Food supply difficulties persist in many countries around the world, notwithstanding improved harvest prospects in parts. In eastern Africa, despite generally improved weather conditions, serious food shortages have emerged in western and southern Sudan due to drought, exacerbated by the long-running civil war.Kenya,Ethiopia, Eritrea and Tanzania are yet to fully recover from the effects of a recent severe drought. In the sub-region as a whole, an estimated 18 million people continue to need food assistance. In southern Africa, a combination of prolonged dry spells and excessive rains has adversely affected the 2001 food crops and aggregate cereal production is forecast to fall sharply. Severe floods in parts have contributed to the fall in production, besides displacing a large number of households and damaging infrastructure. In western Africa, parts of Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger are facing severe food shortages due to reduced harvests last year and the Governments have appealed for donor assistance.
In Asia, the food crisis in Afghanistan, following successive droughts and harsh winters and exacerbated by persistent civil conflict, is also of utmost concern. More than 3 million people need emergency food assistance. Serious food security concerns centre on Mongolia, which has suffered two successive severe winters with loss of millions of the all important livestock, and Korea DPR following a poor harvest last year and the coldest winter in 50 years. Elsewhere, overall wheat harvest prospects are unfavourable, with large falls in India and Pakistan following a severe drought, and in China as a result of significantly reduced plantings. In the CIS countries of central Asia, following drought-reduced harvests last year, particularly in Armenia, Georgia and Tajikistan, seed shortages have limited winter wheat sowings, thus slowing down the pace of recovery. Some 4 million people continue to need food assistance.
In Latin America, favourable growing conditions in the next few months will be crucial for crops in Central America and the Caribbean, which suffered a string of disasters in the last 12 months, including Hurricane "Keith", dry spells and earthquakes. Elsewhere, harvest prospects are generally favourable.
In Europe, prospects for the winter cereal crops remain unfavourable in the Balkan and eastern European countries where soil moisture deficiencies continue to be of great concern. In the EC, indications are that aggregate cereal area has fallen appreciably, reflecting a significant contraction in winter sown soft wheat area. In the CIS countries west of the Ural Mountains, the harvest outlook is markedly better than at the corresponding time last year.
In North America, wheat production in the United States could decline further this year after winter wheat plantings fell to their lowest level since 1971. In Canada, wheat and coarse grains crops are mostly sown in May/June but early indications point to some increase in planted areas compared to last year.
In eastern Africa, favourable secondary season cereal harvests in parts and forecasts of near-normal rainfall over most of eastern Africa for the period March-May 2001, have improved the food supply outlook. However, the effects of recent devastating droughts and past or ongoing civil strife and conflicts continue to undermine the food security of an estimated 18 million people.
In Kenya, the severe drought last year seriously undermined the food security of nearly 4.4 million people. The severe scarcity of water and pasture in northern and eastern parts that resulted in large livestock losses persist following the failure of the recent "short rains" season. In Eritrea, the food situation of more than 1.8 million people affected by war with neighbouring Ethiopia and drought remains precarious. Mass displacement of farmers from the agriculturally rich regions of Gash Barka and Debub, which account for more than 70 percent of cereal production, jeopardised the 2000 cropping season. The outlook for the 2001 agricultural season, which is about to start, is bleak as farmers are unable to return to their farms so far, and large tracts of land are inaccessible due to landmines. In Sudan, serious food shortages have emerged in western and southern parts due to drought, with the long-running civil war aggravating the situation by impeding rural households from cultivation. In Ethiopia, despite a favourable "meher" season harvest, some 6.5 million people affected by successive droughts and the war with neighbouring Eritrea, depend on food assistance. In Somalia, a satisfactory secondary ("deyr") season preceded by a favourable main ("gu") harvest has improved overall food prospects. Consequently, the number of people in need of food assistance has declined from 750 000 to 500 000. In Tanzania, the overall food supply situation has improved following harvests of the "short rains" crop. However, successive years of poor rainfall have seriously undermined food production in the northern and central regions of the country, necessitating food assistance for some 1.3 million people across 11 regions. In Uganda, the overall food supply situation is stable. However, food supply difficulties remain in Gulu, Kitgum and Bundibugyo mainly due to insecurity. An estimated 1.1 million IDPs, refugees, and drought-affected people rely on food assistance. In Burundi the food situation is difficult for 324 000 internally displaced people and for drought affected persons in the provinces of Karuzi, Gitega, Kayanza and Muyinga. In Rwanda, despite a satisfactory harvest in the first season of 2001, food assistance is required for 267 000 drought-affected people in southeastern provinces.
