As of mid-February 2002, the number of countries facing serious food shortages throughout the world stands at 29 However, in several sub-regions the food supply situation has markedly improved compared to 1999/2000.
In eastern Africa, harvesting of the 2001/02 secondary cereal crops is almost complete in most countries, except in Ethiopia where planting is about to commence. In Kenya the food outlook is favourable, following sufficient rainfall during the season. In Somalia, harvest prospects have improved with better rains than during the main season. By contrast, harvest prospects in Tanzania are mixed due to drought conditions in parts. In Uganda, maize production is expected to decline as a result of marketing difficulties for the bumper crop in the first season. Good crops have been harvested in Burundi and Rwanda despite excessive rains in parts.
The overall food supply situation in the sub-region is generally better than at the same time last year, expect in Somalia where the main season crop was very poor due to drought, and in pastoral areas in Ethiopia and Kenya which have yet to recover from recent drought years. In Eritrea, despite favourable rains during the summer, many farmers remain displaced from the main cereal producing areas.
There are large numbers of people in the sub-region, including the internally displace, refugees, drought-affected and other vulnerable people, who are facing food difficulties and depend on food assistance. They are estimated at 5.2 million in Ethiopia, 2 million in Sudan, 1.5 million in Kenya, 1.3 million in Eritrea, 500 000 in Somalia, 300 000 in Uganda and about 120 000 in Tanzania.
In southern Africa, prospects for the 2002 cereal crops, to be harvested from April, are mixed. Adequate rains in January brought relief to crops in areas previously affected by a dry spell, mainly in Zambia and Swaziland. However, dry weather persists in Zimbabwe, Madagascar and Namibia, as well as in parts of Botswana and Mozambique. This poses a significant threat to food production in these countries. In South Africa, prospects for the 2002 maize crop are favourable, reflecting larger plantings and good weather so far. In the sub-region as a whole food supply is tight following a reduced maize harvest in 2001. Maize prices have increased sharply, particularly in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, where severe food shortages have emerged.
In central Africa, the food situation is satisfactory, except in the Democratic Republic of Congo where production is continually disrupted by the long-running civil war. Over 2 million people are internally displaced but humanitarian assistance is hampered by insecurity.
In northern Africa, planting of the 2001/02 winter cereal crops is complete. In Algeria, early prospects are favourable reflecting abundant rains in the main grain growing areas in November. In Egypt, harvesting is due to start in April and the outlook is favourable. In Morocco, by contrast, below-normal rains delayed sowing and a reduced sown area is reported. In Tunisia, where harvesting will start in June, prospects are unfavourable because of below-normal precipitation in key growing areas.
In western Africa, the 2001 aggregate cereal production from the nine Sahelian countries has been estimated at a record 11.7 million tonnes, some 2.4 million tonnes higher than in the previous year. Production was significantly above average in all countries except Mauritania. In the coastal countries along the Gulf of Guinea, aggregate production of cereals is estimated at about 30 million tonnes, higher than the previous year and above average. However, the food supply situation remains tight in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone due to past or simmering civil strife.
In Asia, prospects for winter wheat are unfavourable in China due to serious dry weather at sowing which forced a reduction in sown area of more than 2 million hectares. By contrast, prospects for winter wheat in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal are favourable and above average harvest are anticipated. In Mongolia, the food supply situation remains extremely tight, especially for nomadic herders who have been impoverished by loss of livestock to exceptionally harsh winters. In Cambodia, the good harvest of the main wet season rice crop in December 2001 helped stabilize the food supply situation in the country, which had been adversely affected by heavy monsoon rains and flooding in August. In Indonesia, torrential rains and flooding in late January/early February 2002 have affected most of the archipelago and emergency relief is being provided to the affected populations. In the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, despite a significant recovery in rice production in 2001, food assistance will still be required in 2002 to cover the country's minimum food needs. In Sri Lanka, if the current favourable weather conditions last, a significant recovery should be expected from last year's drought affected crops.
