SWAZILAND* (10 February)
Planting and crop growth of main season crops has been spotty this season due to ill-distributed low rainfall since the start of the season in October 2004. Short but heavy rains in December-January were reported and should help the crops. According to the National Disaster Task Force some damage to the maize crop was caused by hailstorm on 23 January. Thus the prospects for crops at this stage are considered as unfavourable. The food security situation throughout the country is serious following a drought that caused 30 percent reduction in the 2004 harvest of main season cereals. With a self-sufficiency rate for cereals of only about a third, the Swazi population is mostly dependent on food imports. The cereal import requirements in the 2004/05 marketing year (May/April) are estimated at about 132 000 tonnes, of which about 100 000 tonnes are expected to be imported commercially. The balance (32 000 tonnes) is anticipated to be covered by food aid targeted to the most vulnerable people numbering 142 000, primarily for mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS and providing direct support to households unable to access available food and agricultural inputs.