As of August 2003, the number of countries facing serious food shortages throughout the world stands at 38, with 23 in Africa, 8 in Asia, 5 in Latin America and 2 in Europe. In many of these countries the food shortages are compounded by the impact of the HIV-AIDS pandemic on food production, marketing, transport and utilization. The recently published joint FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessments highlight this factor (http://www.fao.org/giews/english/fs/fstoc.htm).
In eastern Africa, harvesting of the 2003 main season crops is underway in southern parts of the sub-region while in northern parts crops are at varying stages of development. In Kenya and Tanzania cereal outputs are expected to be lower than last year reflecting late onset and/or erratic rainfall. In Uganda the outlook is mixed while in Somalia, although lower than last year, an above average crop is anticipated. In Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan, improved rainfall conditions were reported but it is too early to have a clearer picture. Serious and widespread food shortages persist in Eritrea due to last year’s drought, poverty and the lingering effects of the war with Ethiopia. About 2.3 million people are now reportedto be facing severe food shortages. Of these, about 1.4 million were reported to be drought affected. Similarly in Ethiopia severe food shortages continue to be reported in various parts of the country, but is most severe in southern Ethiopia, due to a poor crop last year and extensive chronic poverty. A recent multi-agency assessment indicated that the number of people in need of food assistance is now about 13.2 million compared to the earlier figure of 12.5 million. In Tanzania, prolonged drought conditions in several parts of the country have affected large number of households with an estimated 1.9 million people in need of food assistance. In Uganda, the humanitarian situation in northern and eastern parts continued to worsen due to escalation of conflict. Recent fighting between Government forces and rebels has displaced more than 820 000 people bringing the total number in need of emergency assistance to more than 1.6 million people.
In southern Africa, the 2003 cereal output is estimated at 21.5 million tonnes, slightly higher than the previous year. This reflects a decline in the largest producer South Africa, more than compensated by a recovery in other countries of the sub-region which were affected by poor crops in the previous two years. While there is a general improvement in the food security situation, substantial amounts of food aid are still required, mainly in Zimbabwe where the number of needy population is estimated at 5.5 million, but also in southern provinces of Mozambique, for returnees populations in Angola and in areas affected by localized crop losses and household vulnerability caused by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
In the Great Lakes region, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), harvesting of the 2003 second season food crops is underway in eastern and north-eastern parts. However, favourable growing conditions notwithstanding, production is expected to be sharply reduced following the escalation of the civil war in these areas, mainly in Ituri District. The UN Security Council authorised in late May the deployment of a 1 500 strong multinational emergency force to Bunia, the main town in Ituri. In mid-June, FAO and WFP jointly approved an Emergency Operation to assist 483 000 worst affected in the northern and eastern parts of the country, including the internally displaced, returnees from neighbouring countries and vulnerable groups. The operation is for a period of six months starting mid-June 2003, and is to provide 32 236 tonnes of cereals and 9 934 tonnes of beans. In Burundi, harvesting of the 2003 second season foodcrops, mainly sorghum and beans, is well advanced. A good bean crop is anticipated in the main growing regions of Kirundo, Muyinga and Ruyigi, where prices of beans have declined by about half with the arrival of the new harvest into the markets. However, in other regions, the late planted bean and sorghum crops were damaged by excessive rains and hail in May and by insufficient rains earlier in the season. Provinces worst affected by localized crop losses are Kirundo, Muyinga, Karuzi, Cankuzo, Makamba, Mwaro, Kayanza and Muramvya. Food aid is being provided to populations affected by the escalation of the civil conflict in April and May. In Rwanda, harvesting of the 2003 second season food crops, mainly sorghum and beans, is underway. A satisfactory harvest is anticipated following abundant rains in late April and May, which improved conditions for crops previously affected by erratic precipitation. Production of Irish potatoes and bananas is also expected to be normal. However, reduced crops have been harvested in the Bugesera Region, where rains were insufficient and the food situation is likely to deteriorate in the coming months. Localized crop losses are also reported in parts of Rukara District in Umutara province.
In central Africa, the food security is still precarious in Central African Republic, and food production is not expected to increase this year due to reduced planting and seed shortages, following population displacement.
In northern Africa, harvesting of the 2003 winter cereal crops has been virtually completed. Normal to abundant rains over the main producing areas at planting and well distributed throughout the development period have significantly benefited the crops. Aggregate cereal output in 2003 is provisionally estimated at a record of about 35 million tonnes, an important increase from 2002 when an average 28 million tonnes were collected. Production of wheat, the main cereal, is estimated at 16.7 million tonnes, which compares to an average 12.1 million tonnes harvested in 2002. The increase in wheat production was particularly noticed in Algeria, where an increase of 100 per cent with respect to 2002 is observed, in Morocco, where the increase reached 60 per cent, and in Tunisia where production almost tripled from the 2002 level. A slightly above-average wheat output was harvested in Egypt.
