FAO GLOBAL INFORMATION AND EARLY WARNING SYSTEM ON FOOD AND AGRICULTURE

SPECIAL ALERT

No. 308

(Circulated only for countries where foodcropsor supply situation conditions give rise to concern)

Date: 11 May 2000

Millions of People Seriously Affected by Drought in Several Countries in the Near East and South Asia

As part of a wider climatic phenomenon that has adversely affected a number of countries in northern and eastern Africa, a serious drought has devastated crops and livestock in several countries in the Near East and South Asia. In addition to large livestock losses due to lack of water and feed, there are mounting concerns that the drought is now claiming a growing a number of human lives, as water and food become scarce. The latest situation by country is given below.

AFGHANISTAN

An already precarious food supply situation in Afghanistan, due to continued civil strife and reduced production last year, has been aggravated by an extended drought this year in much of the southern and central parts of the country. The worst affected areas are in the provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, Zabul and Helmand. Large numbers of people who have lost their rainfed wheat crop are in need of urgent food assistance. Many have migrated to urban centres in search of water and food. There have also been extensive losses of livestock, mainly in Kandahar and Zabul provinces, due to lack of water and feed.

In 1999, total cereal production was a reduced 3.24 million tonnes, about 16 percent below the previous year's harvest, due to a severe drought and an outbreak of pests. This resulted in a cereal import requirement, estimated at a record 1.1 million tonnes in 1999/2000 marketing year (July/June). With another drought this year, the import requirement is likely to be substantially higher. An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission is currently in the country to evaluate the overall food supply situation and estimate cereal import requirements for 2000/01, including food aid.

ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN

Following a devastating drought last year, which saw wheat production fall by over 3 million tonnes, or around 25 percent, compared to the previous year, a recurrence of widespread drought this year again threatens domestic food production. It is estimated that some 18 of the country's 28 provinces are affected, mostly in southern, eastern and central parts. Those hardest hit include Sistan-Baluchestan, Yazd, Fars, Kohkiluyeh Boyer-ahmad, Bushehr, Hormuzgan, Kerman and Khuzestan.

Although limited rainfall in late March brought some relief to crops in west-central parts, it was insufficient to improve overall prospects. The impact of this year's drought is likely to be exacerbated by already low water reserves in dams and reservoirs, following the severe water shortage last year. Moreover, the effects of the drought may be worse than last year, which was already the worst rainfall year in 30 years, as official reports indicate that the amount of rainfall in the seven months to April was some 25 percent down on the same period in 1998/99.

Consequently, current prospects suggest that wheat production may fall even below the 8.7 million tonnes officially estimated in 1999. Wheat is normally planted in October/November and harvested in June/July. In addition to wheat, the outlook is also unfavourable for barley, currently being harvested, which is of considerable importance in livestock production on which large segments of the population depend. This, in turn, will have a serious impact on vulnerable groups, particularly in rural areas, who have limited alternative sources of income and incurred heavy losses last year. Already many villagers have begun panic selling of livestock and are reportedly leaving their homes .

In 1999/2000 the country was one of the largest importers of wheat in the world, with imports reaching almost 7 million tonnes, similar to record imports of 1996/97, which was also affected by drought. Reduced production again this year means that imports in 2000/01, are likely to exceed those in 1999/2000.

The Government recently approved an emergency aid package for US$183 million to assist drought affected farmers.

IRAQ

A severe drought has substantially reduced cultivated area and adversely affected the 2000 cereal crops. Reports indicate that the Tigris and Euphrates rivers have dropped to about 20 percent of their average flow, seriously constraining irrigated production which constitutes more than 70 percent of cultivated area. In addition, serious shortages of essential agricultural inputs are also hindering normal production.

In 1999, similar drought conditions and widespread incidence of pests and weeds reduced cereal output by nearly 40 percent compared to the average for the previous five years. The effect on livestock, already weakened by foot and mouth disease, was also very serious.

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, to buy food, medicines and health supplies, and for emergency repairs to infrastructure. An FAO/WFP/WHO/UNICEF Food and Nutrition Assessment Mission is currently in the country to assess the food supply situation as well as nutrition and health conditions.

