FAO/GIEWS - Foodcrops & Shortages No.2, April 2000

ASIA

AFGHANISTAN* (17 March)

Prospects for the 2000 winter grains, for harvest in May/June, are unfavourable, following extended drought conditions in much of southern and central parts of the country. The drought is particularly severe in the south-western provinces of Kandahar and Helmand, with only four days of rain reported in the annual rainy season, November 1999 - February 2000. In addition, adverse effects of continued civil strife and short supply of agricultural inputs continue to take their toll on overall agricultural activities. Large number of livestock were also reported to have died in the rural areas of Kandahar and Zabul provinces from lack of water and pasture.

In 1999, total cereal production was an estimated 3.24 million tonnes (with rice in paddy form), about 16 percent below the previous year's bumper output, due to low level of precipitation and outbreak of pests. An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission is planned to visit the country from end-April to assess overall food supply conditions and estimate cereal import requirements in 2000/01, including food aid.

The food situation is tight for a large number of displaced people. Recent reports indicate that nearly 350 000 internally displaced people in Kabul alone are being targeted by WFP while more than 200 000 people are receiving food assistance in Kandahar and Zabul.

ARMENIA* (3 April)

The target for the 2000 grain (cereal and pulse) harvest is 315 000 tonnes. However, indications are that the winter crop area has been further reduced in response to uncompetitive yields and higher fuel prices. The 1999 grain harvest is officially estimated at 301 000 tonnes, some 8 percent less than the 326 000 tonnes harvested in 1998. Wheat output declined to 210 000 tonnes, mainly reflecting import competition and below-normal autumn and winter precipitation.

In 1999/2000 the cereal import requirement is estimated at nearly 370 000 tonnes, including 350 000 tonnes of wheat. Against this requirement food aid pledges of 87 000 tonnes have been made. The balance is expected to be imported commercially.

Despite increasing per caput GDP in recent years, household purchasing power remains low and at times insufficient to cover the cost of the minimum consumption basket. Living standards, as measured by protein intake, declined somewhat in 1999 reflecting the decrease in workers remittances from the Russian Federation. As a result, average household expenditure on food reached 67 percent in 1999 compared to 57 percent in 1998. In total, some 170 000 vulnerable people will be covered by WFP food assistance, including some 110 000 refugees and vulnerable persons being provided with relief food aid, while 60 000 will be reached through community based food-for-work activities, supporting economic and social development. The programme is planned for three years and will be reviewed annually.

AZERBAIJAN (3 April)

The early outlook for the 2000 grain harvest is satisfactory. The area sown to winter crops (mainly wheat) increased compared to that sown for the 1999 harvest. Nevertheless, it remains well below the average up to 1997, in response to import competition from imported wheat following liberalization of the grain trade and greater profitability from livestock, potato and vegetable production.

The outlook for significantly increasing cereal (mainly wheat) production in the short term is poor. Lack of access to credit for quality seed and fertilizer, coupled with the unreliable availability of irrigation water supplies, prevent most farmers from increasing the yield of domestic wheat to a level where it would be competitive with imports in urban areas, and increasingly, in rural areas. In addition, poor marketing infrastructure and the lack of an enabling environment for producers, processors and traders have severely limited investment in the agri-food sector and domestic producers' access to the growing urban markets.

GDP increased by 7.4 percent in 1999 in local currency terms. The volume of agricultural output rose by 7 percent. The livestock population is increasing by about 9 percent annually (except pigs -20 percent). Meat and milk production increased by about 5 percent and output of eggs by 3 percent.

Grain production in 1999 increased by 15 percent to reach 1 093 000 tonnes, but remained nearly 20 percent below output in 1991. Improved yields because of better weather and management by private farmers offset the sharp reduction in the area sown to grains. In 1999/2000 imports of cereals are estimated at 607 000 tonnes, about 10 percent less than last year. The bulk of this will be covered commercially although the vulnerable groups, including the internally displaced, still need targeted food assistance. WFP continues to support to 485 000 beneficiaries through the 3-year Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation which started in July 1999. Total food commodities committed for the life of the project amount to 47 880 tonnes of food aid. The current programme supports IDPs with supplementary assistance, relief support to socially vulnerable groups, resettlement of refugees/returnees and recovery through food-for-work and food-for-training.

BANGLADESH (21 March)

Unseasonable rain in mid-February, further favoured prospects of the current, boro, rice crop, harvesting of which will commence from around mid April. The boro crop is almost entirely irrigated as normally no rainfall is received in the period November, when the monsoon ends, to March. Favourable production expected from the crop and that attained from the previous Aus and Aman crops harvested last year, indicate that 1999/2000 rice production may be a record.

