As 2001 comes to a close, the situation in Afghanistan stands out as the most serious in the world. The country is gripped by a deepening food crisis which poses a serious threat of mass starvation. Some 7.5 million Afghanis are in need of emergency food assistance. The situation could be even worse next year if Afghan farmers are unable to plant wheat, their main staple food, during the current season as a result of displacement from their farms.
Nevertheless, many other countries elsewhere in the world also face serious food shortages and need food assistance. In Asia, DPR Korea faces a food deficit of over 1 million tonnes which needs to be covered by food aid until October 2002, despite an improved harvest this year. Mongolia continues to need food assistance as a result of extremely harsh winters in recent years that killed large numbers of livestock, rendering nomadic herders highly food insecure. In Cambodia, China, India, Pakistan,Tajikistan, Viet Nam and Sri Lanka, drought, monsoon floods, cyclones or typhoons have affected the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people, who need assistance from their governments or external donors. However, at the national level in each of these countries, food security has not been seriously threatened. In the CIS countries in Asia, more than 2 million people need food assistance due to a prolonged severe drought, the worst affected countries being Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
In the Near East, a severe drought that has spanned three consecutive years has seriously affected crop and livestock production, leaving many small farmers and herders in Jordan, Iraq, Islamic Republic of Iran and Syria in need of food assistance. The food situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip also gives cause for concern.
In eastern Africa, while crop prospects are generally favourable and the overall food supply situation is better than it was at this time last year, the food situation in Somalia is rapidly deteriorating following the drought reduced harvest. Localized droughts have also affected eastern and southern Ethiopia and northern and eastern Kenya, all home to pastoral populations which have suffered three successive years of poor rains, diminishing their livelihoods and their ability to withstand new shocks. In central Africa, the food supply situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo continues to be precarious due to persistent insecurity and population displacements, notwithstanding favourable crop growing conditions. A similar situation prevails in neighbouring Angola in southern Africa. Elsewhere in this sub-region, serious food shortages are emerging in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe largely as a result of adverse weather during the last cropping season. In western Africa, the food outlook is generally favourable, with the exception of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone where food assistance continues to be needed as a result of past or ongoing civil conflicts.
In Europe, crop and livestock production in the Balkans has witnessed a sharp recovery from previous decline, particularly in the Yugoslav Republic of Serbia.
In Latin America, the overall food outlook is favourable, notwithstanding the damage caused by hurricanes 'Iris' and 'Michelle' in Central America and Caribbean and localized flooding in some South American countries.
In eastern Africa, despite abundant rains in the summer months that generally improved prospects for the 2001 cereal crops, successive poor rains in most pastoral areas, particularly in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia, continue to cause acute food shortages and migration of thousands of people in search of water and food. Ongoing civil conflicts also continue to disrupt food production and distribution in some areas. In Somalia, despite recent showers that eased severe water shortages in parts, up to 800 000 people may face severe food difficulties due to poor 2001 main season crops. Despite the good harvests in the previous 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, good main season rainfall from June has improved the food outlook. However, a large number of people remain displaced and continue to depend on emergency food assistance. In Kenya, overall food supply has improved considerably following favourable rains in major cereal producing areas. However, a sharp decline in maize prices is negatively impacting on farmers' incomes. In northern and eastern Kenya, hopes of recovery for pastoralists from the effects of the recent devastating drought have once again been dashed with continuing drought and poor weather outlook in the coming months. In Ethiopia, abundant rains in major agricultural areas preceded by a 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 pastoral areas in the south-eastern parts due to persistent drought. In Sudan, despite extensive floods in parts that displaced tens of thousands of people, overall prospects for current crops have improved. FAO/WFP crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions are currently in Sudan and Ethiopia and their reports are expected in mid-December. In Tanzania and Uganda, the overall food supply situation is favourable following recent good harvests and improved pastures. However, food difficulties remain in parts, due to localised drought conditions and/or insecurity.
In Rwanda and Burundi, abundant rains in September and October allowed planting and establishment of the 2002 A season food crops, to be harvested from January. Despite localized floods and crop losses, early prospects are favourable. However, in Burundi, the food situation remains difficult for 432 000 internally displaced people who need food assistance.
In southern Africa, the 2002 main cropping season has started under generally favourable weather conditions. Normal to above-normal precipitation in September and October in most countries allowed planting of the coarse grain crops, to be harvested from next April, and benefited establishment of early sown crops. Harvesting of the 2001 wheat crop is well advanced. Preliminary estimates indicate an increased wheat output of 2.7 million tonnes, mainly as a result of larger plantings compared to last year.