JORDAN

Prospects for the 2000 wheat and barley crops, for harvest in May/June, are poor due to a prolonged drought that delayed sowing. This is in the wake of the severe drought in 1999 that seriously affected cereal and horticultural crops, and resulted in a decline of 88 percent in aggregate wheat and barley output to only 13 000 tonnes. The livestock sector was also severely affected, with sheep farmers the hardest hit.

An Emergency Operation worth some US$4 million was jointly approved by FAO and WFP in July 1999 for food assistance to 180 000 affected people, for a period of eight months.

PAKISTAN

A serious drought has devastated the country's largest province, Baluchistan, in the west and Sindh Province in the south. The problem is expected to worsen as the monsoon season is several weeks away and little rain is forecast. The worst affected areas are reported to be around Tharparkar arid region, Kohistan and Kacho Districts of Sindh, Balochistan and Cholistan in Punjab. A number of these areas have not had appreciable rainfall in several years. As conditions worsen, out-migration is expected, especially from areas where food and water have become critically short. Various reports indicate that several hundred people have died as result of the drought and consequent shortages of food and water, whilst, in addition, several million livestock are in precarious condition.

Notwithstanding the devastation of the drought in north-western and southern provinces of the country and dry conditions in rainfed areas in the latter part of the wheat season, wheat production this year is still officially expected to be close to a record 20 million tonnes, around 2 million tonnes higher than 1999. About 85 percent of the wheat crop is irrigated, and although yields were affected by dry conditions and lack of assured irrigation in parts, particularly in Sindh province, wheat production in the main wheat producing province of Punjab, which accounts for around 75 percent of aggregate output, was favourable and above target. Due to favourable wheat production, imports in 2000/2001 are likely to decrease considerably compared to last year and are projected at around 1.5 million tonnes.

INDIA

A serious drought and a shortage of water and animal feed have led to the loss of several thousand livestock in several states in the country. In Gujarat, the worst drought in 100 years has left more than half the 18 000 villages with serious water shortages, affecting an estimated 10 million people. In addition, the majority of reservoirs in the north and western parts are reported to have become dry, whilst water levels in tubewells have dropped considerably. As a result, there are now reports of sizeable out-migration of people and livestock from the worst affected areas. Due to the poor monsoon, both Kharif (monsoon) and Rabi (winter) crop production in the state are likely to fall by around 30 percent. The largest decrease in production will be in rainfed coarse grains, groundnuts and lentils, which are expected to decline by 50 percent or more.

Other states affected by drought include Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. In Rajasthan cereal and oilseed production are expected to fall by 23 percent and 17 per cent respectively, whilst 26 of the total 32 districts are reported to be facing shortages of drinking water and food, as well as feed for cattle. In Madhya Pradesh, the problem appears to be comparatively less severe though 7 of the 45 districts, particularly those adjoining Rajasthan and Gujarat, have been affected. In Andhra Pradesh, 18 of the 23 districts have been affected, the worst being in Telengana and Rayalaseema regions. Border areas of Orissa state have also been affected. The adverse effects on production caused by drought are being exacerbated by the salination of agricultural areas caused by tidal waves following last year's devastating cyclone. As a result, there was no rabi crop this year and large numbers of the state's population continue to depend on food assistance provided by the Government.

From a national perspective, however, the drought is not expected to affect overall food production significantly as many of the areas affected do not lie in main grain production zones. Despite the drought, the 2000/01 wheat crop, which is largely irrigated and was recently harvested, is currently estimated at around 70 million tonnes, similar to last year's record crop. This is mainly due to higher output in main producing states (Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh), where weather conditions were generally favourable, off-setting the decline in drought affected states. In addition, the overall food situation remains favourable in view of sizeable stocks following favourable harvests in recent years. Government grain stocks are currently estimated at around 30 million tons, including 13.5 million tonnes of wheat.

This report is prepared on the responsibility of the FAO Secretariat with information from official and unofficial sources. Since conditions may change rapidly, please contact Mr. Abdur Rashid, Chief, ESCG, FAO, (Fax: 0039-06-5705-4495, E-Mail (INTERNET): GIEWS1@FAO.ORG ) for further information if required.

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