FAO/GIEWS: Africa Report No.1 - April 2004 p.4

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The harvesting of the 2003/04 cereal crops is about to begin in southern Africa. In eastern Africa, the main season crop is maturing in Tanzania, while elsewhere in the sub-region planting of the main season crops has started except in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan, where sowing is not due to commence for about two months. In central Africa and the coastal countries of western Africa planting has started, but in Sahelian countries it will not begin until June. The crop calendar of sub-Saharan Africa is indicated below.

Cereal Crop Calendar

Sub-RegionCereal Crops
Eastern Africa 1/March-JuneAugust-December
Southern AfricaOctober-DecemberApril-June
Western Africa  
- Coastal areas (first season)March-AprilJuly-September
(second season)August-SeptemberNovember-December
- Sahel zoneJune-JulyOctober-November
Central Africa 1/April-JuneAugust-December
1/  Except Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo which have two main seasons and Tanzania whose main season follows the southern Africa planting calendar. For Sudan, the planting period for the staple coarse grain crop is June-July and the harvesting period is October-December.

In southern Africa, prospects for the 2004 cereal crops have improved with more favourable rainfall during February and March throughout the sub-region. However, excessive rains in February-March in parts of Zambia and Angola have caused many rivers to overflow causing serious flooding in Zambia (Western and North-western Provinces) and the adjacent parts of Angola (Huambo province), Namibia (Caprivi and Kavago provinces), Botswana (Okavango River basin) and Zimbabwe (Matabeleland North), damaging crops and necessitating emergency food assistance. Madagascarhas been hit by cyclones three times in January, February and March causing large-scale damage, affecting 774 000 people and over 300 000 hectares of farm land, damaging vanilla, paddy and other crops. Flooding was also reported in parts of Mozambique. Crop prospects in South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, and in certain pockets in Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Angola are unfavourable due to dry weather conditions especially during first half of the season. Zambia, Botswana and Namibia, on the other hand, are expecting normal to above normal outcome from the current agricultural season. The impact of drought and floods on food production in this sub-region requires close monitoring. Joint FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions are planned for Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland, Malawi and Mozambique in April-May 2004.

Household food security in the sub-region is at its lowest during February-April lean period just before harvest. The situation in Zimbabwe is especially critical, exacerbated by the escalating inflation including prices of maize, the main staple. Numbers of vulnerable people requiring food assistance have been revised upwards in Zimbabwe, Angola and Malawi. Food aid donations of only 576 000 tonnes or 77 percent of the amount appealed to assist 6.55 million people in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, had been received or confirmed by mid-March 2004.

In Angola, heavy rains during February and March have caused flooding in riverbeds affecting field crops in south-eastern and central parts of the country. Flooding has caused serious damage to maize and bean crops in Huambo province and may necessitate additional emergency food assistance to some 290 000 people who suffered heavy losses. Given the generally erratic precipitation in the rest of the country, the prospects for maize and millet harvest are uncertain at this stage. Cassava is reportedly performing better in rainfall-stressed parts of the country. Nearly 2 million farmers received emergency agricultural inputs assistance at the start of the season.

With the improvement in security situation, large numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees have returned to their areas of origin. Even though the 2003 cereal output was above average, it can meet only half of the country’s total cereal requirements. Vulnerability analysis conducted recently by WFP points to about 1.2 million vulnerable people with more than 500 000 of them needing immediate food assistance.

In Botswana, dry weather during the first half of the season has adversely affected this year’s main cereal crops. However, during early March prolonged heavy rains upstream of the Okavango River basin caused severe flooding downstream in Botswana. Nevertheless, prospects for 2004 harvest are considered near normal. The beef export industry is struggling to recover following droughts and outbreak of foot and mouth disease twice in last three years. The 2003 cereal production, mainly sorghum, was sharply reduced from the year before due to dry weather. However, domestic production normally covers less than 10 percent of the country’s total cereal requirements, the rest coming from commercial imports.

In Lesotho, following the declaration of a state of emergency by the Government on 11 February 2004 on account of the prevailing drought and the worsening HIV/AIDS pandemic, FAO and WFP undertook a mid-season rapid assessment of the current agricultural season during later half of February. The preliminary results of that assessment indicate that maize, wheat and sorghum production this year is expected to be only about 41 000 tonnes, down by more than half from already reduced harvest of 2003. Plantings were adversely affected by withdrawal of customary input subsidies for farmers this year. The Government has appealed for an additional 57 000 tonnes of food aid to help feed 600 000 people until the 2005 harvest as part of an emergency measures package. Although the scattered showers in February and March brought some temporary relief from the prolonged dryness, it is not expected tochange the overall crop situation drastically in the country. The food supply situation, especially during these lean months, remains very tight due to below-average cereal production in 2003 and the total failure of winter crops. A joint FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission has been planned to begin late April 2004.