In southern Africa, harvesting of the 2001 cereal crops is about to start. The output is anticipated to decline sharply from the good harvest last year. This reflects lower plantings and yields caused by a mid-season dry spell followed by excessive rains and floods in several parts. The main maize crop is forecast at 13.5 million tonnes, 28 percent below last year and well below average. Reductions of over one-third in cereal productions are expected in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia due to adverse weather coupled with substantial declines in the areas planted. Maize outputs are also forecast to fall in Malawi and Zambia as a result of excessive precipitation during the season. In Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland, cereal harvests are likely to decrease or to remain around the poor levels of 2000. By contrast, in Mozambique, despite severe crop losses to floods in central parts, the 2001 cereal crop is forecast at about last year's good harvest.
Severe floods in February and March resulted in loss of life, displacement of large numbers of people, severe damage to transport infrastructure and serious crop losses in several countries. It is estimated that close to 1 million persons have been affected by the floods, including 563 000 in Mozambique, 346 000 in Malawi, 30 000 in Zimbabwe and 30 000 in Zambia. The Governments of these countries have appealed for food assistance for the worst affected populations. In Angola, the persistent civil war has resulted in 2.5 million internally displaced people and the number is on the increase. Emergency food assistance is required for 1.5 million of the displaced.
In northern Africa, harvest prospects are generally favourable for the 2001 cereal crops in the subregion. A strong recovery in output from last year's drought-reduced crop is anticipated, provided normal weather prevails in the coming months. In Algeria and Tunisia, despite delayed plantings in several areas because of insufficient precipitation at the beginning of the growing season, conditions have improved with widespread rains in January and February over major growing areas. In Morocco, rainfall has generally been abundant this year in most growing areas, with the exception of the sahelian zone of the country. Crops are reported to be in good condition and water reservoirs are being replenished. In Egypt, growing conditions are satisfactory for winter grains, which are largely irrigated.
In western Africa, seasonably dry conditions prevail in the Sahel. Prospects for off-season or flood recession crops in Mauritania and Senegal are less favourable than last year due to lower water levels in the Senegal River. Latest official estimates put the aggregate 2000 cereal production in the nine CILSS member countries at 8.9 million tonnes, about 21 percent below the record production in 1999 and 8 percent below the average of the past five years. Below-average harvests are estimated for Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger, while production was close to average in Mali and Mauritania, above average in Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau and Senegal, and a record in The Gambia. Subsidized or free food distributions to seriously affected populations are underway in Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger and the Governments have appealed to donors for assistance.
In the coastal countries along the Gulf of Guinea, the rainy season has started in Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Togo and planting is underway. In Guinea and Sierra Leone, recent fighting has affected agricultural and marketing activities and caused new population displacements, especially in and around the Parrot's Beak area, and has also disrupted relief programmes. In Liberia, planting of paddy starts in May with the arrival of the seasonal rains. However, the country still suffers from the effects of the past civil war. These three countries are heavily dependent on international food assistance.
In central Africa, the cropping season has started normally in Cameroon and Central African Republic, while above-normal rainfall was recorded in the Republic of Congo in early to mid-March. In the latter country, food production is progressively recovering following the past civil strife, and food assistance continues to be provided to the internally displaced people and refugees mainly from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Angola. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, civil conflict has resulted in an estimated 2 million internally displaced people. Their food and nutrition situation is extremely serious but distribution of humanitarian assistance is hampered by insecurity. The number of internally displaced people is currently estimated at 2 million.
In the Asia region, the main agricultural activities include winter season wheat production in the main producing countries of China, India and Pakistan and main season rice production in the southern hemisphere countries of Indonesia and Sri Lanka, where the crop is planted with the onset of the north east monsoon. Overall wheat prospects are unfavourable with a sharp decline expected, due to a significant fall in area planted in China and a severe drought in India and Pakistan. In China, current forecasts point to a winter wheat crop of around 92.5 million tonnes, some 500 000 tonnes below the drought-reduced crop last year, whilst output in India is expected to be some 5 to 7 million tonnes below last year's record crop of 75.5 million tonnes. Extensive drought in Pakistan will also result in a significantly lower wheat crop of around 17.5 million tonnes compared to the record 21 million tonnes produced in 2000. Elsewhere, prospects for recovery in this year's wheat crop in the Islamic Republic of Iran still remain uncertain, following two successive years of serious drought in 1999 and 2000 that saw production fall significantly. Main season rice prospects in Indonesia and Sri Lanka and dry season rice prospects in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam are generally satisfactory. The main food security concerns in the Asia region centre on Mongolia and Korea DPR which experienced severe winter conditions earlier in the year, exacerbating chronic food problems amongst vulnerable groups and in parts of north western and central India and Pakistan where successive drought has resulted severe food and water shortages.