In west Africa, with erratic and generally below average rainfall so far in most coastal countries along the Gulf of Guinea, the outlook for the 2003 crops is generally unfavourable. Prospects for the main season crops have been damaged by extended dry weather over most of Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. In the Sahel, early crop prospects are generally uncertain in Senegal reflecting limited rains in parts and Guinea-Bissau due to large scale grasshopper attacks. By contrast, in the eastern and the central parts of the Sahel, weather conditions have been favourable so far with widespread and quite regular rains over most of Chad, Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali. In Mauritania, where the onset of rains has provided some relief to pastoralists, emergency food aid distributions and subsidized sales of wheat have improved the food situation in the worst-hit regions. In Côte d’Ivoire, the food situation remains critical, particularly in the west and the rebel-controlled north. In Liberia, an alarming humanitarian situation has emerged after fighting in Monrovia, where hundreds of thousands of people have sought refuge in almost 100 temporary shelters in the city including churches, schools, stadiums, etc, without running water or food. In this country, intensified fighting has disrupted the current agricultural season and displaced thousands of families, pointing to a further drop in rice production this year, and hence increased food aid needs.
In Asia, several countries have been affected by tropical storms, typhoons, floods and drought. Hundreds of people were killed and hundreds of thousands have been displaced. Standing crops were also affected significantly. In China, central, eastern, and southern regions suffered from the worst floods since 1991, affecting tens of millions of residents and inundating several million hectares of farmland. More than 3.5 million people have been reported homeless. On the other hand, eight provinces in southern China are also suffering from drought, affecting millions of people and damaging large area of crops. In Indonesia, rice fields have suffered from severe drought this year and more than 10 000 hectares were affected. In the Philippines, typhoon Imbudo hit vast agricultural lands in northern Luzon and the estimated damage to maize is put at 446 000 tonnes. In India, monsoon, though late, brought heavy rainfall to the north-eastern states, mainly Assam and Bihar, affecting some 2.5 million people. In Bangladesh, some 45 000 people have been displaced and many summer rice seedbeds have been destroyed. Mongolia suffered from worst flooding since 1982 this year killing people and devastating crops and property.
In the Near East, the outlook for the 2003 crop production is generally favourable. In Iraq, the harvesting season is complete. An FAO/WFP Crop, Food Supply and Nutrition Assessment Mission has completed its field work and the report is under preparation.
In the Asian CIS, aggregate cereal harvest this year is 13 percent down on last year’s harvest. Unusually cold winter and dry spring compromised cereal crops in Kazakhstan, Georgia and Armenia, while the weather proved favourable for crops in the rest of the region. Coarse grains have fared better than the wheat crop. Many of the governments in the region have made concerted efforts to increase food production at the expense of cotton, the main industrial crop in Central Asia.
In Afghanistan the prospects are for a record cereal harvest this year, owing to improved precipitation and larger than average areas under cereal cultivation. However, access to food will remain an issue for a large number of vulnerable households.
In Central America and the Caribbean harvesting of the 2003/04 first season cereal and bean crops is about to start. The outlook is good in Central American countries, as the total area planted to maize (the main cereal) is estimated as average; however, production will largely depend upon the intensity of the rains in the weeks ahead, which are forecast to be typical of the ongoing hurricane season. Average to above-average maize outputs are tentatively forecast for El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Despite the favourable forecast, food assistance from the international community will continue to be provided until February 2006 in these particular countries (World Food Programme’s Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation 10212.0) to families affected by the natural disasters of the past 5 years and recurrent economic shocks. The assistance will be focused on affected women and children and should also contribute improve household food supply. In Mexico, planting of the important spring/summer maize crop continues for harvesting from October. A slightly above-average output is early forecast. In the Caribbean, harvesting of the 2003/04 first season rainfed coarse grain crops is underway in Haiti, Dominican Republic and Cuba. Average to above-average ouputs, particularly in the second country, are expected provided normal weather conditions prevail. In Haiti, food assistance will be distributed to farmers affected by recurrent droughts, particularly in the north-western areas.