The food supply situation is very tight in the sub-region and localized food shortages are being reported even in countries where the overall cereal production increased this year. Imports of maize from South Africa have been announced by the Governments of Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia, where prices of maize have increased sharply, but the actual delivery of the grain into the countries is rather slow. With stocks starting to be depleted there is urgent need to expedite imports to avoid acute food shortages in the coming months. Localized food shortages are also reported in Mozambique, where despite a good harvest overall this year, food assistance will be needed for about 100 000 people in southern provinces affected by dry weather. In Angola, food assistance is needed for 1.34 million internally displaced and vulnerable people, but due to resource constraints not all these people are being reached by aid agencies. In Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland, where cereal production was poor, food difficulties are anticipated for many households. By contrast, in Madagascar, the overall food supply situation has improved following a bumper paddy harvest and large carry-over stocks.
In northern Africa, land is being prepared for planting of the 2001 winter crops, to be harvested in the spring/summer of 2002. Aggregate wheat production in 2001 is estimated at 12.9 million tonnes, a significant improvement over last year's drought affected crop of 9.9 million tonnes, and slightly above the past 5-year average of 12.5 million tonnes. Increases in wheat production are reported in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. In Egypt, wheat output is slightly above average, some 5 percent below the record level in 2000. A significant increase in coarse grain production, mainly barley, is reported for nearly all countries compared to last year.
In western Africa, harvest prospects are good in the Sahel and mixed in the countries along the Gulf of Guinea. In the Sahel, harvesting of coarse grains is well underway. Reflecting generally favourable growing conditions, above average to record harvests are anticipated in the main producing countries of the region. During the second half of October, joint FAO/CILSS crop Assessment Missions to the nine CILSS member countries of the Sahel estimated aggregate 2001 cereal production at around 11.7 million tonnes, well above 2000 production and above the average of the last five years. Record harvests are estimated in Burkina Faso and The Gambia, and above average in Chad, Mali, Niger and Senegal. Prospects are less favourable in Cape Verde, Mauritania and Guinea-Bissau as compared to last year. Pastures have been abundant throughout the pastoral zones but they are now drying.
Harvest prospects are less favourable in the coastal countries along the Gulf of Guinea, reflecting below normal rains in September and October. In Sierra Leone and Liberia, a relatively calm security situation improved prospects for crops. In Guinea, fighting in some areas affected agricultural activities and relief programmes and caused population displacements.
In central Africa, crop prospects are generally favourable in the Central African Republic and Cameroon, while food production is steadily recovering in the Republic of Congo. In the Democratic Republic of Congo the food situation of over 2.5 million internally displaced people gives cause for serious concern, as continuous insecurity hampers distribution of humanitarian assistance.
Relief efforts are going on in southern Cambodia where several provinces have been affected by floods. There has been extensive damage mainly to the wet season paddy crop seedlings due to heavy flooding during August. Despite the damage, overall production prospects are favourable in the country.
In China, this year's rice crop will be the smallest in seven years due to reduction in planted area as a result of unfavourable weather and low prices. In India, a severe cyclone that hit the south-eastern state of Andhra Pradesh in October caused many deaths. Despite inadequate monsoon rains in the southern states, overall crop prospects are favourable for the 2001/02 season as a result of above-normal rainfall in the rest of the country. In the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, torrential rains that hit the eastern provinces in early October killed more than a hundred people mostly in Kangwon province, the worst hit area, and left thousands homeless. Extensive damage to paddy crop and infrastructure was reported. A recent FAO/WFP crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission reported that despite a substantial recovery this year, domestic output would be insufficient to meet minimum food needs of the country. The cereal import requirement for 2001/02 (Nov./Oct.) is estimated at 1.47 million tonnes. In Mongolia, harsh weather conditions for the last several years have caused progressively shrinking cereal and livestock production. Excessive heat and shortage of rainfall during the summer have affected most parts, while the country prepares for yet another harsh winter. In Pakistan, prospects for the wheat crop are rated satisfactory. The country is facing a fresh influx of refugees due to the current crisis in Afghanistan.
In Sri Lanka, continuing drought conditions in the seven southern districts have affected more than a million people. The worst hit areas in three districts have almost completely lost their crops, leaving more than 300 000 subsistence farmers in need of emergency assistance. Prospects for the current Maha crop are satisfactory and an average paddy harvest is expected. In Viet Nam, adverse weather conditions continue with typhoon Lingling, the worst in 15 years, causing many deaths and damage to infrastructure mainly in the Phu Yen and Quang Ngai Provinces. Flooding in the Mekong Delta in late October in the nine central provinces affected some 1.3 million people with extensive damage to housing and agriculture. The government has appealed for urgent international assistance to the affected communities.
In the Near East, the prevailing grave food crisis in Afghanistan poses a serious challenge to the international community. Even before the events of 11 September, Afghanistan was in the grip of a severe food crisis following three consecutive years of drought and intensifying economic problems due to continuing civil conflict. Although the majority of the population is in need of rapid assistance, some 7.5 million most vulnerable people are threatened by starvation. Fresh waves of population displacements have been underway for several months now, exposing the increasing number of IDPs and refugees to extreme hardship. 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. In Iraq and Jordan successive years of drought have 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 in countries where livestock and livestock products constitute an important export and/or provide a livelihood to large segments of the population. The food situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip also gives cause for serious concern.