In several countries of the Near East, a prolonged severe drought followed by a harsh winter in parts has affect the livelihood of millions of people. In Afghanistan, freezing temperatures have caused loss of life and exacerbated the very serious food crisis that has emerged following two consecutive years of drought and continuing civil conflict. The drought has seriously affected crops and livestock across the country, leaving more than 3 million people in urgent need of assistance. In Iraq, two years of drought have seriously reduced food production, while in Jordan the drought has severely affected crops and pastures, leaving thousands of herders in need of assistance.
In the eight CIS countries in Asia, the overall outlook for the 2001 cereal harvests will be influenced by prospects in Kazakhstan, the major producer, where the bulk of cereals are not sown until May. The early outlook for winter cereals is mixed. Following the drought reduced crops of 2000, seed shortages have limited the areas that could be sown with winter wheat in several countries, notably Armenia, Georgia and Tajikistan. The area sown to winter cereals increased further in Azerbaijan, but winter precipitation in the Caucasus region has been below normal and inadequate to recharge moisture reserves for sustained plant growth and irrigation water supplies. Good precipitation is needed in April-May and beyond if spring crop sown areas and yields are to develop normally, let alone compensate for reduced winter wheat areas. Elsewhere, in Asian CIS countries, heavy snowfall this winter has helped to recharge moisture supplies. In Uzbekistan the latest indications are that the area sown to winter wheat may have remained stable. In Turkmenistan, by contrast, the area sown increased further and the production target has been raised beyond last year's record output of 1.8 million tonnes.
The current outlook is for a somewhat larger aggregate cereal harvest of about 22 million tonnes, roughly 1 million tonnes more than in 2000, mainly due to expected growth in output in Turkmenistan, a recovery in Uzbekistan, and a stable output in Kazakhstan. Most of the increase would be in wheat production but rice production could recover in Uzbekistan. Cereal production in Armenia, Georgia and Tajikistan could remain below average for the second year in succession.
In the drought affected low-income food deficit countries of the CIS - notably Armenia, Georgia and Tajikistan - some 4 million people continue to require international relief assistance. Moreover, a significant recovery in food production this year will require further assistance with the provision of inputs. In Azerbaijan, despite an improved harvest, access to adequate food remains a problem for the poorest segments of the population. In northern Uzbekistan vulnerable populations in Karakalpakstan have suffered heavy crop and income losses due to drought and need relief.
In Central America and the Caribbean, planting of first season coarse grain crops is progressing under generally dry weather conditions. Favourable conditions in the next few months will be crucial for crops in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua to recover from the damage caused by last year's natural disasters which affected not only food crops but also important export crops including coffee and sugar cane. No early signs of "El Niño" are being reported, and a normal rainy season is forecast for the subregion. In Mexico, dry weather conditions in Sonora during January and February did not favour the development of wheat crops, and the harvest, which is now underway, is now forecast to be slightly below the 3.3 million tonnes projected earlier in the year.
In South America, thanks to a bumper maize crop, aggregate cereal output in 2001 is forecast to increase by 4 percent relative to last year. Abundant rains throughout the summer over cereal growing areas of MERCOSUR (Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay) boosted the development of maize and sorghum. Scattered showers in Northeast Brazil are currently favouring the early development of second season maize crops (zafrinha). Harvest of first season maize crops has started in Brazil, and the forecast 34 million tonnes are expected to transform the country into a net exporter for the first time. Conversely, maize output in Argentina is expected to fall slightly due to a reduction in the area planted. Harvesting of paddy crops has also started in MERCOSUR, and total output is expected to decrease some 4 per cent from last year due to depressed prices following a fall in demand from Brazil. In Bolivia, the international community is assisting local communities affected by heavy rains that have been falling since January. Damage by localized floods and mudslides to crops, including maize, beans and potatoes, has been reported. Heavy rains are also causing localized damage to cereal crops in central Chile and coastal areas of Ecuador.
