FAO/GIEWS: Africa Report No.3 - December 2005 p.4

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Planting of main season crops in southern Africa is underway. Crops in eastern Africa are maturing or being harvested, while in western Africa harvesting is ending in the Sahel but still underway in the coastal countries. The crop calendar of sub-Saharan Africa is indicated below.

Cereal crop calendar

SubregionCereal 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 eastern Africa, harvesting of the 2005 main season cereal crops is underway in northern parts of the sub-region while it has been completed in southern parts. The 2005 aggregate sub-regional cereal output is anticipated to increase over the level of last year. However, a poor harvest in southern Somalia coupled with increased insecurity is a cause for serious concern.

In Eritrea, harvesting of the 2005 main season (“Kremti”) crops has started and the outlook is generally favourable, following good distribution of rainfall. Preliminary estimates by the Ministry of Agriculture indicate a cereal production 2 to 3 times higher than the 2004 harvest of 85 000 tonnes. However, even in good years, Eritrea produces only a fraction of its total cereal consumption requirement of about 500 000 to 600 000 tonnes and largely depends on imports.

In the last several years, the food situation deteriorated sharply as a result of consecutive poor harvests and lingering effects of war with neighbouring Ethiopia, compounded by serious macro-economic imbalances affecting commercial import capacity of the country. High cereal prices continue to impact on purchasing power and food security of large numbers of people. For instance, in July market prices for white sorghum, the main staple crop, were double or more than double in Barentu and Keren compared to the same time last year. In September, white sorghum prices in Asmara were twice the average of 1998-2004 prices. Although the current harvest has started arriving on the markets, soaring fuel prices have contributed to an increase in the prices of all commodities and may counteract the impact of the good harvest on food prices. The price of petrol increased during August from 32 Nakfa per litre to 38 Nakfa per litre and the price of diesel from 12 to 16 Nakfa per litre.

About 2 million people, many of whom already chronically undernourished, are facing varying degrees of food shortages with some 1.3–1.4 million estimated to be in need of food assistance. However, since September 2005 general food distribution to drought/war affected beneficiaries has been suspended by the government, due to its concern over increased food aid dependency, proposing instead to shift to more food-for-work interventions. Consequently, only some 72 000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) are currently receiving general rations compared to some 1.3 million in August 2005.

In Ethiopia, prospects for the 2005 main season “meher” crops are favourable in the main producing regions in western and central parts. The secondary “belg” season crops, harvested earlier in the year, were generally better than last year but some areas were adversely affected by either excessive or erratic and late rains. Normally, the belg season rains extend from February to May and the crop accounts for some 10 percent of total grain production but in some areas it provides the bulk of annual grain output.

Household food availability is poor and high malnutrition rates, particularly for children, are of serious concern in some areas. The situation is exacerbated by significantly higher than average food prices. A multi-agency mission, composed of Government, UN and other humanitarian agencies last April revised the total number of people in need of emergency food assistance in 2005 upwards from 3.1 million to 3.8 million. A subsequent inter-agency assessment of belg-dependent and pastoral areas in July identified additional requirements for the months of August to December. The relief food requirement in 2005 increased from an initial estimate of 387 000 tonnes to about 464 000 tonnes in April and 600 000 tonnes in July (not including supplementary food requirements). A Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) was initiated in 2005 to address the needs of more than 5 million chronically food-insecure people with cash and food transfers. Implementation of the programme was delayed in the first half of the year causing some problems, but exceptional measures introduced in June accelerated the process and resulted in reaching the bulk of the intended beneficiaries. The PSNP has now supported about 4.8 million chronically food-insecure people through community “public” works and free “direct” transfers. Overall, the national level of food aid in the pipeline is expected to cover the estimated requirements for the remainder of 2005 and early 2006.

An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission is in the country to assess the main season production and estimate food assistance requirements in 2006.

In Kenya, harvesting of the 2005 long-rains season maize is almost over in most parts of the country and prospects are generally favourable due to good rains in main agricultural areas. These rains counteracted somewhat the adverse impact on yields of delayed planting due to the late start of the season. The long rains cropping season (March-May) normally accounts for 80 percent of total annual food production. Most northwestern pastoral areas also received above average rains in April and May. Currently, the forecast by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development of this year’s “long rains” maize crop stands at 2.5 million tonnes, nearly 20 percent higher than the average of the previous five years.

Despite the favourable crop prospects, however, serious food problems remain in the southeastern lowlands and the northeastern pastoral areas. In the marginal agricultural areas of Eastern Province, particularly in Kitui and Makueni districts, the household food security situation has deteriorated sharply due to the near-total crop failure during the current season. This followed the earlier failure of the critical October-December 2004 short-rains season. The next important harvest is not due until February 2006. In addition, the northeastern pastoral districts including Garissa, Wajir, Tana River and Isiolo, are faced with serious food shortages. Recent reports indicate high child malnutrition rates in several districts. Simmering clan tensions have also resulted in vicious clashes in several pastoral areas. Ever dwindling resources like water and pasture are some of the underlying causes that continue to plague these communities.

