No.2  July 2006  
   Crop Prospects and Food Situation

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Highlights

Food Emergencies Update

Global cereal supply and demand brief

Low-Income Food-Deficit country food situation overview

Regional reviews

Special features

Statistical appendix

Terminology and notes

Special features

The place of cassava in food production and national food balance sheets

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Root and tuber crops in general and cassava in particular, play an important role in household food security in Sub-Saharan Africa and in several countries of Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean. Yet, compared to cereals, their importance is not duly recognized and, as a consequence, there is little reliable information and statistics on the extent of their cultivation, yield, production, marketing, storage, and utilization. Fresh cassava is not easily marketed because it is bulky and perishable, making transport difficult and costly. Where cassava is consumed and traded, markets seem to be well developed. For example, prices of cassava and cassava flour, among other food commodities, are regularly monitored in Burundi (see table below). Prices of fresh commodity are typically much more volatile than those of the flour. These have important implications for food security locally. Unexploited trade and market potential exists in many countries in Africa, where this commodity can be grown more efficiently than maize.

Table 10. Average monthly prices (Fbu) of cassava and cassava flour compared to the cost of the food basket in Bujumbura market, Burundi.

  July 1996 May 2005 May 2006 Change:
May 06/ May 05
Fresh cassava (kg)1005001,100120%
Cassava flour (kg)15061370014%
Food Basket5 22819 70925 82531%
Source: Price survey, Bujumbura market, Burundi, June 2006

Available information on cassava production in most countries in Africa is sketchy and inaccurate. However, based on official approximate estimates of area cultivated, statistics show that in several countries, cassava production accounts for a significant portion of total food supplies (see figure below).

These statistics are, however, not widely accepted and require systematic review for improved accuracy. Estimation of cassava yield and production in mixed smallholder cropping systems is notoriously difficult. Cultivars of different maturity lengths may be grown mixed together; planting may be carried out over several months, resulting in different maturity periods; the crop may be planted on mounds and intercropped with a wide range of other crops (at least during the first year), making the actual cropped area difficult to estimate. Harvesting may be done piecemeal according to household requirements, with mature roots of unknown size and condition left in the ground for many months. FAO/GIEWS, with a project funded by the EC under the EC/FAO Programme, is currently working on a practical methodology to estimate the potential contribution of the main tuber crop (cassava) to the national food balance sheet, normally expressed in terms of cereal equivalent. Field work has been completed in Mozambique and the preliminary report and guidelines will be available shortly (giews1@fao.org).

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GIEWS   global information and early warning system on food and agriculture