During this cyclone season Madagascar was hit by cyclone Gafilo in early March and cyclone Elita in January and again in February causing large-scale damage in the north-eastern part of the island. Latest Government assessment indicates that 774 000 people have been affected and over 300 000 hectares of farm land, covering vanilla, paddy and other crops, have been damaged. In other parts of the country, heavy rains during February are expected to help the paddy crop. UN Inter-Agency Consolidated Appeal has been prepared for US$ 8.7 million including FAO’s agriculture sector component of US$1.15 million and WFP’s food assistance component of US$5.5 million to help the victims of recent flooding. The southern parts of the island, on the other hand, have suffered from prolonged dry weather especially early in the season. Thus, the prospects for main season crops are uncertain at this stage.

The estimated production of paddy, the main staple crop in the country, in 2003 was 2.8 million tonnes, about 10 percent more than the average of the previous five years. Current reports point to an increase in the number of severely malnourished children. There is an urgent need for additional food aid contributions to prevent further deterioration of the nutritional situation during the lean season that started in September.

Malawi has experienced a delay in the start of the cropping season and erratic rainfall up to about mid-January. The southern part has been particularly affected and crop production there may be significantly reduced. However, if the rains continue well into April, the rest of the country will have a satisfactory harvest. Most areas in the north and centre had received normal levels of cumulative rainfall by 20 March, while the south had received 50 to 74 percent. To help boost national crop production, the Government implemented the Targeted Input Programme (TIP). An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission in April 2003 estimated total cereal production for 2003 at 2.1 million tonnes, about the same as the five-year average. Nevertheless, it was estimated that 400 000 people including those that experienced crop failures and those seriously affected by HIV/AIDS would need food assistance of about 30 600 tonnes in 2003/04 (April/March) marketing year. Distribution of maize stocks held centrally by the government food marketing agency, Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation, faces logistics and infrastructure problems throughout the country. A vulnerability assessment by the national Vulnerability Assessment Committee (VAC) and a crop and food supply assessment by FAO/WFP are planned for April-May 2004 to provide a food production and food needs picture for the coming marketing year.

In Mauritius, domestic production of cereals amounts to less than one percent of the total cereal needs. Consequently, the country imports virtually its entire cereal consumption requirements commercially.

In Mozambique, the cropping season started almost a month late and has been characterized by dry spells up to mid-January. As a result, up to three replantings were necessary in the south of the country, while planting was delayed elsewhere. Crops are therefore at various stages of development. In early March overflowing of several rivers in central provinces following heavy rains caused serious flood damage to crops. For example, reportedly about 600 hectares of cropland in the Dondo and Nhamatanda districts in Sofala province were submerged.  Early in the season the southern areas had received cumulative rainfall of less than 50 percent of normal level leading to drought-like conditions and affecting crop growth and livestock condition adversely. Consequently, prospects for the country’s main summer crops - maize, sorghum and cassava - are considered uncertain at this stage.

The 2003 cereal production, estimated at 1.8 million tonnes (some 2 percent above the good harvest of the previous year), shows a continuation of steady recovery in agricultural production over past several years. However, the country as a whole faces a deficit of about 673 000 tonnes of cereals particularly in the south and parts of the centre. A recent estimate by the Vulnerability Assessment Committee shows that 659 000 people are in need of food assistance. So far, WFP has been able to bring food relief to only a part of the needy population. A joint FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission has been planned to begin late April 2004.

In Namibia,2003/04 agricultural season started with delayed and generally insufficient rains in most parts of the country. As a result of the delayed and below-normal rainfall, the Government has issued an appeal for emergency agricultural assistance. More recently sustained heavy rains upstream have caused the Okavango River to rise to an alarming level, causing serious flood damage to crops in the Caprivi and Kavago provinces. Cereal production in 2003 was estimated at 101 000 tonnes, 36 percent above the reduced level of 2002. The government will be able to import food commercially to make up for the shortfall. Food distribution is already ongoing from the programme that the Government started during the previous drought situation. According to WFP and UNICEF, 640 000 people, a third of the nation’s population, will need food relief in the coming months because of the cumulative effects of adverse weather and HIV/AIDS. United Nations has appealed for US $5.8 million to assist over 600 000 vulnerable people.

