In southern Africa, a food crisis looms over several countries following sharp falls in maize production in 2001 and unfavourable harvest prospects this year. Acute food shortages have emerged in Malawi, Zimbabwe and Zambia, where food reserves have been depleted and food prices have soared, undermining access to food for large sections of their populations. In Malawi, maize production declined by over 33 percent last year mainly due to excessive rains and floods, coupled with reduced and late delivery of agricultural inputs. The strategic grain reserve has been depleted and importation of maize is seriously constrained by transport bottlenecks. As a result, maize prices have risen by over 300 percent since July last year. The Government has declared a state of emergency and appealed to the international community for food assistance. In Zimbabwe, maize production in 2001 dropped by 28 percent compared to the previous year and was well below average, due to a combination of reduced plantings, dry spells and excessive rains. Maize stocks have been depleted and imports are severely constrained by a shortage of foreign exchange. The Government has appealed for international assistance. In Zambia, maize production in 2001 declined by a quarter from the previous year mainly due to excessive rains and flooding, coupled with drought in southern parts. As in Malawi, importation of maize is seriously constrained by transport bottlenecks. The Government has also appealed for assistance. The food situation is also serious in the southern provinces of Mozambique, and for vulnerable rural populations in Lesotho, Swaziland and Namibia affected by poor harvests last year. The situation is set to worsen in several countries in 2002/03 due to anticipated further falls in production this year.
In eastern Africa, the overall food supply situation has improved considerably compared to last year mainly due to favourable weather conditions. Grain surpluses in many areas have resulted in record low prices, severely affecting farm incomes and raising concerns over possible reductions in plantings next season. Nevertheless, acute food shortages persist in most pastoral areas of Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia due to continuing drought conditions. In Eritrea, despite an improved harvest, large numbers of internally displaced people and refugees returning from Sudan depend on food assistance. For the sub-regions as a whole, nearly 11 million people affected by drought and/or conflict continue to depend on food assistance.
In the Great Lakes region, civil strife continues to undermine the food security of millions of people. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the food situation of over 2 million internally displaced people continues to be of serious concern. Access to this population remains problematic, particularly in rebel-held areas where provision of relief assistance is hampered by insecurity. Elsewhere in the Great Lakes region, the food supply situation has significantly improved in Rwanda and Burundi following two successive good harvests. However, in the latter country the security situation remains volatile in some provinces, with frequent surges in violence displacing rural populations and disrupting food production.
In western Africa, the food outlook for 2002 is generally favourable, following above-average to record harvests in the Sahelian countries and satisfactory crops elsewhere. However, the food supply situation is tight in Mauritania where the harvest was below average. The situation was worsened by unseasonable heavy rains and floods last January that left hundreds of people homeless and killed an estimated 120 000 livestock. In Liberia, a resurgence of civil strife has led to fresh population displacements, with thousands of people fleeing their homes to seek safety elsewhere in the country or in neighbouring countries. In Sierra Leone, despite an improvement in the security situation, full recovery in food production is unlikely in the immediate term. These two countries will continue to rely on international food assistance for some time to come.
Sub-Saharan Africa's cereal import requirements are set to remain high in 2002, reflecting mainly the anticipated sharp drop in cereal production in southern Africa. For 2001/02, cereal import requirements of sub-Saharan Africa have been estimated at 15.9 million tonnes, including 1.7 million tonnes of food aid.