Although the overall food situation in all regions of the world is generally better than it was at this time last year, the outlook for some gives cause for concern. In Africa, there have been significant falls in food production in southern Africa, in nearly all countries, principally due to a mid-season prolonged dry spell, but also due to localised floods and reductions in plantings in parts. Total production of maize, the main staple food of the sub-region, declined by 25 percent compared to last year and 18 percent compared to the average of the past five years. As a result, the food supply situation in most countries is tight, and a significant increase in import requirements is forecast for 2001/02. In eastern Africa, the food outlook is generally favourable, except in Somalia, Sudan and Eritrea where a combination of natural and man-made disasters have disrupted food production. Elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, harvest prospects are generally favourable in western and central Africa, except in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone, where civil strife continues to destabilise rural populations.
In Asia, torrential monsoon rains and typhoons have caused considerable loss of crops and livestock and seriously damaged property and infrastructure in a number of countries, mainly in China, India, Indonesia, Cambodia, and Thailand. Korea DPR suffered a severe spring drought that cut maize production significantly, adding to the persistent food problems the country has been facing over the past several years. Western China has also been hit by drought. In the Near East, the impact of the severe drought that has plagued the sub-region for the past three consecutive years continues to be felt, particularly by small farmers and herders in Jordan, Iraq, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Syria. An already grave food security situation in Afghanistan due to prolonged drought and continuing civil strife is set to deteriorate should the threat of military action materialise. Fresh waves of population displacements currently underway are swelling the ranks of IDPs and refugees, exposing them to extreme hardship. With starvation facing millions of people, the issue of life-saving will pose a serious challenge to the international community in the coming months.
In the CIS countries, food supply difficulties persist particularly in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Armenia due to drought and exceptionally hot weather last spring, a crucial planting period. Acute water shortages are also reported.
In Latin America, hopes of a recovery from the effects of recent disasters, including hurricanes, droughts, floods and earthquakes, have been dimmed, as the current season has not performed well due to dry spells, especially in Central America. In South America, by contrast, harvest prospects are generally favourable due to good growing weather conditions.
In Europe, cereal harvest prospects are generally favourable as growing conditions have been close to normal, while in North America wheat production in the United States is forecast to fall by around 10 percent from last year due to a decline in plantings. In Canada, cereal yield prospects have deteriorated over the past two weeks due to drought in the main producing areas, while in Australia, a decline of 5 percent in wheat production is forecast, reflecting dry conditions early in the season.
In eastern Africa, abundant rains in July and August generally improved prospects for the 2001 cereal crops. However, severe floods, erratic rains and escalation of conflict in parts have dimmed earlier optimism of an overall strong recovery from the impact of the recent prolonged severe drought in the sub-region. Over the last three years, successive poor rains in most pastoral areas of the sub-region have severely affected pastures and livestock, resulting in acute food shortages and the migration of thousands of people in search of water and food. Past or ongoing civil conflicts have also seriously disrupted food production and distribution in some areas, causing food shortages and population displacements. In Sudan, extensive floods in parts have displaced tens of thousands of people, destroyed crops and aggravated the already precarious food supply situation in the affected areas. Heavy rains in the Blue Nile catchment areas of the Ethiopian highlands have left many villages and settlements submerged. The worst affected areas are northern and eastern parts along the Nile, including areas around the capital city Khartoum. Parts of Darfur and Kordofan States have also suffered from flash floods due to torrential rains. The number of people in need of urgent food assistance, estimated at some 3 million earlier in the year due to drought and/or civil war, is set to increase with current floods. In Somalia, an estimated 500 000 people face severe food difficulties due to poor 2001 main season crops. Despite the good harvests in the last two cropping seasons, slow recovery from a succession of droughts in recent years and long-term effects of years of insecurity have undermined households' ability to withstand shocks. In Eritrea, despite good main season rains from June, the food outlook in 2001 remains bleak with large numbers of the displaced farmers unable to return to their farms and large tracts of land still inaccessible due to landmines. The slow response to humanitarian appeals is also a major concern with only a small fraction of the Government's appeal met so far. In Kenya, despite an overall improvement in food supply, inadequate rains in May and June, particularly in pastoral districts, have dimmed hopes of recovery from the effects of the recent devastating drought. In Ethiopia, abundant rains in major agricultural areas preceded by favourable short rains "belg" crop, have significantly improved the food supply situation. However, severe food shortages and unseasonable migration of people and livestock are reported in the in pastoral areas in the south-eastern parts of the country due to persistent drought. In Tanzania and Uganda, the overall food supply situation is adequate following recent good harvests and improved pastures. However, food difficulties remain in parts, due to localised drought conditions and/or insecurity.
