasts point to average or above-average output. In the Andean countries, the outlook is favourable for planting of first season cereal crops in Bolivia and Peru, while prospects are poor in Ecuador, where planting of maize was below-average due to the high cost of farm inputs and credit constraints caused by the economic crisis. In Colombia, harvesting of 1999/2000 second season coarse grain crops is underway and, despite possible losses due to heavy rains and flooding in December, output is expected to be average. In Venezuela, incessant torrential rains in December resulted in extensive mudslides and floods, causing a high number of casualties and large scale agricultural and economic damage. Emergency assistance, including food distribution, is being provided by the international community and rehabilitation programmes are underway.
In the EC, the winter wheat crop sown last autumn in the northern countries is still mostly dormant, while planting of later sown crops in the south was completed in December/January. Winter weather conditions have been generally favourable and soil moisture levels are reported to be adequate for crop development this spring. The aggregate winter wheat area in the EC is estimated to have increased by about 5 percent, mostly at the expense of oilseeds, because of large oilseeds stocks and reduced producer aid for oilseeds production in 2000, under the first year of the Agenda 2000 reform.
Among eastern European countries, early indications also point to an overall increase in wheat area over the previous year, mostly due to better weather at planting. However, in several countries, limited or no credit for small farmers remains the largest constraint to productivity, restricting access to high quality seed, fertilizers and pesticides/herbicides. At the outset of 2000, the Balkan countries remain affected, to varying degrees, by the decade of civil unrest which culminated most recently in war in the Kosovo Province of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) in 1999. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia now has more refugees than any other European country and is in a state of acute economic crisis. This is characterized by the deterioration of public utilities, the destruction of fertilizer and fuel plants and the virtual collapse of social services. There are over 1.1 million internally displaced persons. Economically and socially deprived people currently receive food assistance in Serbia (excluding Kosovo) and Montenegro. In the Kosovo Province, WFP continues to provide food assistance for around 600 000 people, whilst other organizations provide assistance to 400 000. During the spring and early summer (April-June) however, the number of people in need of food aid within Kosovo is likely to decrease as the economy and household incomes improve. Assistance continues to be provided in Albania and The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia for refugees and vulnerable people affected by the Kosovo war.
In the three Baltic countries, the area sown to winter grains could recover somewhat in response to higher cereal prices this season. The 1999 grain harvest is estimated at only 3.7 million tonnes, sharply lower than in 1998. All three countries have lower output, but the reduction is most marked in Lithuania where 1999 grain production fell to 2.1 million tonnes (1998: 2.8 million tonnes). Nevertheless, the food supply situation remains satisfactory and imports are not expected to increase rapidly.
In the four CIS countries west of the Urals, the winter crops (mainly wheat and rye) for harvest this year, have been planted on a somewhat smaller area. The outlook, therefore, is mixed. In Belarus and the Russian Federation, crop prospects to date are satisfactory. By contrast, in Moldova and the Ukraine, dry conditions at planting and delays in planting have led to poor emergence and up to 1.5 million hectares of some 7.5 million hectares planted in these two countries may need to be replanted with spring barley. Coupled with inadequate use of agro-chemicals and more stringent conditions for commodity credits, another poor winter harvest is in prospect in the Ukraine. However, some 50 percent of grain crops will not be planted until spring.
Economic difficulties and policies which resulted in reduced planting and input availability, coupled with adverse weather conditions (particularly in the Ukraine, but also in Belarus and Moldova), meant that the 1999 cereal and pulse harvest was only marginally above the poor harvest in 1998. FAO estimates the aggregate output of cereals and pulses in Belarus, Moldova, the Russian Federation and Ukraine at 93 million tonnes, only 2 million tonnes above estimated output in 1998. Aggregate production of wheat in these four countries increased marginally to 50 million tonnes, with better yields in the Russian Federation (harvest estimated by FAO at 34 million tonnes versus 30 million tonnes in 1998) offsetting lower harvests in Belarus, Moldova and the Ukraine (15 million tonnes versus 17 million tonnes). Aggregate production of coarse grains is estimated at 40 million tonnes, only 1 million tonnes higher than 1998.
Due to the second poor harvest in succession, the food supply situation remains tight in all four countries. With imports, food needs are likely to be covered, but the availability of animal feed is highly constrained and livestock production is likely to contract further in 2000. Aggregate imports for these four countries are currently estimated to almost double to 7.5 million tonnes, reflecting larger imports particularly in Belarus and the Russian Federation. Indications are that volumes not covered by food aid pledges will be mobilized commercially. In Belarus, economic problems and adverse weather resulted in a record low harvest of 3.7 million tonnes and the country is seeking to import both food and feedgrains. In the Russian Federation, despite the somewhat larger harvest (estimated by FAO at 60 million tonnes against 54 million tonnes in 1998), the overall supply situation remains tight and there is no scope to rebuild stocks drawn down in 1998/99. Restrictions on the movement of grain by regional authorities are aggravating the supply situation. Cereal prices, which remained stable until the beginning of this year, are rising, also in response to a 15 percent increase in the cost of rail transport of grain from Kazakhstan, a major supplier. Nevertheless, against its overall import requirement, estimated at 6 million tonnes, (including 3 million tonnes of food aid pledges mainly carried forward from 1998/99) commercial imports in the first six months amounted to 2.1 million tonnes. In 1999/2000, despite a worse harvest than 1998, the Ukraine will remain a net exporter of some cereals, but may have to import some foodgrains for deficit areas.
The massive humanitarian crisis in the northern Caucasus continues unabated. Some 250 000 Chechens are displaced in Ingushetia as a result of the conflict and many lack basic human needs such as shelter, food, water, heating and medical care. In addition, there are many homeless and displaced in Chechnya itself, and the security situation has precluded planting of winter crops and considerable damage has been inflicted on the livestock and fruit sectors. Land mines in occupied areas will also slow any recovery in food production in 2000. A UN Inter-Agency team is currently in Ingushetia and is scheduled to travel to Chechnya, to assess humanitarian needs in preparation of the 2000 appeal. Donor response to the appeal issued in 1999 has been generous, but security and other considerations hinder delivery of aid to refugees.
In the United States, the winter wheat crop (which accounts for about 70 percent of total annual wheat output) was planted last autumn and remains mostly dormant. The area planted has declined to 17.4 million hectares, the lowest level since 1972/73, mostly as a result of poor price prospects at planting. Weather conditions at planting and overwinter conditions since then have been generally unfavourable and it is likely that the percentage of winterkill will be higher than in the previous year. The bulk of the coarse grains crop will be planted in April-May. In Canada, wheat and coarse grains crops are mostly sown in May/June. Early indications of planting intentions point to a possible increase in wheat area at the expense of canola and flaxseed because of relatively lower prices.
The 1999 winter grain harvest in Australia has recently been completed and preliminary estimates indicate that a bumper wheat crop of about 23 million tonnes has been produced. Prospects for the developing 2000 summer coarse grains are generally satisfactory after heavy January rains in main-producing areas of New South Wales and Queensland. However, output is provisionally forecast to fall somewhat reflecting reduced plantings.