In Somalia, the 2005/06 secondary “deyr” cropping season is underway. Poor and unevenly distributed rainfall was reported at the beginning of the season in October and early November and may affect production. The 2005 main "gu" season cereal crop, harvested last August/September, is put at about 115 000 tonnes (including off-season crops), nearly 37 percent less than average. The decline is due to the poor rainfall performance in the main crop producing areas of southern Somalia. By contrast, the gu rains in central and northern Somalia were generally good and the estimated cereal harvest in these parts is above average. The “gu” cereal crop normally accounts for some 70 to 80 percent of annual production.

The above average gu rains in central and northern Somalia have markedly improved pasture and livestock conditions. Although this signals an end to the severe drought conditions of more than three years, a full recovery will be slow due to the cumulative effects of the droughts on livelihoods, including large livestock losses and high levels of indebtedness.

The overall food security situation in Somalia continues to be of concern with more than 900 000 people in need of urgent assistance. The situation is further aggravated by the outbreak and upsurge in hostilities in parts of southern Somalia and the deterioration in security conditions that are hampering the distribution of relief assistance. Recent hijackings of ships by pirates off Somalia's coast are also slowing the delivery of food aid and threaten the well-being of the vulnerable people.

Further information and analysis can be accessed from the Food Security Assessment Unit (FSAU) at: www.fsausomali.org.

In Sudan, prospects for the 2005 food crops are favourable in major producing areas owing to improved rainfall. Overall, Sudan’s estimated rainfall reached near to above normal levels, with potentially excessive totals in the northeastern agricultural areas and possibly below-normal amounts in northeastern Darfur. Heavy rainfall was recorded in late July-early August in areas of West Darfur which should have benefited crops and improved water and pasture conditions.

In southern Sudan, the optimism that followed the peace deal signed in January 2005 to end the war prompted large numbers of Sudanese refugees in neighbouring countries to trek back to their villages. The humanitarian challenges and rehabilitation and reconstruction needs of the shattered economy and infrastructure will be enormous.

An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission (CFSAM) has completed field work in southern Sudan and is currently in northern Sudan assessing this year’s overall crop production and food supply prospects for the 2005/06 marketing year.

In the United Republic of Tanzania, planting of the 2005/06 short “vuli” season crops in the bi-modal rainfall northern areas is complete despite poor precipitation. Preliminary forecast of the 2005 maize crop indicates a 2 percent increase over last year’s good crop. However, poor rainfall patterns in Dodoma, Tabora, Shinyanga, Morogoro (in early January to February) as well as in Arusha, Manyara and Kilimanjaro areas (during March to June) have affected maize production and may result in some downward revision.

The overall national food supply situation remains stable. In most markets in the southern highlands grain basket regions of Tanzania, wholesale maize prices have been below the four-year average since January 2005 due to good local production in 2004. However, in early August 2005 wholesale maize prices in Dar-es-Salaam were still 18 percent higher compared to the same time last year. High demand from neighbouring countries, particularly Zambia and Malawi where below average crops have been gathered, may also counteract the expected fall in prices in southern Tanzania.

A vulnerability assessment carried out by the Food Security Information Team (FSIT) identified 34 districts, in the above-mentioned regions, that are going face food shortages during the lean season from November 2005 to January 2006. About 600 000 people were estimated to be food insecure requiring some intervention (subsidized maize prices) and the Government plans to distribute 10 000 tonnes of maize from the Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR).

In Uganda, prospects for the current second season food crops have improved with recent rains. Harvesting of the 2005 main season crops is complete and an average crop is forecast. Already wholesale maize prices have started to decline in most of the markets. However, increased demand in northern Uganda and exports to Kenya are expected to firm-up these prices. In northern Uganda, poorly distributed rainfall has negatively affected crop development. However, an average sorghum crop is expected in Karamoja.

The national food situation is stable. However, insecurity remains a serious problem in the northern region (Gulu, Kigum, Lira and Pader districts) as the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) continues to attack communities and lay ambushes on roads, maiming and killing people as well as destroying assets and property and denying displaced people access to their fields. Food distributions continue to reach 1.4 million displaced persons and nearly 200 000 refugees and other vulnerable persons. WFP faces a shortfall of over 100 000 tonnes of food commodities, with a funding gap of about US$ 50 million required to maintain the food pipeline through mid-2006.

