Famine conditions are rapidly emerging in parts of eastern Africa, with over 16 million people facing serious food supply difficulties in the sub-region. A grave humanitarian situation has developed in the pastoral areas of eastern and southern Ethiopia, due to the cumulative effects of drought over the past three years and deaths from starvation are being increasingly reported from the worst affected areas. Bordering areas of Kenya, Uganda and Somalia are also seriously affected. Current crop prospects are unfavourable in eastern Africa where rainfall during the 1999/2000 secondary season has been erratic and inadequate. In North Africa, a severe drought has affected the current crop, particularly in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. Elsewhere, the food and health situation of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi continues to give serious cause for concern. On 2 April cyclone "Hudah" hit northern Madagascar, previously devastated by cyclones "Eline" and "Gloria". Although Cyclone "Hudah" did not bring extremely heavy rains and floods, the high force winds of up to 300 km/hour have caused extensive damage to housing and infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and health centres, telecommunications, as well as crops, particularly tree crops. In Mozambique, although cyclone "Hudah" had dissipated before reaching the northern coast, heavy rains associated with it have affected the provinces of Zambezia and Nampular, two major maize-producing areas in the country. This may degrade the quality of the crop now reaching maturity. In Asia, the worst winter in 30 years has killed several hundred thousand livestock in Mongolia, seriously affecting the livelihood and food security of a quarter of the country's population, while food assistance continues to be needed in DPR Korea due to past natural disasters compounded by economic problems. In the Near East, harvest prospects are unfavourable in Afghanistan, Iraq and Jordan due to prolonged dry weather. In the CIS, urgent humanitarian assistance is needed in Chechnya and for refugees in neighbouring countries. In Europe weather conditions have generally been favourable for crops so far. In Latin America, the main activity currently is land preparation for the 2000/01 first season maize and bean crops in Central America and the Caribbean, and for wheat in South America.
In eastern Africa, grave food supply difficulties have emerged, mainly due to drought-induced crop and livestock losses. An estimated 16 million people are affected by severe food shortages, with deaths from starvation being increasingly reported from some areas. Pastoralists in the sub-region have been the worst affected by a succession of poor rains which have led to losses of large numbers of their livestock. With poor rainfall forecast for the sub-region during the current season, the number of people in need of food assistance is anticipated to increase. A grave food situation has developed in Ethiopia, where more than 8 million people face severe food shortages. The situation is particularly serious in the pastoral areas of the east and south, following three consecutive years of little or no rainfall. Starvation-related deaths, particularly among children, are reported. In Eritrea, the food situation is very tight for nearly 600 000 people affected by the war with Ethiopia and the prevailing drought along the coastal areas. In Kenya, the food supply situation is alarming in the northern, eastern and north-western pastoral districts affected by successive droughts. Nearly 2.7 million people are facing severe food shortages. In Somalia, nearly 650 000 people in 6 southern regions are facing severe food shortages. Hardest hit are farmers in Huddur, Wajid and Rab-Dure districts in Bakool Region, where many have left their villages in search of food. In Tanzania, food assistance is needed for nearly 800 000 food insecure people, mainly in the regions of Dodoma, Mara, Shinyanga, Singida, Tabora, Tanga and southern Mwanza, which have suffered a third consecutive poor harvest. In Sudan, despite a stable food security situation, about 103 000 tonnes of food aid is needed for some 2.4 million people affected by drought and the long-running civil conflict. In Uganda, the food supply situation has deteriorated in Kotido and Moroto districts, with nearly 215 000 people needing urgent food assistance, while nearly 112 000 people in Bundibugyo District have been displaced by civil strife.
Prospects for the secondary 2000 cereal crops in the region are mixed. In Kenya, despite some good crops in Eastern and Coast Provinces, below-normal cumulative rainfall for the season and prolonged drought in some areas have adversely affected the maize crop. In Tanzania, the recently harvested "Vuli" season cereal crop was drastically reduced due to poor rains, and current estimates suggest a reduction of about 70 percent compared to the previous five years' average. However, production of non-cereal foodcrops has been satisfactory. In Ethiopia, a below-average "Belg" crop is anticipated, reflecting continued drought, and shortages of draught oxen and seed. By contrast, in Somalia, the "Deyr" season cereal harvest is estimated at 108 000 tonnes, about 53 percent above the post-civil war (1993-1998) average, reflecting favourable conditions in some main growing areas. However, poor rains in Bakool Region have severely affected production. In Uganda, well distributed rains resulted in satisfactory output of the recently harvested coarse grain crops. In Sudan, harvesting of the wheat crop is underway and production is forecast at 288 000 tonnes, substantially higher than the poor crop of 1999. In Rwanda, the overall food supply situation has improved following a good 2000 A season. By contrast, in Burundi the harvest was reduced by widespread dry weather and population displacements.