Current estimates indicate that milled rice production in 1999/2000 will be around 20.6 million tonnes, similar to the previous year and some 8 percent higher than the average of the last five years. As a result of higher production, providing conditions remain satisfactory, wheat production in 2000 is forecast to be similar to the record 1.9 million tonnes in 1999. Wheat imports in the next 2000/2001 marketing year are forecast to be similar to the 1.6 million tonnes imported in 1999/2000

The grain situation has eased considerably since severe floods in 1998. Favourable domestic rice and wheat production last year and early this year, together with large stocks, following large imports in 1998/99 mean that the overall food situation remains satisfactory. Imports, particularly rice, this year are likely to fall further as Government imports are expected to be comparatively small, whilst a five percent levy has been introduced to discourage private rice imports.

CAMBODIA (21 March)

The dry season for rice is reported to have progressed more slowly than the previous year, whilst in areas where a recession crop was planted there were delays due to the slow withdrawal of water along the Mekong and Bassac rivers. Dry season and flood recession rice account for a relatively small proportions of aggregate production in the country, the bulk coming from the wet season which extends from September/October to December/January. Overall 1999/2000 paddy production is officially estimated at 4 million tonnes, up 12 percent on the previous year.

Rice accounts for some 84 percent of annual food crop production and is planted on around 90 percent of cropped area, mainly in the Central Mekong Basin and Delta and the Tonle Sap Plain. Despite a satisfactory food supply situation overall, a sizeable section of the population remains vulnerable to food shortages. In part some of these needs are being met through a WFP Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation. In 2000, WFP will assist approximately 1.5 million beneficiaries in targeted food-insecure communes in 24 provinces, providing on average two months of basic food needs, primarily through food-for-work activities.

CHINA (21 March)

In China, despite a fall of around 7 percent in the area planted in winter wheat compared to last year, favourable weather and precipitation over winter, in main growing areas in the north east, suggest higher yields and a smaller reduction in output than forecast earlier. Winter wheat accounts for about 85 percent of aggregate wheat production in the country, the remainder coming from spring wheat planted in March/April. Output this year is currently forecast at around 111 million tonnes, down from 114 million tonnes in 1998/1999. Winter wheat accounts for about 85 percent of aggregate output. The decline in domestic production and draw down of stocks mean that more will be imported to meet demand.

The grain production target has officially been revised down to 490 million tonnes from estimated production of 500 million tonnes (including roots and tubers) in 1999. The downward revision is officially attributed to large grain stocks in the country and lower prices of some commodities.

CYPRUS (27 March)

Prospects for the 2000 wheat and barley crops, to be harvested from May/June, seem to be favourable. The aggregate area sown was about 60 000 hectares, similar to the previous year. Production of cereals in 1999, mainly barley, is estimated at 106 000 tonnes, some 63 percent above the previous year's reduced output but 6 percent lower than the average for the previous five years.

Imports of wheat in 1999/2000 (May/April) are forecast at 100 000 tonnes, while aggregate imports of barley and maize are forecast at some 540 000 tonnes.

EAST TIMOR (12 April)

An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission visited East Timor between 30 March and 7 April to assess current crop and food supply prospects for the 2000/2001 marketing year (April/March). This mission follows an earlier FAO/WFP assessment last November, which followed intense violence and large-scale population displacement in the aftermath of the referendum for independence on 30 August. At that time, it was estimated that many people were killed whilst almost the entire population was either internally displaced or exiled as refugees to West Timor. Infrastructure, essential services and property were also severely damaged, seriously affecting commercial and economic activities. In the agriculture sector the main repercussions of the civil unrest were the direct loss of food and seed stocks, loss of productive assets and displacement of the farming population. These in turn affected planting of main season crops in November/December.

The March/April mission observed, that although these factors did affect agricultural operations, especially in delaying planting, the overall consequences on output are likely to be less pronounced than may have been expected given the level of disruption that had occurred to the sector. Although maize planting was later, this season, compared to the optimum planting date, the delay itself will not seriously affect yields, especially as overall rainfall has been favourable due to La Niņa. In addition, there was no major delay in rice planting, as the planting period can span from January to March, depending on the rainfall regime in a given year and locality. However to some extent there were additional constraints in rice planting compared to normal, due to lack of animal and mechanised draft power and a labour constraint as farmers had to complete maize planting before they could commence with rice. This however, is unlikely to affect productivity given favourable rains overall, and an extended season as rainfall is still continuing. In view of these factors, the output of maize and rice is expected to be satisfactory and certainly better than the severely reduced crop in 1997/98, due to El Niņo drought.