In southern Africa, a delay of seasonal rains has disrupted sowing of the main season crops in most countries. Food insecurity in the region is of serious concern as the lean period has commenced and is affecting nearly 12 million people who are in need of emergency food assistance in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Swaziland, Lesotho, Mozambique and Zambia. Food shortages are generally reflected in rising staple food prices (especially in Zimbabwe and Malawi). Of the total maize import requirement of 2.7 million tonnes for the subregion (excluding South Africa) for the current marketing year, so far an estimated 1.6 million tonnes have been received (1.1 million tonnes as commercial imports and 515 000 tonnes as food aid). In Zimbabwe, serious farm input problems (availability as well as affordability) are widespread. Access to food in many areas is severely hampered by scarcity of grain on the market, transport problems and fuel shortages. For the same reasons, prospects for 2006 are unfavourable in that country, regardless of rainfall conditions. In Malawi, fertilizer distribution is underway under the Government’s subsidy programme. Although food aid pledges of a significant amount have been made (around 200 000 tonnes), the bulk of this food is yet to arrive in the country. On a brighter note, due to a bumper maize harvest in South Africa, there is an exportable surplus of this staple grain estimated at a record level of 4.66 million tonnes. Also, a budget revision in WFP’s regional Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO) for 2005/07 has been approved for appeal for additional US$ 211 million dollars (equivalent to 446 000 tonnes of food), bringing the total to US$ 622 million.

In Angola, the normal rains received during late October and early November should help start the planting of main season crops. Final area planted, however, will depend on the much needed farm inputs such as seeds, tools and draught power in the vast and remote areas of the country. With the improvement in the security situation, large numbers of internally displaced persons and refugees have returned to their former areas.

The 2005 maize harvest, at a record level of 768 000 tonnes, represents self-sufficiency in the staple and a major improvement in food production. However, the country still needs to import about 739 000 tonnes of cereals for 2005/06, mainly wheat and rice. By mid-November about 167 000 tonnes of cereals (mostly wheat) had been imported commercially since April. In spite of the favourable national harvest, pockets of food insecurity exist in the central highlands of Planalto region and in the vast south-eastern province of Kuando Kubango. Food security problems have been compounded by poor road conditions and underdeveloped marketing systems. So far international donors have pledged food aid of 34 000 tonnes of which only 22 000 tonnes have been received. WFP feeds about 500 000 of the most vulnerable people.

In Botswana, no significant precipitation has been received for the planting of the 2005/06 main season cereals, maize, sorghum and millet grown mostly in the eastern half of the country. Livestock raising dominates in the rest of the country. Much of the country has experienced drought during 2005 and consequently the cereal harvest was only 19 000 tonnes representingover 50 percent drop from last year. This raised the cereal import requirement (mostly maize) to 337 000 tonnes or 94 percent of total utilization needs during 2005/06 marketing year compared to some 88 percent last year. Most of the needs are met through commercial imports.

In Lesotho, rainfall so far has been above normal in northern areas but below normal in the southern part of the country. Planting of the main season crops is underway especially in the highlands. FAO in partnership with Catholic Relief Services and funding from DFID has provided inputs mainly through organized seed fairs to some 5 650 farmers. With the arrival of 200 tractors from India there is no shortage of draught power. However, the cost of ploughing is said to be prohibitive for many farmers who lack working capital and access to credit.

Prospects for the secondary winter crop to be harvested in November-December are unfavourable due to the prolonged dry conditions. This has exacerbated the already tight food supply situation in the country following a below average 2005 main season cereal harvest. By mid-November commercial imports have been recorded at 110 000 tonnes (amounting to half of estimated imports for the marketing year until March 2006). Food assistance requirements for 2005/06 marketing year were estimated at about 80 000 tonnes of cereals; so far (mid-November) only 8 000 tonnes have been pledged. Currently WFP assists about 250 000 to 300 000 most food insecure people out of an estimated 548 000 vulnerable population.

In Madagascar, rainfall this year has been below normal throughout the country except for a narrow strip along the east coast of the island. Consequently planting of the main season crops, paddy and maize, is delayed. The potato crop, usually planted in September, is likely to have bee adversely affected. Relatively high rice prices in the country at present (which stabilized at around 5 000 FMG/kg in October and early November) are expected to have a positive impact on area planted to paddy.

The 2005 paddy harvest was estimated at a record level of about 3.4 million tonnes and total cereal import requirement for 2005/06 marketing year (April/March) at 174 000 tonnes or about 7 percent of the country’s total utilization requirement. So far only 40 000 tonnes have been imported commercially. About 17 000 tonnes, or half of the estimated food aid need, have been pledged so far during this marketing year. Madagascar’s entry into the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in August is expected to improve trade and boost economic prospects for the country.

The price of vanilla has fallen from about US$ 180/kg in 2004 to US$ 50 in early 2005 adversely affecting incomes of farmers in the northern part of the island. Reportedly, more than 70 percent of Madagascar's 17 million people live below the poverty line of US$1/day. An increase in child malnutrition has been reported by a recent survey in the south-eastern parts of the country.

In Malawi, field preparation and input procurement are underway for planting of main season crops in November-December. So far some rainfall has been received, especially in the south, but not enough to prompt planting of maize. To date the Government has distributed coupons worth 147 000 tonnes of fertilizer. This will allow the selected small farmers to purchase 100 kg of fertilizer at subsidized prices. Actual fertilizer buying is in progress throughout the country.