In southern Africa, overall prospects for the sub-region's 2000 cereal crops, now being harvested, are favourable. Despite extensive damage caused by torrential rains and Cyclones Eline and Gloria in February/March, the major maize growing areas were not affected by the flooding, and the abundant rains benefited crops which had been stressed by dry weather in some parts. However, the situation varies from country to country and remains uncertain pending an assessment of the impact of the heavy rains, and also of erratic and insufficient precipitation in several areas
In South Africa, despite losses caused by floods in some provinces, the latest official forecast indicates a bumper maize crop of 9.5 million tonnes, compared to 7.1 million tonnes last year. By contrast, in Madagascar, the 2000 paddy crop has been negatively affected by dry weather earlier in the season and subsequently by three consecutive cyclones which resulted in severe floods that caused extensive crop losses. In Mozambique, the severe floods that affected the southern and central parts of the country in February/March did not affect the major growing areas of the north, which benefited from good rains in March. However, heavy rains associated with hurricane "Hudah" in northern parts may adversely affect the quality of the maize crop, now close to maturity or being harvested. In Zimbabwe, this year's maize production is anticipated to decline due to lower plantings and the heavy rains in February and March which may have caused reductions in yields. In Malawi, notwithstanding the flood-induced crop losses in the south, abundant rains from the second dekad of February improved prospects for the maize crop in central and northern parts, affected by dry weather earlier in the season. Official forecasts indicate maize production of 2.33 million tonnes in 2000, 6 percent below the record harvest of last year. In Swaziland, the outlook for the harvest is poor reflecting excessive rains in December and severe flooding in early February. Maize production is forecast to decrease by 37 percent to well below average. In Botswana, harvest prospects are uncertain reflecting heavy rains over the past two months and severe flooding in late February. In Zambia, abundant rains since mid-February have benefited the main maize crop, affected by erratic precipitation earlier in the season. In Namibia, the outlook remains uncertain; heavy rains in mid-February in the major northern growing areas have been followed by below-average precipitation in March. In Angola, the food outlook is also uncertain, reflecting below-average precipitation since February in the important central growing areas, and continuous population displacements during the growing season. In Lesotho, despite generally good rains since mid-February, coarse grain yields may have been affected by a prolonged dry spell at the beginning of the season and, subsequently, by floods in the lowlands.
In northern Africa, current crop prospects for 2000 are unfavourable due to prolonged dry conditions since January. With the exception of high altitude locations and the Atlantic coastline which received some light rains in March, crop growing areas in the region extending across Morocco and northern Algeria have received little rain since January. Dry conditions have also affected parts of northern and central Tunisia and northern Libya. This has resulted in total crop loss in several areas of Morocco and Algeria. The outlook is also unfavourable for livestock producers due to a shortage of fodder and water in many areas. This will have serious food security repercussions, particularly for small herders who rely mostly on livestock for their livelihood. In 1999, the drought-induced shortfall in cereal production was largely covered by large stock drawdowns. A shortfall in production in 2000 will, therefore, have to be covered largely by imports. In Egypt, by contrast, the mostly irrigated wheat crop is growing under favourable conditions so far and a good harvest is in prospect.
In western Africa, rains started in March in the south of the countries along the Gulf of Guinea, allowing planting of the first maize crop. In the Sahel, seasonably dry conditions prevail and there is little agricultural activity, except for cultivation of recession or off season crops whose prospects are generally excellent following the high levels reached by rivers or water reserves. However, pest infestations are threatening crops in Mauritania.
Reflecting generally favourable growing conditions during the 1999 rainy season, a record crop has been gathered in the Sahel. Following release of final production figures by several countries, aggregate cereal production in 1999 for the nine CILSS member countries is estimated at 11.6 million tonnes, which is 8 percent higher than in 1998 and 23 percent above the average of the last five years. Record crops were harvested in Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Mali, Mauritania and Senegal, while above-average output is anticipated in Chad and Niger. Output is estimated to remain below average in Guinea-Bissau due to population displacement caused by civil strife in 1998. The abundant rains also permitted satisfactory regeneration of pastures and replenishment of water reserves.
In the coastal countries along the Gulf of Guinea, cereal harvests in 1999 were generally good in Benin, Nigeria and Togo but less favourable in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana. In Sierra Leone, an FAO crop and food supply assessment mission in December estimated paddy production at around 45 percent of pre-civil war production. The aggregate 1999 cereal output for the eight countries along the Gulf of Guinea (Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Togo) is estimated at around 29.8 million tonnes compared to 29.3 million tonnes in 1998 (including rice in paddy). Liberia and Sierra Leone remain heavily dependent on international food assistance despite some improvement in food production, notably in Liberia.