In southern Africa, the 2001 cereal production is estimated at 19.7 million tonnes, 18 percent below last year. This includes a forecast of the 2001 wheat crop, about to be harvested. Latest estimates of the main staple maize indicate a crop of 13.3 million tonnes, a decline of 25 percent from 2000 and 18 percent below the average of the past five years. Production was affected by a decline in the area planted and a prolonged mid-season dry spell that sharply reduced yields. Maize output declined in all countries, with the exception of Angola, Mozambique and Madagascar. As a result, the food supply situation is tight in the sub-region with sharp increases in maize prices and food shortages emerging in parts. Import requirements in marketing year 2001/02 (April/March) have increased significantly. In some countries actual imports are anticipated to be below requirements and consumption is likely to fall below normal levels, particularly affecting the most vulnerable groups in the population. Exportable maize surpluses in South Africa that normally cover deficits in the sub-region may not be sufficient this year and imports from overseas could be necessary. FAO's preliminary estimates put import needs of the sub-region (excluding South Africa), close to 1.4 million tonnes. Combined export availability from Mozambique and South Africa, after a significant drawn-down of stocks, is projected at 1.37 million tonnes. Although at this level exportable surpluses fall only slightly short of the requirements, much will depend on the desired level of closing stocks in South Africa at the end of the marketing year, as well as its export commitments to other countries elsewhere in the world. A possible rise in the projected imports of countries of the sub-region, in order to replenish reserves, could result in a higher deficit. Food difficulties are already being reported in areas affected by a poor harvest, for example in Zambia which has appealed for food assistance for 2 million people, and in southern provinces of Mozambique and parts of Zimbabwe and Malawi. In Angola, there is concern about the prospective food situation of large numbers of IDPs due to shortages in the food aid pipeline. In Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland, anticipated food shortages in marketing year 2001/02, if not fully met by commercial imports, are likely to affect the food security of the vulnerable groups in rural and urban areas. Concern about the looming food supply difficulties in several countries led to a special meeting of SADC Ministers of Agriculture at the end of August in Harare to discuss short and medium term strategies to deal with the situation.
In northern Africa, harvesting of the sub-region's 2001 winter crops has been completed while the maize and the irrigated paddy crops in Egypt are presently being harvested. Aggregate cereal output is provisionally estimated at 28.1 million tonnes, which is much above last year's drought affected crop of 24.4 million tonnes, and slightly below the five-year average of 27.9 million tonnes. In Algeria, wheat and barley production in 2001 nearly double the 2000 output, but lower than initially expected as a result of dry weather conditions at the grain filling stage. In Egypt, wheat output is estimated at 6.3 million tonnes, close to last year's record production of 6.6 million tonnes. Maize and paddy crops are being harvested and above-average outputs are forecast. In Morocco, wheat production is anticipated to be above average at 3.3 million tonnes, and more than double last year's drought affected crop. Barley output this year also increased substantially from 2000 production but remained below average because of lower plantings caused by inadequate rainfall, particularly in the central and eastern parts of the country. In Tunisia, aggregate wheat and barley outputs increased by some 15 percent from last year's drought affected crops, but production is below average as a result of a dry spell which affected some of the producing areas in the centre and south.
In western Africa, the rainy season started generally on time in the coastal countries of western Africa. Most countries received abundant rains in April and May permitting satisfactory crop development. Harvesting of first planted maize crop is completed in the south and overall crop prospects are generally favourable. Cereal output in Sierra Leone is expected to exceed last year's level due to increased planted areas and improved input distribution. In Guinea, the security situation remained relatively stable throughout the country. Refugees continue to arrive from Liberia into the eastern parts of the country. In the Sahel, rainfall was widespread and abundant in the eastern and southern parts in July and August, but irregular and below normal up to mid-August in the west over Gambia, Mauritania and Senegal. However, it improved significantly in September. Harvest prospects are favourable in Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea Bissau, Mali and Niger reflecting generally good growing conditions since July. In The Gambia, Mauritania and Senegal, crop conditions improved following increased rains in late August/early September but more rains are still needed to allow late plantings to mature.