Total maize import requirements for the 2005/06 marketing year (April/March) were estimated at 767 000 tonnes, of which about 300 000 tonnes were expected to be covered commercially. So far, about 90 000 tonnes of cereal imports, including about 60 000 tonnes through informal cross-border trade, have been recorded. Another 60 000 tonnes are reportedly on the way from South Africa under the Ministry of Finance’s futures contracts. Confirmed food aid pledges as of the mid-November were at around 200 000 tonnes, although the bulk of this food is yet to arrive in the country. Reportedly, donors and the Government of Malawi have mobilized 214 000 tonnes of maize and 18 000 tonnes of pulses in addition to 3.25 billion kwacha to feed over 4 million food insecure people. ADMARC is selling limited quantities of maize at a subsidised price of 17 kwacha/kg against the most common market price of about 30 kwacha in southern markets.

Food insecurity throughout the country is worsening as maize prices continue to rise due to short supplies in various markets. For example, average prices of maize in October in Liwonde (South), Dowa (Centre) and Mzuzu (North) were 31.20, 26.03, and 27.75 kwacha/kg, respectively, up by 40, 27, and 31 percent from just the month before. The main reasons for higher prices this year compared to last year are shortage of domestic supplies owing to a 26 percent decline in national harvest compared to last year’s poor harvest, relatively inactive private sector in reaction to uncertainty over Government import plans and subsidized maize distributions, and increased transportation costs. A recent survey by UNICEF showed an increase in admissions to the Nutritional Rehabilitation Units by 22 percent in October in the drought affected southern districts of the country.

In Mozambique, planting of the main season crops has been disrupted by erratic and insufficient rains in October and early November. However, forecast for 2005/06 season is normal to above normal rainfall. Problems with availability of quality seeds are reported especially in the south. Government’s seed fairs targeted to some 50 000 small holders are seen as inadequate.

Despite the above average national production in 2005, certain areas in central and southern provinces were affected by drought. Total cereal import requirements, including rice and wheat, were forecast at 869 000 tonnes, about 10 percent higher than last year. To date the country has received about 363 000 tonnes of commercial imports and 44 000 tonnes of food aid pledges.

Reflecting the poor harvest in the south and high export demand in the north from neighbouring food deficit Malawi, maize prices have risen since April in most markets in the country and are higher than last year especially in the food deficit south. An average price in the second week of November was 6 857 Mts/kg in Maputo, up from about 4 619 Mts the same period last year. The average maize price at harvest time (April) in Maputo was 5 129 Mts/kg. Rising maize prices have exacerbated food insecurity for the vulnerable population, currently revised upwards by the country’s Technical Secretariat for Food Security and Nutrition (SETSAN) to about 800 000 people in 62 districts. WFP is distributing food aid to only a quarter of these, mostly in the drought-affected areas.

Over much of Namibia there has been little rain as of mid-November. As a result, planting of the main season cereals, maize, sorghum and millet, which takes place typically only in the northern strip of the country, is delayed. Production of winter wheat is estimated at 10 500 tonnes, down by 1 000 tonnes from the previous year. Most of the national cereal deficit for 2005/06 marketing year (May/April), estimated at 145 000 tonnes, is expected to be met through commercial imports. So far only 27 000 tonnes of cereal imports, mostly from neighbouring South Africa, have been recorded.

In spite of the high per capita income (per capita GDP at the Purchasing Power Parity for 2003 was US$ 6 180 as per the UNDP’s Human Development Report 2005), extreme poverty and food insecurity exist in the country.

In South Africa, the fourth estimate of the 2005/06 production of winter wheat shows a 9 percent increase, to 1.83 million tonnes, over the drought affected 2004 output. An anticipated increase in yields should compensate for the estimated 4 percent drop in area planted to this crop. This level of production, however, is much below the normal level of about 2 million tonnes per year.

A farmer survey of maize planting intentions for the 2005/06 agricultural season shows an alarming decline of 53 percent to a new level of 1.37 million hectares. This seems to be a result of the farmer complaints about the low unprofitable maize prices and the fact that South Africa has a projected closing stock of maize for the 2005/06 marketing year (May/April) at a record level of 4.66 million tonnes. The survey also shows a switch from maize and sorghum to relatively more lucrative crops such as soybeans and groundnuts.

The SAFEX price of white maize has steadily risen since July and currently (as of mid-November) is R950/tonne. As the lean season approaches in the subregion, the demand for South African white maize is picking up further encouraged by the weak Rand. This price is still well below the import parity price of maize of about R1 200. Earlier the price had plummeted from about R900 in January 2005 to under R600 beginning of March in response to substantial domestic stocks, improved crop production prospects locally and internationally, and a substantial drop in the international price.

In Swaziland, the sowing of main-season crops is currently underway as above average rainfall was received during the first dekad of November over most parts of the country. The food security situation throughout the country is serious following the below average harvest of 2005, declining income-earning opportunities and remittances, high levels of unemployment, and the impact of HIV/AIDS on the livelihoods of households. With a self-sufficiency rate for cereals of only about a third, the Swazi population is mostly dependent on food imports. So far, less than half of its annual cereal imports have been acquired. As of mid-November commercial imports and food aid receipts were recorded at 42 000 and 4 000 tonnes, respectively, against the estimated total cereal import requirements of 111 000 tonnes for 2005/06 marketing year.