Despite a reasonably satisfactory food supply situation overall, the disruption to the economy, especially markets, and the loss of productive assets and income generating activities will leave large numbers of people vulnerable to food insecurity over the next year. The problems of internal disruption in marketing, destruction of roads and transport, being heavily compounded by the sudden cessation of access to trading, distribution and supply routes to West Timor and the rest of Indonesia. Hitherto, these were essential for a wide range of economic functions, such as wage labour, input supply and trading. The loss of this economic interaction, will particularly affect the livelihood of people in cities such as Suai, Maliana, and Ermera in the western region. Moreover, in rice marketing the end of BULOG (the former National Logistics Agency), has left a large vacuum in the way rice is procured and traded, whilst at village level a large number of traders, who bought from farmers and sold to local markets, have now left. Consequently, there are already concerns that producers will have considerable problems in marketing and storing surpluses of rice and, in particular maize, which this year, will be more susceptible to storage losses. The withdrawal of subsidised rice through BULOG as well as other historical social-safety nets will also increase vulnerability to food shortages. This will be compounded by the significant reduction in formal employment, particularly in the public sector, which was of considerable importance in the past. Food assistance, therefore, will continue to be needed for the most vulnerable sectors of society until there is more economic stability and increased purchasing power. In addition, significant international assistance is still required to rehabilitate agriculture and allied services such as marketing and input delivery. With appropriate interventions, there is considerable scope to increase productivity in agriculture which remains highly underdeveloped. The FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Report is being finalised.

GEORGIA* (23 March)

Weather conditions for the 2000 grain crop have been satisfactory to date. However, the area planted to winter crops (mainly wheat but also barley) fell further (to 110 000 hectares), partly due to the sharp increase in the price of fuel during the planting period, but also as a result of area diversion to more profitable crops (sunflower, potatoes, vegetables and maize) and due to competition from imports of wheat. A donation of 20 000 tonnes of diesel fuel could assist farmers to increase or maintain the spring grain area. The grain production target in 2000 is 0.75-0.8 million tonnes.

Despite a reduction in the area sown to wheat, the 1999 grain harvest is estimated by FAO at 800 000 tonnes, some 20 percent higher than in 1998. Above all, timely rains during the growing season as well as some improvement in farmers' access to inputs and better care for crops by private farmers led to markedly better yields than in 1998. Production of potatoes, vegetables, sunflowerseed and tea has also increased sharply, but fruit/citrus production declined further in the absence of an effective marketing/processing system.

There is no shortage of food in rural or urban markets. Any shortfall in domestic production is offset by imports. The existence of sizeable unregistered flows of cereals (particularly wheat and flour) into the country and transshipment to other neighbouring countries make analysis of the supply and demand situation difficult. In 1999/2000, domestic cereal utilization is estimated at nearly 1.3 million tonnes of cereals, including 815 000 tonnes for human consumption, 100 000 tonnes for seed/processing/losses and the balance for feed. Given domestic production of 791 000 tonnes, imports of cereals are estimated at 555 000 tonnes, about 8 percent less than last year, when wheat was more easily available and cheaper in neighbouring countries. Against this requirement, food aid pledges amounting to 90 000 tonnes have been reported to date. The balance is expected to be imported commercially.

Food constitutes a large proportion of household expenditures, and a considerable percentage of the population remains poor. Although there is no officially recognized acute malnutrition, a slow but clear increase of malnutrition among children is being observed, despite some targeted distribution of supplementary food aid. In all, several hundred thousand people still need humanitarian assistance, including the 182 000 receiving assistance from the World Food Programme under the current Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation. The PRRO is for a period of one year, terminating on 30 June 2000, with a total food commitment of 18 190 tonnes and a total WFP cost of about US$10 million. The WFP assistance under PRRO is comprised of two components - (i) protracted relief with free food distribution to the most vulnerable people and (ii) recovery through food for work. Another PRRO for a period of two years to start in July in under preparation.

INDIA (21 March)

Harvesting of winter rabi wheat is well advanced. In view of around a 3 percent decline in area planted this year from 26.9 million hectares to 26.2 million hectares and drought and erratic rains in parts, overall 2000 production is estimated to be round 70 million similar to the revised estimate for 1999. Nonetheless production still remains some 5 percent above the average of the last five years. Wheat is the major component of the winter crop and contributes around 40 percent to national food grain production. The drought mostly affected crops in Gujarat and Rajasthan, though crops in the main producing states of Punjab and Haryana and the largest producing states, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, remained satisfactory and will offset the decline in western parts of the country.

In 1999/2000, the country received a normal monsoon, the 12th in succession, though distribution in parts remained erratic. Based on latest reports, overall rice output in 1999/2000, is projected at a record 87.5 million tonnes, with 75.5 million tonnes from last year's kharif crop and around 12 million tonnes from the irrigated rabi crop, harvesting of which has commenced.

As a result of favourable domestic production and large grain stocks, the food supply situation remains satisfactory. At the end of the current 1999/2000 marketing year in March, wheat stocks with FCI were projected at around 14 million tonnes, well up on minimum buffer requirements. In addition to wheat, as a result of large rice procurement from last year's kharif crop rice stocks also remain at comfortable levels. In view of food grain production in 1999/2000 and satisfactory stock levels, the Government has already imposed a duty to restrict wheat imports, which are likely to remain low in the next marketing year and is also considering a the levy to place on rice to restrict imports.