In central Africa, crops are generally developing satisfactorily in Central African Republic and Cameroon. In the Republic of Congo, food production is recovering following the peace agreement, but food assistance is still necessary for refugees and internally displaced persons. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), insecurity has worsened in the eastern parts in recent weeks, particularly in South Kivu Province. The number of IDPs, already estimated at over 2 million, is increasing. While access to IDPs has improved in Government-controlled areas, it remains virtually impossible in rebel-held areas due to persistent insecurity.
Heavy monsoon rains and typhoons brought landslides and heavy floods in July/August in a number of countries in the region. In China, typhoons "Durian"and "Utor"in early July triggered extensive flooding in the southern provinces of Guyangdong and Guangxi Zhuang, affecting harvest of the summer paddy crop, while "Fitow", at the end of August, brought torrential rains again to the southern province of Guangdong as well as Hainan, causing damage to rice and sugarcane crops. In Cambodia, torrential monsoon rains and flooding mainly along the Mekong River in August, in the wake of a most severe dry month of July, caused a number of casualties and left over 700 000 people homeless. In India, above-normal monsoon rains have resulted in heavy flooding, particularly in the states of Orissa and Bihar, where millions of people have been affected and tens of thousands of homes seriously damaged or destroyed. Rice fields have been swamped and crops destroyed. In Indonesia, unusually heavy off-season rains in August resulted in floods and landslides, sweeping away villages and forcing thousands to flee to safer places. Thousands of hectares of farmland have been submerged by the flood waters. In Korea DPR, adverse weather and economic problems continue to undermine the country's food security. In early August, a combination of heavy rains and inadequate drainage systems resulted in floods in South Hwanghea, one of the country's main rice-producing areas. In Mongolia, the combined effect of two consecutive severe winters and adjustment problems associated with transition from centrally-planned to market-based agriculture has increased dependency on international food assistance.
In the Near East, three consecutive years of drought have severely reduced food production, with particularly sharp falls in Afghanistan, Jordan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq and Syria. In Afghanistan, the drought and persistent civil strife have resulted in a very serious food crisis. Nearly 6 million people depend on international food assistance. A joint FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission which visited the country in May 2001 forecast 2001/02 cereal import requirement at an unprecedented level of about 2.2 million tonnes. The already grave food supply situation in the country is set to deteriorate should the threat of military action materialize. Fresh waves of population displacements are currently underway, exposing the increasing number of IDPs and refugees to extreme hardship. The evacuation of the staff of the international aid agencies from the country will have very serious implications for the food security of large numbers of vulnerable people. In the Islamic Republic of Iran, the extended drought has caused widespread water shortages and devastated crops and livestock. Although the drought this year affected fewer regions, its impact on the food supply situation and people's livelihoods has been far greater in some communities. Recent serious floods have exacerbated food shortages in parts. In Iraq, Jordan and Syria the three-year drought has seriously reduced crop and livestock production, leaving thousands of herders in need of assistance. Overall, the outlook is bleak for livestock producers in the region, as livestock mortality rates have increased due to a shortage of fodder and water. This will have serious repercussions particularly in countries where livestock and livestock products constitute an important export and/or provide a livelihood to large segments of the population.
In the Asian CIS countries, except Kazakhstan, food supply remains very tight and many people face severe food shortages throughout the region. Drought, severe water shortages and exceptionally hot weather conditions during the crucial spring and summer cropping seasons have once again compromised crop production. In addition, agriculture structural problems and dilapidated irrigation systems have accentuated the impact of drought and water shortages on crop production. The worst affected countries are Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and to a lesser extent, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Georgia. In the first two countries where in some areas crop production has declined to nearly half the average production levels, large numbers of people require emergency food assistance. Most of the grazing land and pastures in the region are completely dry and destocking of livestock continues at an alarming rate. In Kazakhstan, however, the forecast is for a satisfactory grain production (11.7 million tonnes), which is slightly above target but below the production levels prior to 1995.