In Zambia, while the northern part of the country received normal to above normal rainfall during the first half of November 2005 and sowing of the main season crops is underway, southern and central parts received well below-average precipitation delaying normal sowing. Land preparation in general is considered adequate with farmers putting more emphasis on potholing (conservation pits) to capture rainwater. A recent input needs assessment carried out by FAO indicates that key inputs are not easily available for purchase in many rural areas. The government’s program of 50 percent subsidy on fertilizer again this year is expected to help small farmers who can afford to pay the remaining 50 percent in cash upfront. This program of input subsidy during the 2005/06 agricultural season is targeted to 125 000 small-scale farmers with 50 000 tonnes of fertilizer and 2 600 tonnes of maize seed. In addition, for the 2005/06 season FAO will provide, with AUSAID funding, cowpeas and soybean seeds and cassava cuttings to some 33 000 households not covered by the Government programme.

The 2005 cereal output was estimated at about 1 million tonnes, 30 percent down from last year’s bumper harvest and 16 percent below average of the previous five years. Consequently, cereal import requirements for marketing year 2005/06 (May/April) were estimated at 271 000 tonnes, anticipated to be covered by 224 000 tonnes of commercial imports, and 47 000 tonnes of international food aid. Plans to import 250 000 tonnes of white maize by millers are progressing rather slowly due to fuel, transportation and other difficulties. So far only 28 000 tonnes have been pledged as food aid. As an innovative alternative to food aid, in November, Oxfam with funding from DFID was distributing cash (90 000 kwacha, equivalent to US$ 23 per household) to more than 14 000 households in 2 districts in Western province.

The average price of white maize on 25 November, 2005, according to CHC Commodities Ltd., rose to 53 000 ZMK/50 kg bag, up from about 36 000 the same time last year, due to delays in imports and low levels of stocks. Import parity price of white maize has stabilized at around US$ 300/tonne. The average maize price at harvest time (April-May) in the Central Province was near the floor price of 36 000 ZMK/50 kg bag offered by the National Food Reserve Agency. White maize price in Lusaka has steadily increased from about ZMK 35 000/50 kg bag in January to 57 000 in November 2005. In an acknowledgement of the worsening food security situation for about 1.7 million people (up from the previous estimate of 1.2 million) in the country, the Government, on 21 November 2005, declared a state of food disaster and appealed for international assistance. The new food assistance requirement is set at 135 000 tonnes for the period up to February 2006.

In Zimbabwe, although some light rains during October and first half of November were received especially in the northern part of the country, the bulk of planting is not expected to start until later. Similar to the past few years farmers are expected to face seed, fertilizer, fuel, and spare parts shortages. With sharply declining numbers of draught animals, very few working tractors and continuing diesel shortages, much land cultivation is likely to be dependent on manual labour and hand tools.

Normally Zimbabwe requires about 50 000 tonnes of maize seed. Indications are that only half of this quantity is currently available locally. Imports of the remainder are being planned. Even when the seed is available, its affordability by many small farmers is in question at the current price of Z$ 30 000/kg which represents an increase of 270 percent over last year’s price. Due to lack of foreign currency to import raw materials, domestic production of fertilizer is very limited. Fertilizer companies estimate that this year about 75 percent of last year’s much reduced amount may be available, that too at much higher prices.

Food security in general remains of serious concern due to insufficient grain supplies on the market. Against the overall cereal import requirement of 1.2 million tonnes, the country has contracted to import (based on the export-by-destination data mostly from South Africa), as of mid-November 2005, about 660 000 tonnes since last April. Access to food in many areas is severely hampered by continuous price increases. Between June and October this year the average maize price increased from about Z$ 2 000 to about 8 000/kg. In Harare maize prices in early October were double the average price of September and about 800 percent higher than the same period in 2004. The annual inflation in October surged to 411 percent, 51.2 percentage points up from the September rate due to rises in fuel and food prices, and depreciation of the Zimbabwe dollar. WFP plans to distribute a monthly ration of cereal and pulses to an estimated 3 million people until the harvest in April. So far this year WFP has received pledges of about US$ 120 million, equivalent to about 205 000 tonnes of food.

In western Africa, a record crop is expected in the Sahel following generally favourable weather conditions since the beginning of the growing season. In October/November 2005, joint CILSS/Government Crop Assessment Missions in the nine CILSS member countries provisionally estimated aggregate cereal production in the Sahel at some 15 million tonnes, about 34 percent above last year’s desert locust and drought-affected output and some 31 percent above the average for the last five years. This together with good harvest prospects in most coastal countries including Nigeria, Benin and Côte d’Ivoire, point to a satisfactory food supply situation in the region during marketing year 2005/06. However, the severe food crisis that struck the region in 2004/05 has had serious income and livelihoods effects and resulted in depletion of household assets, high levels of indebtedness and nutritional deterioration for large segments of the population notably in Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. In these countries, implementation of income generating and asset reconstitution activities is recommended to protect the livelihoods of food insecure and vulnerable people.