In South Africa, although widespread rains fell in February in the northeast bringing some relief from dryness, this year the country is experiencing the worst drought in ten years in seven out of nine provinces, affecting as many as 15 million people. According to the country’s Crop Estimation Committee (CEC), maize plantings this season are down by about 18 percent compared to the year before and early estimates point to a harvest of about 7.7 million tonnes, or about 21 percent down. Production of white maize is forecast at 4.7 million tonnes compared to 6.6 million tonnes last year. This would translate into an exportable surplus of white maize in 2004/05 of about 1.5 million tonnes available to countries in the sub-region, while maintaining about 545 000 tonnes of South Africa’s own desired level of stocks. It is also important to note that as of 1 March 2004, the SAFEX price of white maize was 38 percent higher than it was at the beginning of March 2003. According to some reports in early February, real maize prices in South Africa have jumped by about half since 1 December and have more than doubled since the post-harvest low in April 2003. However, maize prices declined in early March with improved rains.

The winter wheat output harvested in December 2003 is estimated at 1.43 million tonnes, almost 38 percent below the previous year’s harvest.

In Swaziland, according to the preliminary findings of the FAO/WFP/Government Rapid Assessment Mission from 12 to 20 February, the rainfall pattern of past three years has continued this year with in substantially below average rainfall in the lowveld and the dry middleveld areas. This has resulted in lack of sufficient forage for livestock causing some significant numbers of livestock deaths, further impoverishing the community in the drier areas of the country. Although February rains brought some temporary relief from the prolonged dryness, its effect on crop harvest is doubtful. The mission has estimated 2004 maize production at 64 to 86 000 tonnes, or 13 to 35 percent below the five year average production level. The HIV/AIDS pandemic in the country is causing high death rates among heads of families, often resulting in failure to carry out normal agricultural tasks necessary for food security. With a self-sufficiency rate for cereals of only 36 percent in 2003, food security is mostly dependent on the purchasing power of the population. The FAO/WFP Mission of April/May 2003 estimated that 217 000 people would face food shortages and would need food assistance equivalent to 24 000 tonnes of cereals as two-thirds of the population live below the poverty line. The number has been updated to 350 000 by the Vulnerability Assessment Committee (VAC) in March 2004. A joint FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission has been planned to begin late April 2004.

In Zambia, good rainfall over much of the country has been favourable for the main-season crops planted in recent months. According to the Zambian Meteorological Department, in general the cumulative rainfall has been above normal in the east and the north, normal in the centre and below normal in the south. More recently heavy rainfall upstream of Zambezi River has caused severe flooding in Western and North-western Provinces. The Government has encouraged increased plantings and fertilizer use through its extended input subsidy programme to help boost food production. The prospects for the main season crops are favourable. Maize prices in most markets are showing seasonal increases.

Cereal production in 2003 was estimated at 1.36 million tonnes, some 83 percent higher than the reduced harvest of the year before and 35 percent above the average of the previous five years. Cereal import requirements are limited to reduced quantities of wheat and rice in which the country has a structural deficit but are met through commercial imports.

In order to stabilize maize prices in the country, the Government has lifted the ban on maize exports and plans to replenish the country’s strategic reserves by procuring 206 000 tonnes of maize domestically. However, specific areas in the south and west of the country, where the harvest was poor, require targeted food assistance. This can be acquired primarily through local purchases.

In Zimbabwe, at the beginning of the 2003/04 agricultural season in October very few farmers were able to plant maize due to insufficient and scattered showers. This was followed by a long dry spell. Effectively rains started throughout much of the country in late December-early January, consequently delaying the majority of the maize and sorghum planting. Recent rains in most parts of the country are expected to benefit the standing crops. The central and south-eastern parts of the country have received the highest amount of cumulative rainfall since the start of the agricultural season in October. Crops in northern and eastern and parts are affected by the below normal precipitation. According to the latest estimate from the Government’s Agricultural Research and Extension Department (AREX) the area planted to maize this year is about 1.3 million hectares, slightly above the last year’s level but much below average. Agriculture is severely handicapped by the lack of tillage capacity due to extremely low numbers of tractors and lack of fuel and spare parts. Fertilizer was generally available but at unaffordable prices. The Relief and Rehabilitation Unit (RRU) has calculated the cost of production in the range of Z$300 000 (excluding cost of chemicals, tillage and labour) to 1.2 million per hectare producing less than one tonne which is bought by GMB under its monopoly powers at Z$330 000 per tonne. The prospects for the main crops remain unfavourable compared to the long term average.