INDONESIA* (21 March)

The main wet season rice harvest is underway in the main producing areas in Java, and depending on location will continue till around May/June in parts. Dry sunny conditions during March, benefited maturing crops and harvesting in Java. Overall, the season progressed satisfactorily, with adequate rain and inputs, and current estimates indicate production in 2000 of around 50 to 51 million tonnes of paddy, which is about average for the last five years and similar to 1999.

The current rice position in the country is reported to be satisfactory despite the 30 percent import duty placed on rice imports, introduced in January this year. Recent reports indicate that despite pressure from producers to raise import duties further (40 - 50 percent ) to restrict imports and maintain domestic prices that the Government is unlikely to do so before a review in August.

Public stocks at 1.2 million tonnes at the end of February were below normal levels, which is considered to be a part of a strategy by the National Logistics Agency (BULOG), to reduce costs.

IRAN, ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF (21 March)

Rainfall during January and February continued to be below normal over most parts of the country and more is needed to ensure adequate recovery in this year's cereal production. Below-normal rainfall follows a devastating drought in 1999 which seriously reduced domestic production of the main staples wheat and barley, which is very important for the livestock sector. Rainfall at critical stages of crop development such as crop heading, therefore, will be crucial. The serious drought last year reduced the wheat and barley crops by 27 and 42 percent respectively compared to 1998. This has meant that wheat imports during the current 1999/2000 marketing year will be a record of around 6.5 million tonnes.

In the current season, the area under wheat increased by around 22 percent and barley by some 25 percent. Harvesting of wheat will commence around late May and extend to July. Although much will depend on weather over the coming weeks, current forecasts put wheat output at around 10.1 million tonnes, whilst the barley crop, currently being harvested is projected at 2.8 million tonnes.

IRAQ* (27 March)

Prospects for the 2000 cereal harvest in May/June remain unfavourable. Extended drought has substantially reduced cultivated area and adversely affected growing conditions. In addition, serious shortages of essential agricultural inputs are also constraining production.

Total cereal output in 1999 is estimated at 1.6 million tonnes, nearly 40 percent below the previous five year's average due to a severe drought and widespread incidence of pests and weeds. The drought has also caused serious damage to livestock, already weakened by foot and mouth disease.

In December 1999, the UN Security Council approved the seventh phase of the "Oil-for-food" programme, from January to June, which anticipates oil revenues of US$5.26 billion, but may be revised upward if earnings are higher, to buy food, medicine and health supplies, and for emergency repairs to infrastructure. In March 2000, the oil spare parts allocation was doubled from US$300 million to US$600 million to help the replacement of aging equipment. 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 and will persist unless the requirements for the economic rehabilitation and development of the whole country are met.

ISRAEL (17 March)

The prospects for the 2000 wheat and barley crops, to be harvested from April/May, are favourable, reflecting favourable rains during the growing season. Domestic production of wheat in normal years covers less than one-fifth of total requirement, the rest being imported commercially.

Production of the wheat crop in 1999 was estimated at 152 000 tonnes, about 10 percent below the previous year, due to the severe drought that affected several countries in the Near East. Imports of cereals in 1999/2000 (July/June) are forecast at some 2.6 million tonnes.

JAPAN (22 March)

Due to improved yields, total 1999 rice production increased some 2.4 percent over the 8.11 million tonnes (milled basis) in 1998. Total rice harvested area was 1.8 million hectares in 1999 in keeping with the Government's rice production adjustment program. The area under rice has progressively been declining in the 1990s under the adjustment programme and in 1999 was some 16 percent lower than that in 1995.

JORDAN (27 March)

Despite some beneficial rains at the beginning of the year, prospects for the 2000 wheat and barley crops, for harvest in May/June, are poor due to prolonged drought that delayed sowing. In 1999, a severe drought seriously damaged cereal and horticultural crops, resulting in the decline of aggregate wheat and barley output by 88 percent to 13 000 tonnes. The livestock sector was also affected and many sheep farms were seriously affected as costs increased and products diminished in quality and quantity.

Total cereal import requirements for the 1999/2000 marketing year (July/June) are estimated at 1.94 million tonnes. About 80 percent of the requirement is expected to be covered commercially, leaving a deficit of 387 000 tonnes to be covered by food aid. An Emergency Operation was approved by WFP in July 1999 for food assistance to 180 000 vulnerable people, worth some US$4 million for a period of eight months.