In Benin, harvesting of the first maize crop is complete in the South, while harvesting of millet and sorghum is underway in the North. Overall crop prospects are favourable. However, in spite of above average cereal production in 2004, estimated at about 1.1 million tonnes, very high food prices have been reported across the country this year. This is due to higher-than-normal exports to neighbouring countries, caused by a drop in production in the Sahel and low food supplies and high food prices in several coastal countries. But the situation has been improving, with the new harvests: food prices have fallen, though they remain higher than the five-year average for this time of the season.

In Burkina Faso, favourable weather conditions since May resulted in a record cereal crop this year. The pest situation has been on the whole calm and pasture conditions are good. A recent CILSS/Government mission provisionally estimated this year’s cereal production at 4 million tonnes, an increase of 40 percent over the drought and desert locust-affected crop of 2004. This, in addition to favourable crop prospects in neighbouring countries, should result in improved household access to food in 2005/06. However, this year’s severe food crisis resulted in depletion of household assets including high livestock mortalities and indebtedness, notably in the northern part of the country. Income generating and asset reconstitution interventions are recommended to support livelihoods in the affected communities.

In Cape Verde, due to a late start of the rainy season which delayed plantings, and subsequent erratic precipitation, the condition of the maize crop (the only cereal grown) and pastures has been poor in most islands. A joint CILSS/Government mission recently estimated the maize crop, to be harvested until December, at some 3 600 tonnes, mostly produced on Santiago Island (68 percent). This level of production is only one fourth of the average for the previous five years and is similar to the poor crops harvested in 1997 and 1998. Although the country imports the bulk of its consumption requirement even in a good year, the rural population, particularly in the semi-arid zones, could be severely affected.

In Chad, where weather conditions have been exceptionally favourable this year, cereal production has increased by some 62 percent compared to 2004 and 56 percent compared to the average for the previous five years. Aggregate cereal output in 2005, mostly sorghum and millet, was estimated by a CILSS/Government Mission in October at a record 1.96 million tonnes, some 750 000 tonnes more than last year. Pastures are abundant and availability of water is adequate. The food supply situation has improved significantly.

However, insecurity in neighbouring Central African Republic has led to an influx of about 15 000 refugees since June, bringing the number of Central African refugees to over 45 000. Chad is also home to more than 200 000 refugees from Sudan's Darfur region.

In Côte d'Ivoire, harvesting of the first maize crop and sowing of the second crop have been completed. Harvesting of the other cereals, mostly rice, millet and sorghum, is underway and will continue until December. The results of a crop assessment organized by the Government jointly with FAO and WFP in September 2005 indicate mixed harvest prospects, due to localised dry spells and conflict-induced problems, especially labour shortages arising from population displacements, lack of agricultural support services in parts of the country, market segmentation, disruptions by insecurity, and excessive transport costs due to hefty levies at roadblocks. While overall crop prospects are favourable in the South (under Government control), agriculture has been hampered by lack of fertilisers and extension service in the North, and by insecurity in the West. Moreover, precipitation was well below average in Korogho region, where a reduction in rice and other cereal production is forecast. In the North, smallholder cotton producers are experiencing a significant loss of income due to the disruption of marketing services.

In The Gambia, timely and adequate precipitation allowed normal development of crops. A joint CILSS/Government Mission in late October provisionally estimated cereal production this year at a record 256 000 tonnes, an increase of about 15 percent over last year’s good crop and well above the average of the previous five years. Groundnut production, the main source of cash income for rural households, was estimated at some 130 420 tonnes, 11 percent above last year’s above average harvest. An improved food security situation is, therefore, expected in 2006. However, the country imports nearly half of its cereal consumption requirements (mostly rice and wheat) in a normal year and cereal prices are strongly affected by the exchange rate of the Dalassi, the national currency. Moreover, in districts affected by floods, a number of households may experience food difficulties during the year.

In Ghana, harvesting of the first maize crop is complete. Overall crop prospects are mixed, due to delayed plantings following a late start of the rainy season and subsequent dry spells, notably in the south. The start of rains was delayed by between 4-6 weeks in the south and about 2-3 weeks in some locations in the north. About 80 percent of fields were planted later than usual according to estimates of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA).

Like other countries in the region, Ghana experienced very high prices of basic food items this year. Compared to 2004, maize prices more than doubled, while rice prices were four times higher. Local sources attribute the maize price hike to a combination of factors including poor weather in 2004, 50 percent increase in fuel prices in February 2005, increased exports to Burkina Faso and Niger, and stoppage of re-exports from Burkina Faso to Ghana.

In Guinea, despite localized floods, precipitation has generally been favourable and a good harvest is anticipated.

Although the restoration of peace in Sierra Leone and the improved situation in Liberia have resulted in a relative decrease of the number of refugees in Guinea, the country still hosts a large refugee population. In June 2005, according to UNHCR statistics, there were around 60 000 refugees living in different camps, in addition to some 80 000 IDPs and over 100 000 returnees from Côte d’Ivoire in 2002.

