MADAGASCAR (7 November)
Planting of the 2003 cereal crops, mainly paddy, has started. Early prospects are favourable following good rains in late October and early November which improved soil moisture for field operations. However, more rains are needed in northern parts where unseasonable dry weather prevailed in the first week of November.
The 2002 paddy crop was estimated at the average level of 2.4 million tonnes. Despite the overall stable food supply situation, crops were sharply reduced in parts of the drought-prone southern area by dry weather. It is estimated that some 183 000 people in 13 districts, out of 89, in the Southern region are in need of food assistance as a result of a second consecutive poor harvest. The food situation is also tight for a large number of vulnerable people due the lingering effects of the political crisis in the first half of the year which severely disrupted economic activities, caused unemployment and resulted in sharp increases in food prices in urban areas. Following a Government appeal for international assistance, WFP will distribute 18 000 tonnes of food aid until next March to 394 250 people, including those most affected by the political crisis and those who gathered a poor harvest in southern districts and in eastern parts affected by Cyclone Kesiny earlier in the year.