KAZAKHSTAN (23 March)

The bulk of the cereals will be planted in May. Winter grains account for a very small proportion of the total harvest. It is hoped to expand the aggregate area sown to 12 million hectares. Failing a repeat of last year's optimum harvest weather, the area to be harvested may not increase beyond 1999's 10.9 million hectares. Moreover, infestation of locusts, inadequately treated last year, could threaten this year's crop.

The 1999 grain harvest is officially estimated at 14.3 million tonnes cleaned weight, i.e. more than double the poor 1998 harvest. The markedly better outcome is due to timely rains during the growing season and good harvesting weather which allowed 96 percent of the sown area to be harvested.

The country exported 2.5 million tonnes of cereals in 1998/99 and has an export availability of up to 7-8 million tonnes in the current marketing year. However infrastructure and logistical considerations are likely to limit exports which are tentatively estimated at around 5.2 million tonnes in 1999/2000 are, mainly to other CIS countries. Between July and December 1999, in excess of 3 million tonnes of cereals, mainly wheat, have been exported.

KOREA, DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF* (21 March)

The main agricultural activity currently revolves around the double crop of the winter and spring wheat and barley crops, which have gained in importance in recent years in view of chronic food and feed supply problems. These crops, which will be harvested in late May/early June, after which planting of the main maize or rice crop will commence. In view of harsh climatic conditions and topography, which basically restricts the country is restricted to planting one main crop of rice and maize per year the main staples, from May for harvest in September/October. Much depends on this period, with the country suffering severe setbacks from 1995 to 1997, when floods and drought seriously reduced domestic food supplies.

Although 1998 and 1999 saw some recovery and stability in agricultural production, current production trends indicate that DPR Korea has entered an era of relatively low input low output agriculture. Even in the absence of major natural hazards, therefore, domestic food production remains well below minimum needs due to serious lack of investment and essential inputs into agriculture. FAO has however supplied agricultural inputs (fertilizer) for the winter double cropping programme 1999/2000 and the current spring double cropping programme, which should contribute to an increased food production during the lean period from June to September 2000.

In view of economic and agricultural constraints, chronic food supply problems are likely to persist, which in turn will affect the nutritional status and health of the population, problems of which have been compounded by lack of resources, drugs and essential supplies.

In the current marketing year WFP has so far provided 96 000 tonnes of food assistance, and another 220 000 tonnes are scheduled for arrival in February and March. Assistance is concentrated on children under 16 in nurseries, kindergartens and primary and secondary schools, as well as pregnant and nursing women, orphans, hospital patients and the elderly. WFP is currently providing food aid to around 5.6 million beneficiaries and intends to make additional distributions during the lean season, from April to June. However, such distributions can only proceed if new donations are received as its pipeline for cereals runs dry in April.

KOREA, REPUBLIC OF (21 March)

Demand for grains for food and feed is increasing as economic recovery continues following the Asian financial crisis. Wheat and maize are almost entirely imported, whilst the country on average produces around 5 million tonnes of rice (milled) per annum, during the main season which extends from around May to October. Last year, despite heavy flooding the rice crop was around 5.2 million tonnes, from an area of approximately 1.06 million hectares. The level of production was around 146 000 tonnes or almost 3 percent above output in 1998. In general, the number of productive farms and rice acreage is declining in the country as more land is made available to infrastructure and urban development. Any future expansion will come mainly from marginal and reclaimed land, including land subject to flooding.

KYRGYZ REPUBLIC (23 March)

The area sown to winter grains (mainly wheat) for harvest in the summer of 2000 could remain fairly stable. In total, 291 000 hectares have been sown to winter crops, including grains, only 2 200 hectares less than in the preceding year.

The 1999 grain and pulse harvest is officially put at 1.621 million tonnes, about the same as in the preceding year despite a 5 percent reduction in the area sown. Wheat production is officially estimated at 1.1 million tonnes, 8 percent less than last year, while coarse grain (maize) production increased sharply. Cereal imports, including food aid pledges amounting to 107 000 tonnes, in 1999/2000 are estimated at nearly 206 000 tonnes, mainly wheat. Import duty on wheat has been lifted temporarily to facilitate imports. At the same time the country also exports some wheat to neighbouring Uzbekistan (in payment for gas) and Tajikistan.

LAOS* (21 March)

Dry, sunny weather in the region during March, favoured developing second season rice. The second rice crop is largely irrigated and contributes around 15 percent of average annual paddy production of around 1.7 million tonnes.

Project food aid continues to be needed to support well-targeted project interventions for vulnerable groups in areas affected by reduced rice production in 1998/99. Based on earlier FAO/WFP estimates 251 000 people needed around 12 000 tonnes of assistance last year for an average duration of 4 months. Some 8 000 tonnes have been pledged and delivered during the past marketing year.

LEBANON (27 March)

The prospects for the 2000 winter harvest in June/July remain favourable. Aggregate production of wheat and barley crops in 1999 is estimated at 62 000 tonnes, about the same as the previous year.