In Liberia, harvesting of the 2005 paddy crop, virtually the only cereal grown in the country, is underway. Production is anticipated (no survey has been done to assess production) to show a slight increase in view of improved security. However, supplies of seeds and implements were limited and farmers were unable to procure seeds from their own resources due to the unaffordable prices. Secondly, the late return of IDPs and returnees did not give them the opportunity to prepare enough land for planting. Many of the agencies involved in the distribution of seeds and implements were unable to reach the remote farmers due to bad road conditions. The lack of agricultural agents in rural areas has also hindered the delivery of inputs. Besides FAO and WFP, there are many NGOs which were involved in the distribution of seeds and implements. In total, 3 203 tonnes of rice seeds have been distributed in 2005. Due to input constraints, production levels remain insufficient to meet household food needs, unless supplemented with WFP food assistance, especially during the critical lean months. WFP will continue to provide assistance to households through various modalities, until the resettled population becomes self-reliant. It is projected that about 171 096 farmers will need seeds and implements in 2006.

The repatriation of refugees and resettlement of IDPs started in October and November 2004 respectively. As of mid-October 2005, 270 780 persons had been repatriated and resettled. This includes 42 108 Liberian returnees and 228 672 IDPs. UNHCR reports that in December 2003, over 340 000 Liberian refugees were in neighbouring countries, while an estimated 500 000 were internally displaced. With the improvement of the security situation and the opening of roads, the resettlement programme can be accelerated to resettle the majority of the returnees before the next agricultural season. Their early resettlement supplemented with the timely distribution of seeds and implements can be expected to improve production levels in 2006.

In Mali, the food supply position in 2006 is anticipated to improve reflecting a good cereal harvest in the country and across the region. Aggregate production has been estimated by a joint FAO/Government mission at 3.1 million tonnes, some 14 percent above the five years average. Output of millet, the most important cereal crop, is estimated to have increase by some 30 percent to 1.1 million tonnes. However, production would have been much higher if fertiliser use had not been reduced this year due to its high price and limited availability, notably on rice in Office du Niger, San and Tombouctou.

Like several other Sahelian countries, Mali faced a severe food crisis characterised by unusually high food prices in 2005. The crisis that was triggered by cereal and pasture shortages across the sub-region resulted in depletion of household assets including livestock and high level of indebtedness, particularly among pastoral and agro-pastoral groups. In spite of the good harvest at national level, income generating and asset reconstitution activities are recommended to support livelihoods in the affected communities.

In Mauritania, cereal production is expected to increase in 2005 after several years of poor harvests which have gradually eroded the rural population’s coping strategies and led to a very difficult food situation this year. A recent CILSS/Government Crop Assessment Mission provisionally estimated 2005 cereal production at 203 000 tonnes, some 77 percent above last year’s desert locust ravaged crop and about 43 percent more than the average of the previous five years. Pastures are abundant.

However, Mauritania is a food–deficit country whose domestic cereal production covers about half of the country’s utilisation needs in a normal year and food prices are strongly influenced by the exchange rate of the Ouguiya. Moreover, several consecutive years of crop failure and the very high food prices observed across the Sahel this year have had severe negative impact on household incomes and assets for large sections of the population. Therefore, vulnerable groups need to be continuously monitored and assisted as necessary, particularly during next lean season.

In Niger, the food supplysituation is anticipated to improve in marketing year 2005/06, after a significant drop in cereal and pasture production in 2004 led to reduced food supply and unusually high food prices, with serious effects on household assets, income and nutritional status in 2005. Favourable growing conditions this year resulted in an increase in cereal harvest of some 36 percent compared to 2004 according to official sources. A joint FAO/WFP/CILSS/FEWS Food Security Assessment Mission that visited the country from 14 October to 4 November observed that pastures were abundant countrywide, reflecting ample rains in the pastoral zones. The good crop, together with the good harvest prospects in neighbouring countries which usually export cereals to Niger, notably Nigeria, Benin, Mali and Burkina Faso, presages a satisfactory food supply situation and reasonable prices during marketing year 2005/06. Consumer prices of millet have dropped by over 50 percent compared to the highest levels reached in July/August.

However, the severe food crisis that hit the country in 2004/05 has uprooted large segments of the rural population, had serious income, livelihoods and nutritional effects and resulted in depletion of household assets, including loss of animals, and high levels of indebtedness. Therefore, the mission recommended urgent implementation of activities enabling people to:

In Senegal, a recent CILSS/Government Crop Assessment Mission estimated the 2005 aggregate cereal production at some 1.6 million tonnes, which is 42 percent above last year’s desert locust and drought-affected crop and 44 percent higher than the average for the previous five years. Maize production continues to grow, reaching 435 000 tonnes in 2005 compared to only 80 000 tonnes in 2002. This is mainly due to a significant expansion of cultivated area, driven by government programmes with the assistance of FAO. Pastures are good countrywide. An improved food security situation is, therefore, expected in 2006.