In South America,planting of the 2003 wheat crop is still underway in some countries, while harvesting of the 2003 maize crops has been completed in the southern areas. In Argentina, soil moisture deficits in the main producing areas have delayed planting of the 2003 wheat crop. Sowing should be completed in the days ahead and production is early forecast at 14.5 million tonnes, which compares to the low 12.3 million tonnes collected in 2002. The anticipated increase is due to a more intensive use of fertilizer. Maize output collected in 2003 has increased from the 14.7 million tonnes harvested the year before, and an average of some 15 million tonnes to 15.5 million tonnes of maize are provisionally estimated. In Brazil, wheat plantings have been only completed and production is forecast at a high 4.74 million tonnes, while maize output collected has been a record 45.8 million tonnes. The increase is largely the result of the government’s production incentive programme to help reduce the country reliance on imports. In Chile, planting of the wheat crop has been also recently completed and a slightly above-average area planted is reported. In Uruguay, sowing of the 2003 wheat crop still continues. Intended wheat plantings should be below average. In Paraguay, planting of the 2003 wheat crop, which had been disrupted because of severe dry weather, has been recently completed and an average output is early forecast. In the Andean countries, in Bolivia, harvesting of the 2002/03 second season cereal crops has been completed and average outputs collected, while in Ecuador, the outlook is poor for the 2003 maize crop for the third consecutive year, mainly the result of adverse weather which particularly affected the first season crop. In Peru, prospects are good for the 2003 maize crops and an above-average output is expected. In Colombia, planting of the 2003/04 first season cereal crops continues under favourable weather and enlarged maize plantings, with respect to 2002 average level, are anticipated. In Venezuela, prospects are poor for the 2003 cereal crops, mainly as a consequence of the inadequate use of fertilizers and the lack of good quality seeds. This is principally due to the low purchasing power of farmers caused by the difficult economic situation presently faced by the country.
In Europe, Prospects for the 2003 cereal harvest have deteriorated in Europe in the wake of exceptionally hot and dry conditions throughout many of the main producing areas, particularly in the central and southern countries. Wheat output in the EU is forecast at about 94 million tonnes, 10 percent down from last year and 7 percent below the average of the past 5 years, while for coarse grains, contrary to earlier expectations, output is now also expected to decline, by about 10 percent, to around 97 million tonnes. Among the CEECs even larger reductions are expected as the adverse spring/summer weather follows on from a less than ideal planting and winter period in many parts also. Well below normal wheat and small coarse grain crops expected in virtually all countries. There are still some hopes that the maize crop may remain closer to normal if significant rains arrive for the remainder of the growing season.
In the European CIS, adverse weather conditions, thin snow cover and severely cold winter followed by unusually hot and dry spring, have significantly compromised cereal harvest this year. Aggregate cereal harvest in the region is seen almost 33 million tonnes down on 2002 harvest. Wheat harvest now estimated at 43.1 million tonnes, accounts for almost all of the decline. Aggregate coarse grains harvest now estimated at 52.3 million tonnes is slightly above last year’s harvest, in view of the resistance of the crop to adverse weather conditions and replanting in spring. Wheat harvest in Ukraine is now estimated at 5.5 million tonnes compared with 19.7 million tonnes last year and in Russia 36.5 million tonnes compared with 50.6 million tonnes last year. Moldova has suffered severely and wheat harvest, the main staple, is now estimated at 221 000 tonnes compared with 1.2 million tonnes last year. The drop in cereal harvest will severely affect exports from the region, which was at a record high during the marketing year coming to an end. In the Baltics, the cereal harvest this year is seen to remain similar to last year’s average harvest. The livestock sub-sector has been gaining more importance in the agricultural sector of the three Baltic countries. Unusually cold winter and relatively dry spring have compromised large areas of cereals in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro and Croatia. Cereal harvest in the three countries is seen significantly lower than last year’s improved harvest.
In North America, Cereal output in North America is set to recover sharply in 2003 from last year’s drought-reduced crops. Latest indications for wheat output in the United States, now that the winter wheat harvest is almost complete, point to a larger crop than earlier expected, of almost 62 million tonnes, 42 percent up from the previous year’s reduced level. In Canada, despite some seeding delays and persisting dry conditions in parts, wheat production this year is still expected to increase significantly from last year’s poor crop and is forecast to reach about 22 million tonnes. Likewise, the coarse grain crops in both countries are also expected recover from poor performance last year. The United States maize crop is forecast to reach 256 million tonnes, 12 percent up from 2002.
In Oceania, The winter cereal sowing conditions were generally improved over the previous year with satisfactory rainfall in most producing areas. The winter cereal area is estimated up 6.8 percent. Assuming normal weather for the remainder of the season, wheat output in 2003 is expected to rebound to about 22 million tonnes, and that of barley to about 7 million tonnes. The 2003 rice crop has already been harvested and output is officially estimated at a near-record low of just 408 000 tonnes, down about 70 percent from the 2002 level because of reduced irrigation supplies on account of last year’s drought.