Imports of wheat in 1999/2000 (July/June) are forecast at some 0.51 million tonnes, slightly above last year.

MALAYSIA (21 March)

The country produces an average of around 2 million tonnes of paddy annually, of which 60 percent is from the main and 40 percent from the off season crop. Normally a third of domestic consumption requirements of rice are imported into the country, whilst wheat and maize are almost entirely imported. In view of economic recovery in the country, following slow-down after the Asia crisis, imports of both wheat and maize are anticipated to increase to meet increasing demand.

MONGOLIA* (21 March)

The worst winter weather in thirty years has killed several hundred thousand livestock, seriously threatening the livelihood and food security of up to a quarter of the population of 2.7 million people, who depend entirely on animal rearing. Official reports indicate that as many as 1.7 million livestock have already died and many more are likely to be lost in the coming weeks as harsh conditions persist. The worst affected areas are in central, western and north-western parts where 142 of the country's 360 counties are located. Areas that have been particularly hard hit include Dundgobi, Ovorkhangai, Uvs, Zavkhanto and Bayankhongor.

The livestock sector plays an extremely important part in the Mongolian economy providing the main source of household income, for many, and contributing a major source of foreign exchange. In addition, given vast distances and the lack of access to alternative food sources, animals also play a vital role in household food security, providing essential nutritional needs through meat and milk. Available estimates indicate that normally animals provide around 92 kg of meat and 130 kg of milk-products per caput annually. Large losses, therefore, will have direct and severe impact on household food security of large numbers of herders, especially those in remote inaccessible areas. Nutritional problems, are likely to be compounded by problems of access to basic medical assistance as transport systems remain highly constrained by the lack of horses.

The food situation, amongst vulnerable groups including women and children, could deteriorate appreciably in the next few months particularly as essential winter food reserves of dried meat milk and dairy products, become depleted. Already there is evidence of the most vulnerable sectors of the nomadic population migrating to towns in search of employment. This will exacerbate existing food supply problems in some areas, which have developed over the last 10 years, due to general economic problems.

As thousands of hectares of pastures remain buried under heavy snow, there is urgent need to provide surviving animals with supplementary feed. However, the Government's capacity to do so is highly constrained due to limited resources, its declining role in agriculture and the lack of contingency stocks of feed and food. The problem of feed supply is being exacerbated by transport constraints and the repercussions of a serious drought last crop season which reduced the quality of pastures and production of hay, which is normally reserved for feed during critical winter months. Consequently even before the current crisis, the health of large numbers of livestock was already poor.

The current food emergency, follows several years in which nutritional standards having been falling due to significant changes in economic circumstance of large sectors of the population as the economy has been reoriented from one which was centrally planned to one which is market driven. This in particular has left many groups who were formally dependent on state employment and welfare exposed to economic uncertainties due to limited alternative earning potential. Various reports in the mid 1990s indicated that those most affected by poverty and food insecurity, included the unemployed, the elderly, female headed households, children, pensioners and small herders.

The Government of Mongolia has appealed for international assistance, including food, clothes, medicines, and fodder for the surviving livestock. In response the UN is preparing to launch an appeal to the international community in addition to the donations for the relief effort already made.

MYANMAR (21 March)

Unseasonable rainfall in the region increased irrigation reserves for dry season rice, harvesting of which is due to commence from April. The main wet/monsoon crop harvest is normally completed by February.

Total 1999/2000 paddy production is estimated at an average 17.5 million tonnes, marginally below average and around 2 percent below the previous year.

NEPAL (21 March)

Harvesting of wheat will commence later this month and extend into May. In 1999, the country produced a slightly above- average wheat crop of around 1.1 million tonnes. The 1999 paddy crop, which is harvested around October/November, was around 3.6 million tonnes, 4 percent above average and 6 percent higher than 1998.

PAKISTAN (21 March)

In view of favourable weather during the season, a slight extension in planted area, in response to an increase of 25 percent in support prices, and improved provision of irrigation and inputs, a bumper/record wheat crop is in prospect. The crop is currently being harvested and the forecast is that 20 million tonnes will be produced some 11 percent above 1999 and 15 percent above the average of the last five years. In view of higher production, imports are projected to decline in 2000/2001. The rice crop (milled) this year is forecast at around five million tonnes, similar to last year.

PHILIPPINES (21 March)

A volcanic eruption from the Mayon volcano in late February, affected an area of around 12 km from the crater and resulted in the displacement of several thousand. No casualties are reported, though the damage to agriculture and crops is estimated at around US $ 2.65 million, mostly through losses of paddy rice, maize, vegetables and fruit. Agricultural losses assessed so far do not include damage to coconut plantations which are also important in the area. As a result of these losses several localities in the area are likely to suffer serious food shortages in the coming months. In 1993, 77 people died as a result of a previous eruption from the volcano.