In recent years domestic cereal production covers less than half of the country’s cereal requirements. Escalating inflation, currently in the order of 600 percent per annum, is further eroding the purchasing power of the already low levels of income, thus greatly limiting access to food for the most vulnerable population estimated at 5.5 million. WFP’s monthly food distribution data under the current Emergency Operation (EMOP) shows that a total of 208 682 tonnes of food has been distributed from July 2003 to February 2004 with a planned distribution of 151 086 tonnes for March-June 2004 period covering 950 000 beneficiaries in July 2003 to anticipated 5 million in March 2004. Reportedly the Government is slowly releasing maize grain for distribution out of its 240 000 tonnes of locally purchased stocks. A joint FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission has been planned to begin late April 2004.

In eastern Africa, the 2003/04 aggregate sub-regional food production has improved considerably compared to the reduced levels of the previous year. However, the food situation in parts of Somalia, Eritrea, Tanzania and pastoral areas of Kenya is of particular concern.

In Somalia, serious humanitarian concerns are being expressed in several areas of northern and central regions as a result of cumulative effects of successive droughts. The Food Security Assessment Unit (FSAU) has recently reported that the food security situation in North Mudug, Nugal and South Bari regions has deteriorated further and that areas in humanitarian emergency are now extended to cover most of Garowe and the north western parts of Eyl district. Currently an estimated 123 000 people are facing food security crisis of whom 95 000 people are in a critical emergency situation.

Estimates of the recently harvested secondary deyr season cereal crop are put at about 101 000 tonnes, well below the previous year’s output.

In Eritrea, seasonal dry weather prevailed in most of the country in January and February. The 2003 main season grain output is now estimated at 105 000 tonnes, about 55 percent below average. Consequently, the cereal import requirement for 2004 has been estimated at 415 000 tonnes, of which 90 000 tonnes is estimated to be imported commercially. The uncovered cereal deficit – for which international assistance is urgently required – amounts to 325 000 tonnes. In response to the overall low supply of grain, prices are generally high in most urban markets.

Overall, nearly 1.9 million people are currently estimated to be in need of food assistance. Reports indicate serious concerns over the lack of pledges and low levels of food aid stocks that have prompted a reduction in amounts of ration and number of targeted beneficiaries.

In Ethiopia, an above average main meher season crop has been harvested, reflecting favourable weather conditions in the main grain producing areas. The November/December 2003 FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission forecast a meher harvest of 13 million tonnes of cereals and pulses, about 46 percent higher than the 2002 post-harvest estimate.

However, despite the bumper harvest, more than 7 million people will require food assistance, while an additional 2.2 million more will require close monitoring. The population in need of assistance varies from month to month and numbers peak in mid-year. Following recent pastoral area assessments, relief food requirements for 2004, earlier estimated at about 980 000 tonnes, are revised down by about 100 000 tonnes, mainly due to better than expected weather conditions. The recently-issued "Cereal Availability Study" estimated the amount of maize, wheat and sorghum available for local purchase for humanitarian operations in 2004 at between 300 000–350 000 tonnes.

In Kenya, the 2004 main “long rains” cropping season has begun and the outlook is favourable due to the forecast near-normal rainfall in major producing areas. Harvesting of the 2003/04 secondary “short rains” cereal crop, which accounts for some 15 percent of annual production, is complete and a slightly below average 360 000 tonnes of maize is estimated. This crop provides the main source of food in parts of Central and Eastern provinces.

Maize prices have continued to rise, increasing by 20 to 30 percent between December 2003 and February 2004 in most markets. These high prices are expected to further strain the coping mechanisms of poorer households. The Kenya Food Security Steering Group has recently completed rapid food security and nutritional assessments in selected districts and reported increased food stress. Nearly one million people are now estimated to be in need of assistance during the rest of 2004. Districts of particular concern are Turkana and Marsabit where malnutrition rates among children under five years of age have increased over the course of last year.

In Sudan, the escalating civil conflict in the west has resulted in massive displacements of over a million people, and access to food has been sharply curtailed. People have lost the bulk of their last harvest. With the conflict still unabated, the next planting season may be jeopardised.