Latest indications continue point to an overall reduction in the EC's cereal area for the 2001 harvest, largely reflecting a significant contraction in the winter sown soft wheat area. As a result, the 2001 cereal output is forecast to decline from the previous year's bumper level. Prospects for the winter cereal crops remain unfavourable throughout the Balkan countries where soil moisture deficit continues to be the main concern. Romania, Bulgaria and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) remain the countries most affected with their cumulative rainfalls for the December-February period reported to be, respectively, 60 percent, 50 percent and 20 percent below normal. The dry conditions have been exacerbated by generally warmer than normal temperatures. Further north, rainfall has been more frequent and regular in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. Although snowcover has been limited in many areas, mild temperatures have meant little risk of frost kill among the winter grains
In the CIS countries west of the Ural Mountains, (Belarus, Moldova, Russian Federation and Ukraine), the outlook is markedly better than at the corresponding time last year, particularly in Ukraine. A larger output is likely, in response to good growing conditions and soil moisture reserves to date in most areas of the Russian Federation and Ukraine and an expected increase in the aggregate area to be sown to cereals. The aggregate area sown to winter crops has increased by up to 2 million hectares and the bulk of crops are in good to satisfactory condition. At this early stage, the outlook is for aggregate 2001 cereal output to increase by 10 million tonnes to some 109 million tonnes, provided growing conditions remain normal until the completion of the harvests.
In Belarus, the 2001 cereal harvest could increase somewhat beyond the 4.4 million tonnes harvested in 2000 despite persistent economic problems. In Moldova, also some recovery from the 2000 drought reduced level of 2 million tonnes is likely, given normal weather. In the Russian Federation, the area sown to winter crops increased to 14.7 million hectares and the spring crop area is also expected to expand reflecting good demand for cereals and good soil moisture reserves. In the Ukraine, in contrast to the past two years, the early outlook for cereal crops is favourable. The area sown to winter crops has increased, for cereals by up to 1.4 million hectares and crop condition is satisfactory overall. Soil moisture reserves have been replenished in all areas except the south and spring plantings are also expected to increase. Floods in Zarkapatia have led to loss of life and shelter, but their effect on the aggregate crops is likely to be limited. Grain production could increase by 7 million tonnes to nearly 30 million tonnes.
In the Baltic countries, (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) overwintering conditions have been mostly satisfactory to date. The 2000 cereal harvest recovered sharply in all three countries, reaching 4.2 million tonnes compared to 3.3 million tonnes in 1999, mainly due to better yields. Output in Lithuania increased by 0.6 million tonnes to 2.6 million tonnes, while in Latvia and Estonia cereal production increased by 0.1 million tonnes to 0.9 and 0.6 million tonnes respectively. Precipitation in the Balkan countries has generally been below normal this cropping year and inadequate to recharge soil moisture reserves.
In the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, (Serbia and Montenegro), the outlook for the 2001 cereal harvests is clouded by the effects of the persistent drought. Economic problems on farm and critical shortages of fertilizer are also likely to undermine yields. Output could recover somewhat from last year's poor 5.4 million tonnes but could remain below average. In Croatia, also, the outlook for the 2001 wheat crop is uncertain due to a reduction in the area sown to wheat and tight moisture supplies. In Bosnia Herzegovina, soil moisture supplies are also short.
In the Russian Federation, the cropping outlook in Chechnya is not good. Persons displaced and/or left homeless as a result of conflict, both in Chechnya and in surrounding republics continue to need assistance. Conditions in the winter months are particularly difficult. In the Balkans also, vulnerable populations in Yugoslavia Fed. Rep. and surrounding countries continue to need assistance.
Wheat output in the United States could decline further this year after winter wheat plantings fell to their lowest level since 1971. Early prospects for spring wheat plantings also point to an area reduction and overall output in 2001 is tentatively forecast at about 60 million tonnes, about 1 percent down from 2000. Early indications for spring coarse grain planting point to 4 percent reduction in maize plantings but a 2 percent increase for sorghum. Rice area is expected to expand by 4.2 percent. In Canada, wheat and coarse grains crops are mostly sown in May/June. Early indications of planting intentions point to some increase in the wheat and coarse grains areas compared to the previous year.
Planting of the main 2001 wheat and coarse grains crops in Australia is due to start in May. Early official forecasts point to an increase in the wheat and barley areas. Harvest of the minor 2001 summer coarse grains crop is underway and output is down due to dry conditions at planting time. The 2001 rice harvest has started sooner than expected due to good weather during the maturation period. In the Solomon Islands, a large number of the estimated 50 000 people that had been forced out of their homes during the civil conflict remain displaced. These internally displaced as well as returnees are striving for basic needs such as food, drinking water and shelter. In addition to the collapse of the national economy and essential services, recent heavy rains have aggravated conditions for people living on subsistence agriculture. In Tonga, cyclone "Paula" in early March caused damage to property and infrastructure and some localized damage to crops.