No.4  October 2008  
   Crop Prospects and Food Situation

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Countries in crisis requiring external assistance (total: 36 countries)

Food Emergencies Update

Global cereal supply and demand brief

FAO global cereal supply and demand indicators

Regional reviews

Statistical appendix


Food Emergencies Update

In Western Africa and Central Africa, high and rising food prices continue to affect consumers’ purchasing power and access to food across the subregion in spite of the various measures taken by governments. Prices of imported rice have shown the highest increases. In Senegal, where rice is a major food staple, the price in Dakar in July 2008 was more than double its level a year earlier. The situation is not better for domestically produced millet, the major staple in countries like Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, as prices in August in Niamey, Bamako and Ouagadougou were about 39 percent, 28 percent and 46 percent respectively above their levels a year ago . Latest data show, however, that coarse grain prices started declining in September in some countries, reflecting the arrival of new supplies from the 2008 harvests in the markets. In Accra ( Ghana) for instance, the maize price declined by 20 percent in September compared to August. A slight price decrease was also reported in several areas in Niger. Improved food supply is expected to lower prices further after widespread harvesting begins in October across the subregion.

In Eastern Africa, food security continues to worsen as a result of crop failures, high food prices, conflicts and inadequate availability of food. Food needs continue to rise while the aid pipeline faces shortages. In Somalia, the evolving humanitarian disaster is one of the worst in world. The scale, magnitude and speed at which the crisis is deteriorating are alarming and deep. The number of people requiring emergency livelihood and humanitarian support increased, in recent months, from 1.83 million to 3.25 million, some 43 percent of the entire population. The extreme food insecurity is being exacerbated by reduced humanitarian access, which has held back response action. In the southern and central regions armed groups attack aid workers. In these areas most coping mechanisms to react to the crisis have already been exploited. In Ethiopia, more than 10 million people have been affected by the drought that has hit large areas of southern, central, western and north-eastern parts. The WFP has launched an appeal for USD 460 million to feed 9.6 million people affected by drought, rising prices and conflict. Large numbers of livestock have died and unusual migrations in search of water and pastures are reported. A recent report from the Central Statistical Agency (CSA) indicates that the food inflation rate in August was 46.9 percent, an increase of 28.3 percent compared to August 2007. In Djibouti, some 340 000 people, nearly half of the total population are reported to be currently in need of assistance. Limited food availability and access have resulted in mass migration of households to urban areas, leading to increased levels of child malnutrition and livestock mortality. In response to the emergency, the WFP started the distribution of food rations to 55 000 people in rural pastoral areas. In Eritrea, a large number of vulnerable people continue to be affected by high food prices and the high rate of inflation. Disease outbreaks including cholera and malaria remain a concern. In Kenya, the food supply prospects for more than five million people in urban slums and rural areas will deteriorate further in the coming months if external support is not granted. The worst affected are those living in the pastoral areas of the Northern and Rift valley regions. The current food insecurity is mainly due to the sharp increases in food prices and escalating conflicts over water and pasture in drought-affected areas in the north. In Sudan, households in the eastern parts of the south remain highly food insecure due to food shortages as a result of crop losses, isolation from markets, and insecurity. In the north, displacements and loss of livelihoods are expected to continue in the western region of Darfur. Overall, the WFP has estimated at 5.9 million the people affected by the continuing conflict in Darfur and the post-conflict settlement problems in other areas of the country. The requirements of these most adversely affected people have been estimated at 677 990 tonnes of food. In Uganda, more than 700 000 people in the district of Karamoja are food insecure and in need of emergency food aid as a result of prolonged insecurity, falling livestock prices, flood damage in 2007 and the high cost of agricultural inputs.

