FAO/GIEWS - Food Outlook No. 5 - Rome, December 2001 p. 5

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Afghanistan in the Grip of a Deepening Food Crisis while Food Emergencies Persist in Many other Countries1/

While Afghanistan currently faces a grave food supply situation, food emergencies persist elsewhere in the world.

In eastern Africa, despite abundant rains in the summer months that generally improved prospects for the 2001 food 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 food, water and pasture. Recent or ongoing civil conflicts have also seriously disrupted 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 dependent on emergency food assistance. In Kenya, overall food supply has improved due to favourable rains in major cereal producing areas, but a sharp decline in maize prices is negatively impacting on farmers' incomes. In northern and eastern parts, hopes of recovery for pastoralists from the effects of the recent devastating drought have again been dashed by extended drought and poor weather outlook. In Ethiopia, abundant rains in major agricultural areas preceded by a favourable short rains harvest, have significantly improved the food supply situation. However, food shortages and unseasonable migration of people and their livestock are reported in the in pastoral areas 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. In Tanzania and Uganda, the overall food supply situation is adequate following recent good harvests and improved pastures. Nevertheless, food difficulties remain in parts, due to localized drought conditions and/or insecurity. Food production continues to be disrupted in Burundi due to insecurity. In western Africa, the food supply situation should improve in Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger following better harvests compared to last year. Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea continue to require international food assistance due to past or ongoing civil strife. In central Africa, the food situation of some 2.5 million internally displaced people in the Democratic Republic of Congo continues to be of serious concern. In southern Africa serious food shortages are emerging in parts of Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe due to reduced harvests. In Angola, insecurity and population displacement continue unabated, with over one million people depending on food aid.

In Asia, Korea, DPR 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, 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. 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, while the food supply situation remains tight in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

In the Near East, the food situation in Afghanistan is very serious following recent displacements and military action. Even before the events of 11 September, the country was gripped by a grave food crisis following three consecutive years of drought and persistent civil conflict. Fresh waves of population displacements at the critical planting time for wheat, the main staple, point to a food situation that needs close monitoring and urgent action. In Iraq and Jordan prolonged drought has seriously reduced crop and livestock production, leaving thousands of small farmers and herders in need of assistance. The food situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip also gives cause for serious concern. In Latin America and the Caribbean, access to food has become difficult for over one million rural people due to adverse weather conditions, combined with increasing unemployment as commercial coffee plantations close in response to falling world prices. The worst affected countries are El Salvador and Honduras. In Europe, refugees, IDPs and vulnerable populations in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and in Chechnya in the Russian Federation continue to require emergency food assistance.

International prices for most cereals have changed little since the previous report. In November, the U.S. wheat No. 2 (HRW, fob) averaged US$128 per tonne, up slightly since September but some US$2 per tonne below the price a year earlier. Wheat prices have slipped below the previous year's levels in recent months, despite a decline in global wheat production this year. However, this could be explained by the existence of relatively large export supplies in a number of important wheat producing countries as well as the absence of any significant improvement in world import demand. After falling sharply between August and October, international maize prices have risen somewhat in recent weeks. Most supportive to prices is this year's expected drop in production in the United States. In November the U.S. maize export prices (U.S. No.2 Yellow, fob) averaged US$90 per tonne, up US$6 per tonne since September. However, large maize inventories, on top of abundant supplies of feed wheat, will continue to weigh on prices. International rice prices have come under pressure in the past three months from the arrival of new crops on the market. The FAO Rice Export Price Index fell by 1 point to 88 in September and again in October, to 87, but held steady in November. Both high and low quality rice prices have come under pressure to the same extent.

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