Following these good harvests, the food supply situation will be satisfactory in 2000 in most countries. Markets are well supplied and prices are much lower than at the same time in recent years in the Sahel. Farmers have replenished their stocks and the low prices of cereals have facilitated the replenishment of national food security stocks in several countries. Terms of trade for pastoralists are favourable. However, localised food supply difficulties are anticipated during the lean season in the areas affected by flooding, notably in Mauritania, northern Senegal and southern Chad. Local purchases and/or triangular transactions in the surplus areas for transfer to deficit areas are recommended to support domestic production.
In central Africa, 1999 production was above average in Cameroon and was a record in the Central African Republic. Civil strife in both the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo, however, continues to hamper agriculture and marketing activities. In the Republic of Congo, floods affected the north and the capital Brazzaville in November/December. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, severe food shortages and malnutrition are reported among the large number of people displaced by persistent civil strife, particularly in north-eastern Katanga and South Kivu which are largely inaccessible due to insecurity.
The Asia region accounts for some 49 percent of aggregate cereal production. In 1999 grain production in the region was around 1 013 million tonnes, about 1 percent up on the previous year. In several countries which were previously affected by serious El Niño drought 2 years ago, production has continued to recover, especially in the Philippines and Indonesia. Grain consumption in these countries is also expected to increase as the economies continue to recover after the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997/98. In particular, demand is expected to increase for wheat and maize as consumption of wheat-based products, fast foods, and poultry/meat increases. In China, the region's largest producer, the area under main cereals, wheat and maize, is forecast to decline further as price support is restricted and farmers switch to other, more lucrative crops.
Currently, the main agricultural activities in the region include harvesting of the main winter wheat crop in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, whilst the crop is breaking dormancy and at early development stage in China. Weather conditions have been generally favourable due to higher precipitation over winter. In spite of a 7 percent fall in area planted in China, therefore, wheat output is likely to decline less markedly from the 114 million tonnes produced in 1999. In India, area planted also fell and the crop was affected by drought in parts, though overall production is likely to be similar to last year's record of around 71 million tonnes. Prospects are most favourable in Pakistan, where production is likely to increase by almost 2 million tonnes over last year, while Bangladesh is also likely to produce a bumper crop similar to last year's record. In contrast, below normal rainfall in the Islamic Republic of Iran in January and February means that much more precipitation is still needed for the developing crop to ensure recovery following last year's seriously drought affected crop. Elsewhere in the region the main rice activities include harvesting of irrigated boro crop in Bangladesh, prospects for which are favourable. The country is projected to produce a record rice crop in 1999/2000. In Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Cambodia, harvesting of the main rice crops is underway or near completion, whilst in Vietnam, transplanting of the main winter-spring crop (one of three produced a year) is underway in northern parts, having being completed earlier in the south. In the Philippines harvesting of dry season rice will commence in the next few weeks, whilst in Thailand, it will begin in May.
The latest food emergency to emerge in the region is in Mongolia, where the worst winter weather in 30 years killed large numbers of animals which are extremely important for the food security of large numbers of nomadic householders. An estimated quarter of the population of 2.7 million people are likely to face food shortages of varying degrees in the coming months. Chronic food supply problems continue in DPR Korea due to a combination of past disasters and economic problems. In East Timor, despite the upheaval last year, the overall consequences on output are likely to be less pronounced than had been expected, especially as weather conditions have been generally favourable.
In the Near East, continued drought conditions have affected crop and livestock production in many parts. In Afghanistan, in addition to the adverse effects of continued civil strife and short supply of agricultural inputs, drought in much of southern and central parts affected production of 2000 winter grains, to be harvested from May. In Iraq, continued drought conditions have exacerbated the already tight food supply situation. In Jordan, despite some beneficial rains in the winter cropping season, insufficient rains have affected agricultural production in several parts. In Syria, favourable rains have enhanced prospects for cereal crops, for harvest from May. However, thousands of herders, affected by last year's prolonged drought, are still in need of assistance. In Turkey, recent favourable rains and snow cover continue to favour the developments of the wheat crop, to be harvested from June, reversing the effects of dry weather earlier in the season.