Following the financial crisis in Asia, which reduced demand, food and feed grain consumption this year is projected to increase due to growth in the economy and the recovery in the agricultural sector, after serious El Niņo drought in 1997/98.

Harvesting of the dry season rice and maize crops, planted in October/December will commence in the next two to three weeks and continue into May. Latest projections, indicate that output of the paddy crop will be around 5.4 million tonnes, some 2 percent higher than 1999. Overall, an increase in area planted and higher expected yields, indicate that paddy production could be around 12.1 million tonnes this (2000) calendar year, similar to last year's record 11.9 million tonnes. This however, will depend on weather and the performance of the main rice crop which is planted in May/June for harvest in October/November. Record production in 1999, was around 38 percent higher than 1998, which was severely affected by El Niņo related weather anomalies.

1999 maize output was 4.6 million tonnes, around 9 percent above the average of the last five years and 20 percent higher than the previous year. Due to heavy rains which resulted in a decrease in area planted, first quarter maize production is projected at 1.1 million tonnes, some 14 percent lower than in the same period in 1999. In view of the shortfall, it is expected that additional maize imports will be necessary to meet demand in the feed sector.

SAUDI ARABIA (27 March)

Prospects for the 2000 wheat crop, for harvest in April/May, are unfavourable due to drought, despite some good rains at the beginning of the season. Production of wheat in 1999 is estimated at 1.5 million tonnes, about 17 percent below the previous year's output. The low to moderate rains in January are expected to be suitable for breeding desert locusts and low numbers are likely to be present near Jizan where numbers could gradually increase.

Import of cereals in 1999/2000 (July/June) is currently forecast at about 6.9 million tonnes, similar to last year.

SRI LANKA (21 March)

Harvesting of the main (Maha) rice crop, which is planted in October to December, has commenced. This crop contributes approximately two thirds of aggregate rice a third from the irrigated Yala crop, which is harvested in August/September. Overall 1998/99 paddy production was 2.7 million tonnes, some 9 percent higher than the average of the last five years and marginally above the previous year.

In addition to rice, the country's main staple, some 850 -900 000 tonnes of wheat are imported annually to meet demand, for bread and other wheat based products.

SYRIA (27 March)

Unfavourable weather at the beginning of the 1999/2000 cropping season, from October, was followed by adequate rainfall which provided ample moisture for a normal crop development. In some important grain producing areas of the north-east, rainfall levels during December and January were about three times the quantity during the same period last year. Prospects for the 2000 crops, to be harvested from mid-May, are, therefore, favourable and output is expected to improve on last year's drought reduced harvest.

In 1999, barley production was about 380 000 tonnes, around 72 percent below the average of the last five years, while wheat production, at 2.74 million tonnes, was about 28 percent below average. The drought had also led to a significant increase in sheep mortality rates that seriously affected household incomes.

An Emergency Operation was jointly approved in October 1999 by FAO and WFP to assist 329 000 herders in the drought affected areas of the country for six months (October 1999 to March 2000), for a total cost of US$ 5.46 million.

TAJIKISTAN* (23 March)

Systematic and timely data on crop production is seriously lacking. Latest (partial) reports indicate serious problems in mobilizing inputs to sow 2000 winter crop. Shortages of seed, fuel and machinery have reportedly slowed planting operations and the area sown to winter crops on the large farms is thought to be less than last year. In addition, the amount of land which is becoming affected by salinity is increasing. Since 1997 there is a steady decline in the average cereal yield due to weather conditions, deteriorating irrigation facilities, disease and lack of funds to procure the necessary inputs on time. However, despite reports of a disease-ridden poor 1999 grain harvest, the final outcome is officially put at 475 000 tonnes, only 5 percent less than in 1998 and above average.

Production of cotton, the major cash crop, is officially reported to be 16 percent less at 316 000 tonnes and well below average, although a part of the crop may have been diverted by local authorities.

In 1999/2000, the cereal import requirement is estimated to increase to 458 000 tonnes, of which 68 000 tonnes have been pledged as food aid. Total cereal imports between July and December 1999 totalled almost 300 000 tonnes. The overall food supply situation remains problematical, as poverty is endemic in the country. About 1 million people are poor and destitute and experience acute or chronic food insecurity. Nutrition surveys confirm a high degree of malnutrition amongst the vulnerable and children under five. Humanitarian assistance to vulnerable populations and assistance to develop agriculture will continue to be necessary.

THAILAND (21 March)

In the second and third dekad of March, dry weather prevailed over most parts of the country. The harvest of the second season rice crop will commence from May and continue through June. The bulk of rice production, some 80 percent comes from the main crop from June to October/November. Outcome of the current (second) crop is forecast 4.3 million tonnes of paddy, which together with the 18.9 million tonnes produced in the main season will bring aggregate 1999/2000 production to around 23.3 million tonnes. At this level, output will be some 2 percent above the 22.8 million tonnes produced in 1998/99 and almost 3 percent above average for the previous five years.