In the Asian CIS countries food supply remains very tight, except in Kazakhstan, and more than 2 million people require emergency food assistance. The worst affected countries are Tajikistan and Uzbekistan where crop production has diminished to a third of the poor average levels of the past five years. The region has been suffering from severe drought and water shortages for nearly three years in succession. In addition, continuous economic decline and failing public sector services have significantly compromised food security for many people in the region. Lack of grazing land and fodder crops have enhanced destocking of livestock at an alarming rate.
In Central America and the Caribbean, harvest prospects are favourable for the current season crops. Central America had a poor first season crop due to a dry spell in the early stages of crop growth, but second season crops benefited from abundant rains in September and October. Hurricane 'Iris' in early October hit mainly southern Belize, although some departments of Guatemala were also affected. 'Michelle' started as a tropical storm, damaging staple crops in Honduras and Nicaragua and forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people from their homes. 'Michelle' moved north across the Caribbean Sea, increased its strength, and reached Cuba as a Category 4 Hurricane on 4 November before continuing towards The Bahamas as a Category 1 hurricane. In Cuba, hurricane 'Michelle' affected mainly the Isla de la Juventud, and the western provinces of La Habana, Matanzas and Pinar del Río. No information is yet available on the damage caused by the hurricane to the agricultural sector.
In South America, harvesting of winter crops and planting of first season coarse grain crops is underway. In MERCOSUR countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay), persistent and heavy rains during September and October caused localized floods that triggered fungal diseases in the maturing wheat crops. Nevertheless, aggregate wheat production in MERCOSUR plus Chile is forecast to increase by about 18 percent from last year following increased plantings and favourable winter weather conditions for crop development. The heavy rains have also delayed planting of 2002 maize crops and the total area is expected to decrease by 10 percent from the 16 million hectares planted in 2001. In the Andean Countries, planting of first season crops is underway and the overall crop situation is reported normal. Yields lower than average were obtained in coarse grain crops in Ecuador and Colombia following moderately dry winter weather conditions.
In the EC, the aggregate 2001 cereal production is about 203 million tonnes, 6 percent down from last year and about 3 percent below the average of the past five years. Most of the decrease is in the wheat crop, which is estimated at 91.5 million tonnes, about 13 percent down from last year and below average. Autumn conditions have been generally favourable for winter crop sowing throughout the Community.
Crop production in the European CIS countries has witnessed a significant recovery from a downward trend in the past decade. In the Russian Federation grain harvest is estimated at some 82 million tonnes compared with about 70 million tonnes average for the past six years. Grain production in Ukraine has increased from 23 million tonnes in 2000 to 36 million tonnes in 2001. The region will be able to export a significant amount of grains to other CIS countries and abroad. Bad weather conditions and insufficient availability of agricultural inputs in Ukraine, Belarus and parts of Russia may hamper plans to meet the target winter crop production. The livestock sub-sector has been recovering at a satisfactory pace, particularly the poultry sub-sector in Russia which has experienced a sharp recovery.
In the Balkans, crop production has witnessed a sharp recovery from previous decline. The recovery has been particularly significant in the Yugoslav Republic of Serbia, where cereal production this year more than doubled to 8.8 million tonnes compared to 5.2 million tonnes the previous year. Crop production in the region increased despite heavy rains, floods and hail in spring and summer, which destroyed a large area of crops in Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and parts of the Republica Serbska.
In the Baltics, the agricultural sector, particularly in livestock and processed produce, is witnessing a significant recovery from the past economic decline and socio-economic adjustment shocks.
In North America, the latest official estimates put the 2001 wheat output in the United States at 53.3 million tonnes, 12 percent down from 2000, and that of coarse grains at 264 million tonnes, about 4 percent down. Winter wheat planting for the 2002 harvest is virtually complete at about the normal time, but the average condition of crops in mid-November is poorer than normal because of drought conditions in several parts. More moisture is needed to help crops develop sufficiently to withstand winter dormancy. In Canada output of cereals in 2001 has fallen sharply due to adverse weather. Output of wheat is officially estimated at 20.7 million tonnes, about 23 percent down from last year while that of coarse grains is put at 22.5 million tonnes, about 8 percent down from 2000, both being well below the average figures for the past five years.
In Oceania, as harvest gets underway in Australia, prospects for this year's wheat and small coarse grains crops remain generally favourable. FAO's latest forecast puts aggregate cereal output in 2001 at about 32 million tonnes, similar to last year and slightly below the average for the past five years. Of the total, wheat is expected to account for about 20 million tonnes. In the Cook Islands, abnormally dry weather in recent months has stressed crops.