Across the eight CIS countries in the Asian region, in Kazakhstan, by far the largest producer in the sub-region, the bulk of the 2000 grains will not be planted until May. Elsewhere in the eight CIS countries, latest indications are that the aggregate area sown to winter grains has increased with significant declines only in Georgia and Armenia, partly due to high fuel prices. In Tajikistan, crop disease problems need to be addressed if output is to be maintained at last year's level. In Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan the area sown to winter grains has increased. Growing conditions have been mostly satisfactory to date, and given normal weather until the completion of the harvest, winter wheat production could continue to edge upwards. Planting of spring coarse grains and cotton is underway in some areas.
In the eight countries, the 1999 aggregate grain harvest increased sharply to 24 million from 17 million tonnes in 1998. Wheat production increased by 6 million tonnes to 19 million tonnes mainly due to a sharp recovery in Kazakhstan and higher outputs in 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 2.7 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 officially put at 4.3 million tonnes (1998: 4.1 million tonnes), which includes 3.6 million tonnes of wheat. 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. Contrary to earlier indications, output in Tajikistan is officially put at 475 000 tonnes, only 5 percent less than in 1998, but above the five-year average. The improved grain harvest has reduced the import requirements of most countries. Against aggregate cereal import requirement estimated at 2.5 million tonnes, 0.4 million tonnes are pledged to be provided as food aid, with the balance to be covered by commercial imports.
In all these countries, however, aggregate statistics hide increasingly large income disparities and all countries have socially and economically vulnerable people who are barely surviving. In Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Tajikistan, countries where a sharp drop in GDP following independence was aggravated by prolonged civil strife, vulnerable populations (including refugees, and IDPs) continue to require food assistance.
In Central America and the Caribbean, the main agricultural activities include fieldwork in preparation for planting of the 2000/2001 first season cereal and bean crops which is due to start with the arrival of the first rains of the season in April. Plantings in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua are expected to be close to 1999/2000 average or above-average levels. In Honduras, prospects are uncertain for the important maize crop, due to unattractive prevailing prices. The outlook is also uncertain for the paddy crop, largely as a consequence of financial and other constraints, but measures are being taken by the Government to assist producers overcome such constraints. In Mexico, harvesting of the 2000 wheat crop is about to start, while land is being prepared for planting of the important spring/summer maize crop in the main producing central-southern belt states. In the Caribbean, dry weather conditions have persisted in the last few weeks, but with no significant adverse effect reported on the developing crops in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. In Cuba, the dry weather has benefited harvesting of the important foreign exchange earner, sugar cane. In Jamaica, prolonged dry weather has negatively affected minor foodcrops, mainly vegetables.
In the southern parts of South America, land is being prepared for planting of the 2000/2001 wheat crop in most countries, while harvesting of the 2000 maize crop has started. Average to above-average maize outputs are provisionally forecast in Brazil and Argentina respectively, while prospects are poor in Uruguay and Paraguay which have been affected by prolonged drought. In Chile, production of maize is expected to recover from last year's drought affected crop. In the Andean countries, harvesting of the 2000 first season wheat crop is about to start in Bolivia, while planting is underway in Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. Harvesting of the 2000 first (main) season maize crop has also started in the first two countries. In Colombia, heavy rains and flooding in March have delayed planting of the main maize crop. In Venezuela, rehabilitation and reconstruction programmes are being implemented in the states affected by mudslides and flooding in December. Planting of the main maize crop has started under rather wet conditions.
In the EC, generally favourable weather conditions over the past two months have benefited developing winter crops and early spring crop planting. The main exception has been in the Mediterranean areas where precipitation has been below normal. Latest indications continue to point to an increase in the aggregate cereal area for the 2000 harvest, largely at the expense of oilseeds. Based on analyses of the overall weather conditions for the season so far, early indications are that average yields may be somewhat higher than in the previous year. FAO tentatively forecasts this year's aggregate cereal output in the Community at about 210 million tonnes, 4 percent up on 1999.
Elsewhere in Europe, weather conditions have also remained generally favourable over the past two months. Increased cereal production is expected in several countries with planted areas and yields recovering from last year's drought-reduced levels. In the Balkan countries large-scale international assistance continues for vulnerable populations. There are currently some 1.1 million beneficiaries of food assistance in The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (excluding Kosovo Province), including refugees, IDPs and economically and socially deprived people. In the Kosovo Province, the total beneficiary caseload is currently being phased down from 900 000 to 600 000, reflecting improvements in economic conditions in the Province. Assistance continues to be provided in Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia for vulnerable people affected by the Kosovo War.