In Central America and the Caribbean, the rainy season started with abundant rains in May, and a bumper harvest was needed for the sub-region to recover from the shortfall caused by natural disasters in recent years. However, the earlier expectations of a 13 percent increase in aggregate cereal output over last year's drought-reduced crop were dampened by a dry spell in June and July. The countries most affected, including Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, are traditionally net importers of maize and beans, and their cereal import requirements, including food aid, are expected to remain at last year's high volume of 2.3 million tonnes. This would maintain per capita consumption at last year's level, but additional imports would be needed to improve the nutritional status of the undernourished population. Current estimates suggest an aggregate cereal output of 2.4 million tonnes for these countries, some 8 percent lower than the last five-year average.
In South America, wheat planting has finished in the MERCOSUR countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) and aggregate production is forecast to increase 14 percent following increased plantings and favourable winter weather conditions. Maize production in Brazil has been revised upwards following a good second season crop, and 2001 output is expected to reach 41 million tonnes, a 20 percent increase over last year. In the Andean Countries, crops and the irrigation system of an estimated 60 000 small farms in Peru were affected by a powerful earthquake and tidal waves in June. In Ecuador, an estimated 20 000 people were evacuated and thousands of cattle died in August following the eruption of volcano Tungurahua. In Colombia, a recent UN inter-agency mission concluded that the displaced population is in urgent need of protection and humanitarian assistance.
In the EC, aggregate 2001 cereal production is set to fall by about 5 percent from last year to 204 million tonnes. Wheat accounts for all of the decrease, with output falling to an estimated 92.6 million tonnes, while coarse grains output is estimated to remain virtually unchanged at 109 million tonnes. The 2001 cereal crops in central and eastern European countries have generally recovered from the drought-reduced crop last year after weather conditions returned closer to normal. Conditions have been particularly favourable in the northern countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic, but further to the south harvesting of the winter wheat crop was disrupted in several parts of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Hungary and Romania due to excessive rainfall in June. The summer rainfall was, however, beneficial for the spring-planted maize crop.
In the four European CIS countries (Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova), harvesting is proceeding at a significantly faster rate than 2000 and the prospects are for a satisfactory harvest this year. In Russia, grain output is set to reach 74 million tonnes some 3 million tonnes higher than the relatively good harvest in 2000. In Ukraine grain production is likely to recover from a poor harvest of 23 million tonnes in 2000 to more than 31 million tonnes this year. FAO tentatively forecasts grain output in Belarus to reach about 5 million tonnes, about 200 000 tonnes higher than last year but still slightly below average production levels.
In the Baltics, the agricultural sector is slowly recovering from previous economic shocks and readjustment process. Grain production is generally satisfactory and above average. The livestock sub-sector is also slowly recovering while stocks generally remain below average.
In the Balkans (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina), the prospects are for a sharp recovery from a poor harvest the previous year. Cereal production in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, in particular, has surpassed last year's poor harvest by more than 3.6 million tonnes reaching some 8.8 million tonnes. In Croatia cereal output is seen to reach more than 3 million tonnes this year, some 500 000 tonnes higher than 2000. Floods and hail in May affected northern parts of Bosnia Herzegovina and the adjacent parts of Republica Serbska. FAO, therefore, estimates cereal production to remain similar to the drought-affected poor harvest of the preceding year (1 million tonnes).
In North America, total wheat production in the United States in 2001 is estimated at 54 million tonnes, some 10 percent down from the previous year and well below average, mostly reflecting a further decline in plantings to the smallest area since 1971. As of early September the winter wheat planting for the 2002 crop was just getting underway in some southern states, while the maize harvest was just starting in the corn belt. Maize output is now forecast at about 235 million tonnes, 7 percent down from 2000. In Canada, harvesting of the main 2001 cereal crops is underway as of August. Yield prospects have deteriorated over the past few weeks due to drought in the main producing areas. Latest official estimates now put the aggregate wheat output in 2001 at 21.5 million tonnes, 20 percent down from last year's good crop and below average, despite a similar area sown.
The 2001 winter grain crops in Australia are still in the development stage with harvesting due to get underway in October/November. Favourable rains in July and August improved prospects for the winter wheat but reflecting dry conditions earlier, which hampered early development of the crop, and a slight area reduction, output of wheat is now forecast at just over 20 million tonnes, about 5 percent down from last year and slightly below the average of the past five years. In the Pacific Islands, heavy monsoon rains have damaged crops in Papua New Guinea, while dry conditions have reportedly caused water shortages in Samoa.