No.5  December 2008  
   Crop Prospects and Food Situation

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Countries in crisis requiring external assistance (total: 33 countries)

Food Emergencies Update

Global cereal supply and demand brief

National food price review

FAO global cereal supply and demand indicators

Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries’ food situation overview

Policy measures taken by governments to reduce the impact of soaring prices

Regional reviews

Statistical appendix


Food Emergencies Update

In Western Africa, a good 2008 cereal crop is anticipated reflecting regular and well distributed rains throughout the growing season, as well as various productivity-enhancing safety net programmes provided by governments. As a result, coarse grain prices (millet and sorghum) have started declining in most countries following the arrival of the 2008 harvests on the markets, although by November prices remained well above their levels of a year earlier. Improved food supply is expected to lower prices further as harvesting progresses across the subregion. However, despite increased rice output in several countries, regional production will fall short of requirements and domestic prices will continue to be determined to a large extent by world prices that have exhibited significant pass-through from the international market. In spite of the various measures taken by governments to cushion the impact of the sharp increase in world prices, rice prices remain very high in many countries including Senegal, Niger and Burkina Faso. This situation continues to affect consumer purchasing power and access to food across the subregion.

In Eastern Africa, more than 15 million people face serious food difficulties due to the effects of localized drought, consecutive below-normal seasonal rains and ongoing or past conflicts coupled with unusually high food prices. Pastoral and agro-pastoral areas of the region, including south and south-eastern Ethiopia, central and southern Somalia and northern Kenya, are particularly affected by current severe food problems.

The situation in southern Somalia continues to be of particular concern with an estimated 3.25 million people facing severe food problems. In addition to the civil conflict, that displaced millions of people, aggregate harvest levels over the last five years have progressively declined. No substantial crop production is expected in these areas until the April-June 2009 rainy season. In Eritrea, the current high food prices and inflation continue to affect a large number of vulnerable people. In Ethiopia, the poor (March-May) rains led to a deterioration of food security in several parts of the country. Worst affected areas include the Somali region, where these rains constitute the main “gu” season rains and parts of Oromia and SNNP Regions. In addition, persisting above-normal food prices over most of the country, increased the number of people facing high or extreme food insecurity from about two million at the beginning of 2008 to over six million currently, with another 5.7 million people being assisted through the productive safety net program. In Somali Region, civil insecurity and market restrictions further exacerbated these conditions. In Djibouti, four consecutive poor rainy seasons, high staple food prices, soaring inflation and lack of adequate government and donor resources, led to significant reductions in poor household food consumption in both rural and urban areas. Some 340 000 people, nearly half of the population, are reported to be currently in need of assistance. In Kenya and Uganda, recent reports indicate that the increased incidences of Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR) – a virus that typically affects sheep and goats – in north-eastern Uganda and pastoral areas of Kenya is causing high rates of small stock mortality, undermining pastoralists’ purchasing power, and reducing their food access. About 25 percent of sheep and goats in Uganda’s Karamoja Region are estimated to have been killed, while in Kenya the losses were estimated at one billion Kenyan Shillings. In addition, large numbers of people, particularly in pastoral areas, continue to receive food assistance due to slow recovery from previous drought and continued pastoral conflict and cattle raids. In Sudan, insecurity remains a major factor in inhibiting access to food, particularly in the troubled Darfur region.

In Southern Africa, owing to a reduced cereal harvest (in aggregate terms, excluding South Africa) of the main season completed earlier in 2008, no significant improvement in the anticipated winter crops being harvested and generally high food prices in most local markets, the number of food insecure people during the 2008/09 marketing year is estimated to have increased by almost by one-third over the previous year. Various national Vulnerability Assessment Committees (VACs) and FAO/WFP Missions have placed the total number of food insecure at some 8.7 million, including those in Zimbabwe (about 5.1 million), Lesotho (353 000) and Swaziland (239 000), where external assistance is required . Lower than required food imports so far (both, commercial and food aid), combined with severe transport constraints have reduced food availability in most parts of Zimbabwe. In addition, a recent outbreak of cholera with recorded cases of 8 887 including 366 fatalities since August (OCHA) have posed a serious threat to health and nutrition of the vulnerable population there.

In the Great Lakes region, the renewed fighting in the north-eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has displaced as many as 250 000 people who need food and non-food assistance. High food prices continue to adversely affect a large number of vulnerable households in Burundi, necessitating food and agricultural aid , especially for resettlements of returnees and IDPs.

In Far East Asia, despite an overall satisfactory food supply situation, serious food insecurity continues in several countries. Severe food shortages persist in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and food assistance is urgently required. A recent FAO/WFP CFSAM estimated that the cereal deficit in the country for 2008/09 will be at least 800 000 tonnes. In Myanmar, the 2008 Monsoon season rice production in cyclone Nargis affected areas has been significantly reduced and thousands of people still depend on food and agricultural assistance. The food security situation of a large number of people in Sri Lanka continues to be affected by the resurgence of civil conflict. Localized food insecurity continues in areas of Nepal that were affected by recent floods. Extensive damage has been reported in the Philippines due to recent floods.

In the Near East, the food security situation of vulnerable people in several countries, mainly in rural areas, continues to be a concern following the severe drought in the 2007/08 agricultural season, which drastically reduced the wheat and barley crops in the Syrian Arab Republic, Iraq and Jordan. In Syria, the poor season has seriously threatened the food security of farmers and herders in the affected areas. In response, an Emergency Operation was jointly approved by FAO and WFP in November 2008 for food assistance to forty thousand households (200 000 people), worth USD 5.2 million for a period of six months (15 November 2008 to 15 May 2009). In Iraq, despite the continued improvement in the security situation and financial incentives offered by the Government, which prompted many refugees in Jordan and the Syrian Arab Republic to return home, the food security situation has deteriorated for large number of people. The drought has decimated crops and led to difficulties in the supply of adequate safe drinking water. Outbreaks of cholera spread throughout central and southern areas in late August and UNICEF issued an urgent appeal to the Iraqi government to clean water storage tanks in all institutions as one preventive measure. Only 20 percent of families outside Baghdad are estimated to have access to sewage services, and Iraq's sewage treatment plants operate at just 17 percent of capacity. 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 to be covered as food assistance.

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, a particularly intense hurricane season in September-October that brought exceptionally high rainfall has afflicted the subregion, 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 of the worst hit Caribbean countries, namely Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Cuba.

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