The above notwithstanding, Sudan has reaped a record cereal crop in 2003/04. An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission, which visited the country late last year, has forecast the cereal crop at about 6.3 million tonnes, comprising 5 million tonnes of sorghum, 784 000 tonnes of millet, 356 000 tonnes of wheat (to be harvested in April/May 2004), 107 000 tonnes of maize and 35 000 tonnes of rice. At this level, cereal production is 63 percent larger than last year’s crop and about 46 percent above the average of the previous five years. Livestock throughout the country were also generally in good condition; with the expected national surplus of grain and declining prices, the terms of trade for pastoralists have markedly improved.

In the United Republic ofTanzania, prospects for the 2004 main season coarse grains in the unimodal rainfall areas of central, south and south-west have improved with recent rains. Good crop conditions have been reported in several areas including Mbeya, Iringa, Dodoma, Singida, Shinyanga and Mtwara. However, drier than normal conditions were also reported to have caused crop damage in parts of these areas. In eastern parts of the country wetter than normal conditions have helped crops and regeneration of pasture.

The aggregate 2003/04 production of cereals has been forecast at about 4 million tonnes, about 9 percent below the previous marketing year and 2 percent below the average for the previous five years. Reflecting low supply, maize prices continued to rise in several markets, aggravating the food-security situation of a large number of people.

Serious food shortages have been reported in several regions, including Dodoma, Shinyanga, Singida, Manyara, Lindi, Coast and Morogoro.Also, there are pockets of food insecurity in Tanga, Kilimanjaro, Arusha, Mwanza, Mara and Tabora Regions, where crops failed due to drought.

In Uganda, harvesting of the 2003/04 second season food crops is completed. The output is expected to be above average reflecting well distributed rainfall, particularly in the latter part of the season. Unseasonable rainfall in January has replenished pasture and water in several parts. The medium term forecast for March to May 2004 predicts an above-normal rainfall over most of the country but a near-normal to below-normal rainfall over northern parts.

Insecurity in northern and eastern Uganda continues to claim the lives of civilians. Food distribution by WFP are estimated to reach over 1.4 million displaced persons, 160 000 refugees and other vulnerable persons. Elsewhere in the country a generally stable food supply situation is reported.

In western Africa, seasonably dry conditions prevail in the Sahelian zone where bumper crops were harvested last year. The aggregate 2003 output of cereals in the nine Sahelian countries was estimated by a series of joint FAO/CILSS Crop Assessment Missions at a record 14.3 million tonnes, 25 percent higher than the above-average crop of 11.4 million tonnes harvested in 2002. Record crops were harvested in all countries except in of Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau. Reflecting these good harvests, markets are well supplied and cereal prices have declined substantially. In the coastal countries from Guinea to Nigeria, rains started in early March allowing sowings of the first 2004 maize crop, particularly in southern areas. Record cereal crops were harvested in 2003 in Benin, Togo and Nigeria, while output was below average in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Liberia. The aggregate 2003 cereal production in the eight countries along the Gulf of Guinea is estimated at some 30.6 million tonnes, virtually unchanged from the previous year and higher than average.

The cereal import requirement of western Africa in the 2003/04 marketing year is estimated at 9.3 million tonnes. Anticipated commercial imports are estimated at 8.7 million tonnes and the food aid requirement, mainly wheat and rice, at 0.6 million tonnes. Food aid pledges reported to GIEWS as of end-March amounted to some 308 900 tonnes, of which 110 000 tonnes have been delivered so far. Local purchases are strongly recommended to cover ongoing or planned food aid programmes or for replenishment of the national security stocks.

Of particular concern is the threat from desert locusts already well into the development stage in the northern parts of several Sahelian countries as well as in Algeria and Morocco.

In Senegal, following the bumper 2003 cereal crop the overall food supply position is satisfactory. Markets are well supplied and prices have declined since the beginning of the harvest. As a result of a seven-fold increase in output, some 200 000 tonnes of maize are available for export.

In Mauritania, the overall food supply situation is satisfactory but prices of many domestically produced foodstuffs remain high. Recently, prices of imported foodstuffs, particularly wheat, have increased sharply. Wide spread hatching and band formation of desert locusts continue in the north and northwest and are of particular concern for the upcoming cropping season.

On 23 February, FAO issued an international appeal for funds to fight the desert locust upsurge.