In Southern Africa due to the reduced cereal harvests in many importing countries and high food and fuel prices in the local and the international markets, vulnerable populations in the subregion, particularly Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Swaziland, are expected to face food insecurity during the 2008/09 marketing year. According to the SADC International Conference on Poverty and Development (2008) report, about 45 percent of the population in the region live on one US dollar a day. National Vulnerability Assessment Committees (VACs) in several countries undertook vulnerability assessments in addition to the joint FAO/WFP joint CFSAMs in Zimbabwe and Swaziland. The total number of food insecure in the subregion for the 2008/09 marketing year is placed at some 8.7 million with the bulk (about 5.1 million) in Zimbabwe. This represents an increase of about 32 percent over last year. FAO estimates that the food insecure populations throughout the subregion will require a total of 558 000 tonnes of food assistance over and above the expected commercial imports to meet the normal consumption needs in 2008/09.

In the Great Lakes region, in spite of the recent peace agreements, renewed security problems in the north-eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo continue to affect vulnerable people who require food and other assistance. High food prices continue to affect adversely large number of subsistence livelihood households in Burundi and food and agricultural aid is needed , especially for resettling returnees and IDPs.

In Far East Asia, in spite of an overall good supply situation, serious food insecurity continues to be reported in several countries, notably in Myanmar due to the effects of cyclone Nargis, sweeping through the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) delta region and the country’s main city and former capital on 2 and 3 May 2008. In Bangladesh, large-scale humanitarian relief operations are still ongoing to assist the 1.5 million people most affected by Cyclone Sidr, which hit up to 30 districts on 15 November 2007, and millions of people affected by rising food prices. In the Democratic People s Republic of Korea, the food supply outlook remains precarious. The WFP/FAO Rapid Food Security Assessment (RFSA) conducted in June 2008 confirmed a significant deterioration in food security in most parts of the country.

Localized food insecurity in Nepal continues. Tens of thousands of people in the Eastern region have been displaced due to a breach in the banks of the Koshi River which flooded the area in August, while 180 000 people have been reportedly displaced in the affected districts of the Far Western and Mid-Western regions since 19 September due to floods and landslides. The food security situation of a large number of people in Sri Lanka continues to be affected by the resurgence of civil conflict, which claimed 7 000 lives since the beginning of 2008, as well as rising high food prices. In the Philippines, the effect of Typhoon Fengshen on 18 June 2008 and high food prices continue to impact on the wellbeing of a large number of vulnerable people. The food supply situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran is of serious concern since the significant reduction in 2008 of wheat production as a result of drought conditions in the country as well as crop damage due to winter frost. In China, 1 million urban households and 3.5 million rural families in Sichuan province, affected by the severe earthquake in May, have moved into transitional houses. However, millions of people are expected to continue to need agricultural and food assistance in the coming months.

In the Near East, in Iraq, following continued improvement in the security situation and financial incentives offered by the Government, many refugees in Jordan and the Syrian Arab Republic are returning home. However, food security concerns are exacerbated this year following the drought, which drastically reduced the domestic wheat crop, meaning the country will have to rely more heavily on imports. Furthermore, the drought has also led to difficulties in the supply adequate safe drinking water. Outbreaks of cholera spread throughout central and southern areas in late August. In Afghanistan, insecurity and widespread lack of adequate access to food has being exacerbated by a drought-reduced harvest in 2008. The cereal import requirement for 2008/09 is estimated at 2.3 million tonnes, more than double the previous year's level. With the commercial import capacity estimated at 1.5 million tonnes, this leaves a requirement of 700 000 tonnes as food assistance. The Government and the United Nations are appealing for funds to cover the food assistance needs and also to facilitate preparation and planting for the next winter crop season, which starts in September-October.

In the Asian CIS, in Tajikistan, widespread poor access to food has been exacerbated by a drought-reduced cereal crop in 2008 for the second year in succession. Reflecting the poor harvest, the cereal import requirement is estimated to be a high 560 000 tonnes. The country is having difficulties mobilizing its supplies commercially and food aid will be necessary to bring relief to the poor.

In Central America and the Caribbean, exceptionally high rainfall has afflicted the subregion since mid-August. Three tropical storms and one hurricane caused major flooding and mudslides in Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, with damage to infrastructure and severe losses of cash and food crops, in particular bananas, plantains, cassava and paddy. Food vulnerability has increased dramatically in several Caribbean countries, where soils are widely saturated and local livelihoods and food supply may be further affected by additional precipitation in the next two months until the end of the hurricane season.

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