In the four CIS countries west of the Urals (Belarus, Moldova, Russian Federation, Ukraine), latest estimates indicate that the area sown to winter crops (mainly wheat and rye) for harvest this year, is larger than last year. Winter conditions have been favourable overall, with milder temperatures and adequate precipitation in most areas. In the Russian Federation, latest estimates indicate that the winter crop area increased by 4 percent to about 14.2 million hectares and winter cereal output, given normal weather, is likely to increase. In Belarus also, prospects are satisfactory to date. In Moldova and the Ukraine, the condition of the winter crop, which had a poor start, has improved with the mild winter and estimates of the area to be resown have been reduced. Nevertheless the area of winter grains for harvest is likely to be less than last year and inadequate use of inputs is likely to constrain yields.
Spring fieldwork is underway in southern parts of the region. High fuel prices and variable weather are slowing progress but the spring is early this year. In the Russian Federation, the availability of some inputs (fertilizer and fuel) is somewhat better than last year, but the availability of credit is less. High cereal prices in response to the tight supply situation in the region could lead to an increase in the area sown in the Russian Federation. Given favourable weather, the 2000 grain harvest could increase to 65-70 million tonnes compared to the 60 million tonnes in 1999. By contrast, in the Ukraine, spring plantings could be adversely affected by high fuel prices, difficult access to credit and increasingly inadequate use of inputs for the newly reorganised farms. In Belarus, pervasive economic difficulties are expected to continue to constrain yields. In Moldova, given better weather, output could recover somewhat from last year's poor level of 2.2 million tonnes.
The aggregate 1999 cereal and pulse harvest in the four CIS countries in the region, estimated by FAO at 93 million tonnes, was barely 3 percent more than the poor harvest of 1998 and well below average. As a result, the grain supply situation remains tight in all four countries and cereal prices are rising. With imports, human consumption needs are being covered, but the availability of animal feed is very constrained and livestock production is likely to contract further in 2000. Aggregate cereal imports for these four countries are currently estimated at nearly 10 million tonnes, more than double last year's, reflecting larger imports particularly by Belarus and the Russian Federation. In the Russian Federation, despite cereal imports now estimated to rise sharply from around 3 million tonnes in 1998/99 to nearly 8 million tonnes in 1999/2000, there is still no scope to rebuild stocks drawn down in 1998/99. Between July 1999 and February 2000, nearly 6 million tonnes have already been imported. Imports of cereals by Belarus could double to 1.5 million tonnes, if adequate funds are mobilized, following last year's record low harvest of 3.6 million tonnes. The 1999 harvest in Moldova (2.2 million tonnes) is almost adequate to cover consumption needs and significant cereal imports are not anticipated. Ukraine, despite a very poor harvest in 1999 (estimated at 27 million tonnes), will remain a net exporter of up to 3 million tonnes of cereals, mainly wheat and barley.
Populations in Chechnya and surrounding republics will continue to need considerable food and non-food assistance. A UN Mission which visited Ingushetia in February found that considerable humanitarian assistance is needed over a broad spectrum of basic needs, including food, shelter, health, nutrition, water and sanitation. Some 355 000 people (including 185 000 IDPs and the balance members of host families) were found to need urgent food relief. Health remains a major problem in both Chechnya and Ingushetia, reflecting inadequate water and sanitation facilities. In Chechnya, the food outlook this year is poor, reflecting damage to infrastructure, livestock and the grape industry, and very limited availability of funds and inputs to restart production, as well as the need to first clear mines from arable land. The returning populations will need considerable humanitarian assistance in the coming months.
In the United States, conditions for the developing winter wheat crops and summer coarse grains planting improved significantly in late March following widespread rains in the main producing areas, where moisture had been greatly lacking throughout the winter months. Latest official estimates put winter wheat plantings at about 17.5 million hectares, virtually unchanged from the previous year's reduced area, while early indications for spring wheat plantings point to a 5 percent reduction in area to about 7.5 million hectares. FAO currently forecasts the aggregate 2000 wheat output in the United States at 60 million tonnes, about 4 percent down from 1999. Some early coarse grains crops are already in the ground in southern parts, but the bulk of the maize planting takes place from late April. Early indications point to a slight increase for maize plantings but a decline for sorghum. Planting of this season's rice crop is underway and the area is anticipated to decline due to low price prospects and high stock levels. In Canada, the bulk of the wheat and coarse grains crops are spring sown and the main sowing period is May-June. Early indications of farmers planting intentions point to a possible increase in wheat area at the expense of canola and flaxseed because of their relatively lower prices.
In Australia, planting of the main 2000 wheat and coarse grains crops is due to start in May. Widespread rains in March have already ensured good soil moisture availabilities for crop emergence and growth in the season to come. However, early official forecasts indicate a decline in wheat production to about 22.7 million tonnes after the 1999 record crop, based on a marginally reduced area this year and an average yield. By contrast, output of barley is expected to increase sharply in response to relatively better price prospects compared to other crops.