In Sierra Leone, heavy rains and flooding in the southern district of Pujehun destroyed many homes and acres of farmland and made thousands of people homeless in mid-August. However, agriculture, which has been recovering steadily since the end of the civil war in 2002, is expected to improve further this year, reflecting increasing plantings by returning refugees and farmers previously displaced, as well as improved conditions for the distribution of agricultural inputs. Harvesting of the rice crop has started.

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

In central Africa, crop prospects and food security outlook are unfavourable in several countries due mainly to civil strife and insecurity.

In Cameroon, rains have been adequate countrywide, and overall crop prospects are favourable. Harvesting of the first maize crop is complete in the south, which should improve food supply and reduce prices in the northern part of the country, where a serious decline in the 2004 cereal production led to a tight food situation this year. For one month, WFP provided an emergency ration of cereals to 237 700 people in the Far North province of Cameroon, the poorest part of the country.

The severe food crisis that struck the Chari and Logone Divisions of the extreme north in 2005 has eroded household coping mechanisms, with reports of sales of immature crops. FAO, WFP and the Government are planning to field a joint mission to the northern part of the country to analyse the situation.

In Central African Republic, the first maize crop has been harvested in the South. Although rainfall has been widespread in general since the beginning of the growing season in March, a strong agricultural recovery is not expected this year due to persistent insecurity.

Heavy rains throughout August caused flooding in western parts of the country, notably in Bangui where thousands of people were made homeless. Moreover, about 20 000 people have fled the country to southern Chad since June due to insecurity, bringing the number of Central African refugees in the latter country to over 45 000.

In the Great Lakes region, although overall food production improved in 2005, serious food insecurity is anticipated from December 2005 due to the potential failure of 2006A secondary season crops in Burundi and Rwanda caused by a two-month dry spell or below normal rainfall. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), security related problems were reported especially in the eastern part of the country. Food prices in most markets have continued their seasonal rise adversely affecting poor households.

In Burundi, the 2006A secondary season crops, maize, sorghum and beans, planted in September, have been under severe stress due to a prolonged dry spell or generally below normal precipitation for almost two months. The country’s Early Warning System has issued a warning that a serious food crisis is looming in the northern and eastern provinces due to the unfavourable prospects for the 2006A season harvest which normally accounts for 40 percent of the annual output of cereals. Total food import requirement for 2005 in cereal equivalent was estimated at 444 000 tonnes. Food aid deliveries amount to about half of the annual cereal import requirement of 85 000 tonnes.

According to the Early Warning System, prices in Bujumbura market in October 2005 were higher for sweet potatoes (81 percent) and cassava flour (28 percent) compared to the same month a year ago reflecting reduction in supplies. On the other hand maize prices were recorded at about the same level as a result of better harvest this year. The cost of a “food basket” has increased by 17 percent compared to the same time last year. Currently WFP is supporting about 162 000 beneficiaries through its various food aid programs amounting to an average of 6 000 tonnes per month.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), planting of main season maize was carried out in September-October under above average rainfall conditions. Harvesting of the 2005 second season food crops, principally maize, sorghum and millets, has been completed. No estimates are yet available but satellite based data suggest that production should be normal to above normal. The total cereal import requirement for 2005 were estimated at 480 000 tonnes of which so far only 238 000 tonnes (mostly wheat) of commercial imports and 53 000 tonnes of food aid have been recorded. Maize retail prices at about US$ 0.30/kg in northern DRC are among the highest in southern Africa region (FEWSNet/WFP). Maize prices have been increasing since April 2005. Although the general security situation has improved over the last two years, localized disturbances continue to be reported.

In Rwanda, generally below normal rainfall during the two critical months of October and November is likely to have adverse effect on the growth of the 2006 A season crops, mainly maize, sorghum, beans and roots and tubers planted in September. Thus the early prospects for this harvest which normally accounts for about 40 percent of total annual cereal production are unfavourable. This follows a record cereal harvest of 287 855 tonnes for 2005B season, some 44 percent above 2004B harvest. Consequently, the food price index for main staples declined since late March 2005. However, more recently in Kigali, wholesale maize prices were US$ 214/tonne in October, up from US$ 207 in September (RATIN), and bean prices were US$ 303/tonne up from US$ 299 the month before. The country faces a deficit in cereals and requires over 200 000 tonnes of imports, of which food aid needs have been estimated at some 30 000 tonnes for 110 000 vulnerable people during the lean months of April-May and October-December in the eastern part of the country.


Cereal import requirements in sub-Saharan Africa in 2005/06 are expected to remain high. GIEWS’ latest estimates of 2004 production and 2004/05 import and food aid requirements are summarized in Tables 1 and 3. Total food aid requirement in 2004/05 is estimated at about 3.3 million tonnes similar to 2003/04. Cereal food aid pledges for 2004/05, including those carried over from 2003/04, amount to 3.1 million tonnes of which 2.65 million tonnes have so far been delivered.

FAO/GIEWS - December 2005

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