FAO GLOBAL INFORMATION AND EARLY WARNING SYSTEM ON FOOD AND AGRICULTURE
WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME
At the start of 2004 it became clear that, in the Sahel, Mali was one of the countries most at risk of agricultural production losses due to a potentially enormous growth in the desert locust population. In August, large numbers of swarms and hopper bands began to devour the vegetation along a strip of the crop and pasture zone between the 15th and 17th parallels. As a result, FAO joined forces with WFP and CILSS to help establish the annual forecast for agricultural production before the harvest and to assess the impact of locust infestation on crops, livestock and household vulnerability. A FEWS-NET representative joined the team and actively participated in the field visit and subsequent analysis of the data gathered.
The mission, accompanied by an EU observer, worked in collaboration with Mali’s government institutions responsible for monitoring the agricultural season, namely:
the CPS (Planning and Statistics Group)
the DNAMR (National Department for Rural Support)
the DNSI (National Department for Statistics and IT)
the SAP (Early Warning System Project)
the (Food Security Commission)
the DNM (National Department for Meteorology)
At the time of the mission, the CPS was putting the finishing touches to the analysis of a detailed agricultural survey of around 12 000 households countrywide. The sample was about six times larger than the one employed for the usual annual survey and so it was expected that the information would be much
more precise than that obtained in recent years. However, at the time of writing of this report (the beginning of November), the survey conclusions were not yet available and the government of Mali had not published its official estimates for agricultural production in 2004-2005. As a result, the mission established the estimates given in this report on the basis of its own survey of crop losses and other reports published by the above-mentioned government bodies. Three teams went into the field to interview rural households, local authorities, technicians involved in the field of agriculture and food security, and NGOs. These teams covered the seriously infested regions of Mopti, Ségou and Koulikoro.
The findings of the mission are as follows:
The locust threat, first reported in June in the northern part of the country, was evident in July and, by August and September most of the regions above the 14th parallel had been affected by infestations of desert locusts.
The largest crop losses due to locust infestation affected the production of non-rainfed millet (37 000 tonnes), cowpeas (3 000 tonnes) and sorghum (9 000 tonnes). Although these losses were spectacular and extensive at the local level in a good number of the 78 communes affected, national cereal production is largely guaranteed by the zones situated further south of the regions affected and Sikasso region.
Given the relatively limited area and importance of the agricultural zones infested by locusts, total cereal production for 2004-2005, which should reach 2 933 000 tonnes, is up by 11 percent compared with the averages for 1999-2000 and 2003-2004. This figure is equal to 86 percent of the exceptional volume of production recorded last year.
Market supplies have been satisfactory throughout this year following excellent harvests in the 2003/04 season. Until September, cereal prices were significantly down compared with the previous season. However, in the zones affected by locust invasion, prices have begun to increase since July (the critical lean period) despite a relatively good level of supplies to markets in these areas.
For the 2004/05 season, cereal supplies have been assessed at 2 934 000 tonnes as against the 2 951 700 tonnes required and so 17 700 tonnes will have to be imported. In practice, this indicates a balanced situation for the country if exports are maintained. On average, Mali imports nearly 100 000 tonnes of cereals according to government statistics but it exports the same amount. The risk of a cereals shortage this year is therefore very low.
The markets should be well supplied. Prices will be higher than in 2004 when they were particularly low following record harvests in the 2003 season, but the food situation countrywide should be satisfactory.
Nevertheless, in the zones infested by desert locusts, the millet and cowpea crops have been practically destroyed. The price of cereals will clearly rise in these areas and the local populations will have few resources to pay for them. Their food situation will therefore be precarious. Some form of assistance should be planned urgently to address a food crisis in these regions.
This report has been prepared by S. Hebie, N. Beninati, J.A. Scaglia and Mamadou Diouf, under the responsibility of the FAO and WFP Secretariats with information from official and other sources. Since conditions may change rapidly, please contact the undersigned for further information if required.
Chief, GIEWS, FAO
Regional Director, ODD WFP
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