Economic and Social Department

 global information and early warning system on food and agriculture

 food outlook
No. 1 Rome, February 2003

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Current Production and Crop Prospects


Carryover Stocks

Export Prices

Fish and Fisheries Products


Appendix Tables



At the start of 2003, some 36 countries in the world are experiencing severe food shortages and require international food assistance.

In eastern Africa, substantial crop and livestock losses, mainly due to drought, have caused serious food supply difficulties. The food situation is particularly serious in Eritrea and Ethiopia where large imports, mostly as food aid, are urgently required. In Eritrea, a severe food crisis due to a prolonged drought is affecting more than a third of the population. In addition, humanitarian assistance is needed for a large number of people displaced by the border war with Ethiopia in 1998-2000 and returnees from Sudan. In Ethiopia, grain production in 2002 declined by about 25 percent due to drought. Large numbers of livestock have died and rates of malnutrition, particularly among children, have increased dramatically. The Government has appealed to the international community for food assistance amounting to 1.44 million tonnes for more 11 million people. In Sudan, cereal production in 2002 declined by about 30 percent compared to the previous year. This has exacerbated the food difficulties faced by vulnerable groups, particularly the populations internally displaced by the long-running conflict. An estimated 3.5 million people require food assistance. In Kenya, despite improved rains in the previously drought-affected areas, food insecurity persists in northern districts. In Uganda, the escalation of the conflict in the north has displaced large numbers of people, while drought in parts has aggravated the food situation. Nearly 1.5 million people are currently being assisted by WFP. By contrast, the overall food supply situation has improved in Somalia and Tanzania due to good harvests, but localized food difficulties persist. In southern Africa, the food crisis is worsening as countries have just entered the critical hunger period of January-March. With prospects for the next main harvest unfavourable in several growing areas, it is likely that the crisis will extend well into 2003. About 14.4 million people in six countries of the subregion currently need emergency food aid. In Zimbabwe, where almost half of the population need food assistance, acute food shortages continue to be reported in rural and urban areas. Serious food shortages are also being experienced in Zambia, where distributions of food aid to 2.9 million targeted people fall well below requirements. The food supply situation is also tight for 2.3 million people in Malawi, as well as in Lesotho, Swaziland and parts of Mozambique. In Angola, the number of people requiring assistance after many years of civil conflict is estimated at 1.9 million. In Madagascar, thousands of people were recently displaced by floods, while food aid is being provided to 394 000 people affected by the recent political crisis and a poor 2002 harvest. In western Africa, Mauritania faces an acute food shortage but international assistance has been slow in coming. Serious food shortages are also being experienced in Liberia, Guinea, Cape Verde, Côte d'Ivoire and Sierra Leone, mainly related to civil conflicts. In central Africa, civil strifes in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Burundi, continue to displace large populations which need food assistance.

In Asia, a recent FAO/WFP Mission to DPR Korea in October found that the food deficit remains in excess of one million tonnes (or about 20 percent of its total consumption needs) despite increased food production in 2002. However, very little international food aid has been received to date. As a result, WFP has announced that it would be removing over 3 million vulnerable people from its food distribution list. In Mongolia, extreme winter weather following drought during the summer, has affected the livelihoods of some 665 000 people, with 2.3 to 2.5 million of their animals expected to die before the next spring. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has appealed for $2.85 million to assist 115 000 most affected people for 10 months. In Asian CIS, targeted food assistance is being provided to vulnerable populations in Georgia and Tajikistan due to recent droughts. In the Near East, despite significantly improved cereal harvest in 2002, a large part of the population in Afghanistan needs food assistance due to lack of purchasing power and unexpectedly high number of returnees to the country.

In Central America and the Caribbean, many rural families need food assistance in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua as a consequence of the drastic fall in incomes related to the crisis in the coffee sector. Food assistance is being provided by the international community, in collaboration with local authorities. In Europe, emergency food assistance continues to be necessary for refugees, the internally displaced and vulnerable populations in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and in Chechnya in the Russian Federation.

1.  This updates information published in the November 2002 issue of Foodcrops and Shortages. Countries facing severe food emergencies are underlined.

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