A total of around 6.7 million tonnes of rice were exported in 1999, 5 percent above 1998. In the period from the beginning of January to the middle of March, rice exports totalled around 1.4 million tonnes, around 2.6 percent up on the previous year.

TURKEY (27 March)

Overall prospects for the 2000 winter crops, to be harvested from June, are favourable reflecting recent good rains and snow cover in the agriculturally important areas which reversed the effects of dry weather earlier in the season. The 1999 wheat production is estimated at 18 million tonnes, about 14 percent below the previous year and about 4 percent below average, due to drought.

This year's grain support prices are expected to be announced In May. The government is planning to set prices at a maximum of 35 percent higher than world prices rather than the more than twice world prices that caused heavy borrowing to finance grain purchases from farmers. Instead a direct income support system will be adopted to protect farmers.

Two major earthquakes which struck the country in August and November 1999 have killed more than 17 000 people, caused more than 52 000 major injuries and an estimated 630 000 homeless people. The main affected areas in and around Izmit were reported to be mainly industrial but also produce grains and oil seeds.

Turkey's state grain board (TMO) bought from farmers in 1999 a total of 5.5 million tonnes of cereals, including 4.2 million tonnes of wheat, 820 000 tonnes of barley and 380 000 tonnes of maize.

TURKMENISTAN (23 March)

The outlook for the 2000 grain harvest remains satisfactory. Reports indicate that the area sown to winter crops has increased sharply to 680 000 hectares and that 190 000 tonnes of quality seed has been used in sowing. Reportedly, some virgin land has been bought into production. The grain production target is 1.6 million tonnes. In addition, resources are to be allocated to farmers to expand rice production to 200 000 tonnes per annum in the coming three years. To achieve these targets, the country is planning further substantial imports of land improvement, irrigation and harvesting equipment in 2000.

The 1999 grain harvest is officially estimated at a record 1.5 million tonnes, nearly 300 000 tonnes above 1998. Final reports indicate that the area sown to grains remained stable at 635 000 hectares, but imports of high quality seed and increased use of fertilizer raised yields. Given the difficult foreign exchange situation and the large 1999 harvest, cereal imports in 1999/2000 are expected to remain very low. Despite the increased grain harvest, flour and bread shortages are reported to be common in both urban and rural areas, without, however, becoming persistent in any area.

UZBEKISTAN (23 February)

The area sown to winter crops on the large state farms (mainly wheat) increased by 4 percent to 1.36 million hectares, at the expense of cotton. In addition, farmers also have to plant wheat on their household plots, which would bring the aggregate area sown to wheat up to an estimated 1.47 million hectares. The winter grain production target is 4.1 million tonnes. The area to be sown to cotton is to be reduced by 80 000 hectares,

The 1999 wheat and barley crop is officially estimated at 3.7 million tonnes (clean weight), some 120 000 tonnes above 1998, and the total grain harvest (including maize and rice) at 4.321 million tonnes. Imports of grain are being reduced to maintain a positive trade balance. Cereal imports in 1999/2000 are estimated to fall to about 335 000 tonnes, and to include 44 000 tonnes of food aid in wheat.

VIET NAM (21 March)

Central and southern parts of the country received scattered light rain during the second dekad of March, while heavy showers across the Red River Delta in northern parts led to localized flooding slowing transplanting of winter- spring rice transplanting in the north of the country. In the south transplanting was completed by the end of February, though this year was retarded by slow drainage of flood water in the Mekong River delta. The winter spring crop is the largest of the three rice crops produced each year, contributing some 36 percent to aggregate rice production in 1998/99. 1999/2000 paddy production, consisting of last year's 10th month crop, and this year's winter-spring and summer autumn crops is estimated at around 32 million tonnes, some 3 percent above 1998/99. The final outcome, however, will depend on weather conditions and the harvest of the last two crops, though current estimates indicate that some 8.5 million tonnes came from the 10th, 15 million will come from the winter-spring and the remainder from the summer autumn crop.

The rice export target for the current year is 4.3 million tonnes compared to 4.6 million tonnes exported last year. However rice exports in the first quarter of the year were appreciably lower than the target of 1 million tonnes.

YEMEN (27 March)

Winter season plantings continue under generally normal weather. The area sown to grain crops to be harvested later in the year is reported to be average. The aggregate cereal production in 1999 is estimated at 635 000 tonnes, some 23 percent lower than the previous year, due to reduced planted area.

Small scale breeding of desert locust may be in progress in few places along the Red Sea coastal plains.

The import requirement of cereals in 2000, mainly wheat, is forecast at some 2.7 million tonnes, an increase of about 25 percent compared with the previous year.


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