In The Gambia, the food security situation is expected to improve this year reflecting the bumper cereal crop harvested in 2003. However, in some districts affected by grasshopper infestation and floods, a number of households may experience food difficulties this year.

In Guinea Bissau, a large 2003 cereal output contributed to a stabilisation of staple food prices. However, a CILLS Crop Assessment Mission which visited the country last October recommended close monitoring of the food supply position of the people living in the chronically food-deficit areas along the border with Senegal. WFP has recently approved an emergency operation to support rural households affected by floods during the 2003 rainy season.

In Burkina Faso, the off-season crops are currently being harvested. Reflecting a record 2003 cereal crop for the second consecutive year, the overall food supply position is satisfactory and farmers will be able to increase their grain stocks. Replenishment of the national food reserve, as well as local purchases and triangular transactions by donors are strongly recommended to support domestic cereal prices.

In Mali, the food supply situation is expected to be satisfactory this year reflecting a bumper cereal harvest of 3.4 million tonnes. The food situation should also improve for the people living in the structurally food-deficit areas of the north where, however, isolated groups of desert locusts persist.

In Niger, as a result of successive good cereal harvests in the last three years, the overall food supply situation is satisfactory, also reflecting large stocks and relatively low prices of staples. To support cereal prices on local markets, a joint FAO/CILLS Crop Assessment Mission which visited the country in October last year strongly recommended to donors to use local purchases and triangular transactions for their aid programmes.

In Chad, reflecting good cereal crops in 2003 the overall food supply situation is satisfactorily. However, reports of insecurity along the Chad/Sudan border suggest that an increasing number of displaced people in the north-western Darfur region of Sudan are crossing the border to take refuge in Chad. Alarming malnutrition rates are already reported in the northern region of Biltine. Donors are urged to give their contributions urgently before many of the roads become impassable when the rains start in May.

In Cape Verde, 2003 production of maize, the only cereal grown, is estimated to have sharply increased by 79 percent compared to the drought-affected crop in the previous year, but remained below average. However, even in a normal year, domestic grain production covers only a small fraction of the country’s cereal utilization requirement and the balance has to be imported.

In Côte d’Ivoire, sowing of the 2004 main maize crop is underway in the south and centre following the onset of the rains in March. Aggregate cereal output in 2003, estimated at 1.4 million tonnes, has declined for the second successive year reflecting adverse weather, conflict-induced population displacement and inadequate availability of agricultural inputs.

Despite some improvement, particularly in areas where WFP and NGOs have access and supplementary programmes are in place, food security for many households continues to be hampered by disruption of livelihoods. In particular, smallholder cash-crop producers are experiencing a significant loss of income due to restrictive marketing opportunities.

In Ghana, plantings of the 2004 main maize crop, to be harvested from July, started in March. Aggregate cereal production in 2003 declined by some 17 percent to 1.78 million tonnes, due to unfavourable weather.

In Guinea, cereal output in 2003, mostly rice, is estimated at an average level of 1 million tonnes, almost the same as the previous year’s harvest. Following the restoration of peace in Sierra Leone the number of refugees has decrease; however, recent reports indicate that about 108 000 refugees still reside in seven camps in Guinea.

To halt the increase of food prices, the Government decided to sell directly to the public 20 000 tonnes of rice at controlled prices.

In Liberia, the 2004 paddy crop, due for harvest from September is being planted. Following the return of many previously displaced farmers, rice production this year is expected to recover from last year’s drastically reduced level. With the end of the civil war an increasing number of Liberians refugees in Sierra Leone are voluntarily returning to Liberia. Reports indicate increasing food insecurity in the south-eastern county of River Gee.

A two-day international donor conference held in February in New York pledged US$520 million for a World Bank-backed reconstruction programme to rebuild Liberia’s essential infrastructure over the next two years.

In Sierra Leone, the 2004 cereal crop, mostly rice, is currently being planted. Cereal production in 2003 was affected by adverse weather during the growing season and output is estimated at some 408 000 tonnes, some 2 percent lower than the good crop in the previous year. The security situation in the country remains calm and the food supply situation is generally satisfactory. WFP is supporting countrywide a total of about 97 000 people through vulnerable group feeding programmes.

Elsewhere in western Africa, the food supply situation is satisfactory.