In the Near East, recent precipitation and snow cover in most countries have improved prospects for winter grains for harvest from May 2002. However, prospects in Afghanistan and Iraq are unfavourable due to shortage of agricultural inputs and, for the former, the disruption of farming activities by the military operations, which coincided with the planting season for wheat, the main staple. The food situation remains grave, notwithstanding the relative calm and improved delivery of food assistance. Years of civil strife coupled with three successive years of severe drought have exposed millions of people to extreme hardship. In Iraq prolonged drought and economic sanctions have rendered large numbers of people food insecure and in need of assistance. The serious food situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip also gives cause for concern.
In the Asian CIS, several countries have experienced food shortages due to drought, scarcity of water for irrigation and general economic decline for a third consecutive year. The worst affected countries are Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Armenia and Georgia. Snowfall, a major source of irrigation water, has again been below average for the 2002/02 winter cereals.
In Central America and the Caribbean, the overall food supply situation continues to be tight in Central America, particularly in El Salvador and Guatemala. First season crops were affected by a prolonged severe drought, and the situation was aggravated later in the year by Hurricane "Michelle". The food supply situation in the sub-region in 2002 will be largely determined by the outcome of the first season crops which are to be planted in April and harvested from August. In the Caribbean, average to above-average 2001 cereal harvests have been realized in Cuba, Dominican Republic and Haiti.
In South America, harvesting of the 2001 wheat crop is complete in the southern parts. In Argentina, output is estimated at 15.3-15.5 million tonnes, some 500 000-700 000 tonnes lower than last year, due to excessive rains and flooding in the key growing areas. In Brazil, production was 3 million tonnes, which is above-average but lower than earlier estimated, as a result of heavy rains. In Chile, by contrast, weather conditions favoured the wheat crop and a near record 1.8 million tonnes are provisionally estimated. In Uruguay, production recovered from the previous year but remained below average. In the Andean countries, planting of the first season cereal crops is underway in Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador. Prospects are generally favourable. In Colombia and Venezuela, harvesting of maize is virtually complete and above-average outputs are expected.
In Europe, early indications for the 2002 winter cereals in the EC point to a significant recovery in the wheat area after last year's reduced plantings. Throughout the central and eastern European countries winter weather conditions have been generally satisfactory.
In the European CIS west of the Urals grain harvest in 2001 significantly increased compared with the average harvest of the past 6 years. In the Russian Federation total grain production increased by 20 million tonnes in 2001 compared with the preceding year. Grain production in Ukraine increased by about 56 percent in 2001 compared with the previous year, while in Moldova grain output doubled.
Cereal exports from the region in the marketing year 2001/02 are estimated at 11.4 million tonnes compared to 3 million tonnes in 2000/01, while imports to the region are estimated at 3.7 million tonnes compared to about 4.3 million tonnes in 2000/01.
In the Balkans, cereal production increased by more than 5 million tonnes in 2001 compared with the average harvest of the past five years. The recovery has been particularly significant in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The region is set to harvest even higher cereals this year, given improved weather conditions and availability of agricultural inputs. However, the 2002 harvest will depend on spring and summer weather conditions when most of the floods occur.
In North America, prospects for winter wheat in the United States are reported to be just fair. The total area sown to winter wheat has declined again marginally, several areas are still suffering from excessive dryness and some parts have also been struck by extreme cold temperatures without the protection of snow-cover. In Canada, the grain crops are mostly sown in May/June. Many areas are still predominantly dry after last year's drought but adequate precipitation in the coming weeks could replenish moisture levels before planting.
In Oceania, the 2001 winter grain harvest in Australia has recently been completed and latest estimates put the wheat output at about 23 million tonnes, marginally down from the previous year's level. Output of winter coarse grains (mostly barley and oats), is estimated to have remained about the level of the previous year at some 8 million tonnes.
Cook Islands was struck by a tropical storm in December which caused damage to housing and infrastructure. The country's crops are threatened by an infestation of the fruit fly, a most destructive pest for fruit and vegetables. Tonga was severely hit by a tropical cyclone in early January which caused enormous damage to urban and rural infrastructure and affected food and cash crops.