In Central Africa, sowing of the main maize crop, to be harvested from July, started in March in Cameroon and in the Central African Republic. Production of cereals in 2003 in the sub-region is estimated at about 3 million tonnes, almost unchanged from previous year. A slight increase in output in Cameroon was offset by lower harvests in the Central African Republic and in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In Central African Republic, increasing insecurity is preventing many farmers from accessing their fields for cultivation and harvesting. Thus, foodstuffs on the markets are scarce and the food situation remains precarious. Reflecting a decrease in output in 2003 for the second consecutive year, import requirements in cereals in 2004 is estimated at some 46 000 tonnes, 18 percent higher than estimated imports last year.

In the Republic of Congo, domestic cereal production covers some 2 percent of total domestic requirements; the balance is imported, mostly on commercial terms. In 2004 the import requirement in cereals, mainly wheat, is estimated at some 185 000 tonnes, virtually unchanged from previous year.

To establish lasting peace after the end of the civil strife and reintegrate former combatants into civil society, the Government and several international organizations have set up a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programme for former militia men.

In the Great Lakes region, food production from Season A in Rwanda has been estimated to remain at about the same level as the year before. Total harvest of cereals, legumes, roots/tubers and banana/plantain in Burundi is estimated at 1.1 million tonnes, about 2 percent higher than the year before but still below pre-crisis period average of 1988-93. The overall security situation in the region has improved except in some localized areas, however, food aid continues to be required in all three countries for the vulnerable and IDPs as the nutritional situation remains critical.

In Burundi, the 2003/04 main agricultural season has been favourable throughout much of the country with main crops planted in September–October 2003. Some hail damage in hilly areas in Ruyigi province and outbreaks of animal diseases in Mwaro province were reported early in the season. In early March, torrential rains caused flooding in Burundi's north-western province of Bubanza displacing some 10 000 people and destroying fields of beans and other legumes in the area.

The results of a crop assessment organized by the Government and FAO/WFP/UNICEF in January 2004 has estimated food production (cereals, legumes, roots/tubers, and banana/plantain) of first season crops in 2004 at 1.1 million tonnes, about 2 percent higher than last year. It should be noted, however, that per capita food production has declined over time. The Mission estimated a total cereal import requirement of 30 000 tonnes, including food aid needs of 277 000 tonnes. The marked decline in pulse production has reduced an important source of dietary protein, leading to concerns over nutritional status of the population.

Although there was some renewed fighting over the past few weeks in parts of Burundi, the overall security situation has improved. According to the above-mentioned assessment, food aid of approximately 90 600 tonnes will be needed.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), although there remain serious security hazards including armed conflicts in certain parts of the country, the overall security situation DRC has been improving making it easier to provide assistance to the internally displaced persons and returning refugees. The country has been granted a US$39 million loan by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) under the country's Poverty Reduction Strategy and Growth Facility (PRGF) to foster growth and reduce poverty in the country.

Recently, growing instability in Katanga, in the south-eastern part of DRC, has been reported. The nutritional situation of the population is generally very poor. Humanitarian agencies were able to reach Songolo and Iga-Barriere towns, around the district capital of Bunia in the northeast, to assist affected populations. WFP is providing food to some 10 000 vulnerable people, including those infected with HIV/AIDS.

In Rwanda,the 2003/04 main season started in September-October with normal to erratic rains. However, following favourable rainfall subsequently, near average crop harvest of main season maize, sorghum and beans is expected. A joint FAO/WFP/Government assessment in December estimated Season A national crop production, at 3.5 million tonnes (or 867 000 tonnes in cereal equivalent), about the same as the year before.  Planting of second season crops, maize, sorghum and beans is underway since February under near normal weather conditions. The season should be monitored closely during these critical months (April-May) before these crops are ready for harvest in June-July.

Total 2003 cereal production, estimated at 279 000 tonnes, was well below 2002 production but higher than the average of the last five years. There still remains a sizable food deficit requiring a projected food aid of about 30 000 tonnes of cereals.


Estimated cereal import requirements in sub-Saharan Africa in 2004 remain high but are expected to be lower compared to last year. GIEWS latest estimates of 2003 production and 2003/04 import and food aid requirements are summarized in Tables 1 and 2. Total food aid requirement is estimated at 2.9 million tonnes, against 4.0 million tonnes received in 2002/03. Cereal food aid pledges for 2003/04, including those carried over from 2002/03, amount to 2.1 million tonnes of which 1.4 million tonnes have so far been delivered.

FAO/GIEWS - April 2004

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