No.1  February 2009  
   Crop Prospects and Food Situation

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Countries in crisis requiring external assistance (total: 32 countries)

Food emergencies update

Global cereal supply and demand brief

Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries’ food situation overview

Regional reviews

Statistical appendix


Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries’ food situation overview1/

Prospects for the early 2009 cereal crops point to lower output in LIFDCs

In Eastern Africa, harvesting of the 2008/09 secondary seasons cereal crops is underway in Somalia and Kenya and the outputs are anticipated reduced due to poor short-rains, despite a promising starting of the season in October. The 2008 main cereal harvests were also reduced in both countries. In Southern Africa, the outlook for the 2009 main maize crop, to be harvested from April, has improved reflecting abundant rains in the past two months; but a crop smaller than last year’s record is still expected. In Zimbabwe production will be again affected by shortages of agricultural inputs. In North Africa, in Morocco, the 2009 wheat crop to be gathered from June is expected to recover from the below-average levels of the past two years, while prospects are also favourable in Egypt. By contrast, in Asia, the outlook for the 2009 wheat crop, to be harvested from March-April, remains uncertain. Despite increases in the areas planted, insufficient precipitation during the season in important growing areas of China, in India and Sri Lanka may result in significant decreases in production if rains are not received soon. By contrast, in Pakistan, a good harvest is expected. Planting of the main season paddy crops will not begin before June throughout Asia.

Elsewhere, the 2009 main cropping seasons have not yet started in countries of Eastern, Western and Central Africa, as well as in Central America and the Caribbean.

LIFDCs 2008 cereal production revised upwards

Table 3. Basic facts of the Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries (LIFDCs)1 cereal situation ( million tonnes)
  2006/07 2007/08 2008/09 Change: 2008/09 over 2007/08 (%)
Cereal production 2 887.3 917.2 948.5 3.4
excluding China Mainland and India306.5304.2316.44.0
Utilization 937.2 961.4 989.3 2.9
Food use651.5664.7678.32.0
excluding China Mainland and India277.6284.8293.33.0
Per caput cereal food use
(kg per year)
excluding China Mainland and India157.6158.4159.90.9
excluding China Mainland and India49.
End of season stocks 236.3 253.7 278.8 9.9
excluding China Mainland and India56.
1 Includes food deficit countries with per caput annual income below the level used by the World Bank to determine eligibility for IDA assistance (i.e.USD 1 675 in 2005), which is in accordance with the guidelines and criteria agreed to by the CFA should be given priority in the allocation of food aid.
Data refer to calendar year of the first year shown.

With the 2008 cereal harvests completed in Eastern and Western Africa, and in Asia, latest estimates indicate an increase of 3.4 percent in the aggregate production of the 82 LIFDCs as a group. The largest producers China and India, accounting for some one-third of the aggregate output, increased their cereal outputs by 4.4 percent and 1 percent from the good levels of 2007 respectively. Excluding these two countries, the output of the rest of the LIFDCs still rose by a significant 4 percent. This is a positive development and marks a recovery in output after the previous year’s decline. An increase in per caput cereal consumption (food and feed uses), and replenishment of stocks is forecast in LIFDCs in marketing years 2008/09 or 2009.

Table 4. Cereal production1 of LIFDCs ( million tonnes)
  2006 2007 2008 Change: 2008
over 2007 (%)
Africa (44 countries) 127.2 117.0 129.4 10.6
North Africa30.122.525.914.9
Eastern Africa32.932.634.45.4
Southern Africa12.012.312.1-1.6
Western Africa49.246.453.815.9
Central Africa3.
Asia (25 countries) 748.7 789.2 804.7 2.0
CIS in Asia13.213.613.2-3.0
Far East721.0760.4782.12.9
- China (Mainland)385.6400.3417.84.4
- India195.2212.8214.10.7
Near East14.415.29.3-38.4
(3 countries)
1.7 1.8 1.80.8
Oceania (6 countries) 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Europe (4 countries) 9.8 9.2 12.7 37.1
Total (82 countries) 887.3 917.2 948.5 3.4
1 Includes rice in milled terms.
Note: Totals computed from unrounded data.

A substantial increase in the 2008 cereal production is recorded in LIFDCs in Africa. Bumper cereal harvests were obtained in Western Africa, particularly in the Sahel countries, following governments’ production support programmes and favourable weather. In Eastern Africa, a record cereal harvest was gathered in Ethiopia, the largest producer of the subregion, and good crops were obtained in Sudan and Tanzania, but outputs were reduced in Kenya and Somalia. In Northern Africa, in Morocco, the wheat production markedly recovered from the 2007 level. In Southern Africa, latest estimates indicate a LIFDCs aggregate cereal output higher than earlier anticipated, following a sharp increase in rice production in Madagascar. However, at regional level, this increase is more than offset by a one-third reduction in Zimbabwe’s cereal production.

In the LIFDCs in Asia, excluding China and India, production declined slightly reflecting drought-reduced harvests in countries in the Near East and the CIS that more than compensated good cereal crops in countries of Far East Asia. In Central America and the Caribbean, recent reports show a slight reduction in cereal production in Nicaragua, where the secondary season was adversely affected by an intense hurricane season. Production declined also in Haiti but it increased in Honduras. In Europe, bumper cereals crops were obtained in the Republic of Moldova, Belarus and Albania.

Cereal imports to increase in 2008/09 despite improved production but lower cereal import bill

Table 5.Cereal import position of LIFDCs ( thousand tonnes)
  2007/08 or

2008/09 or 2009
Requirements 1 Import position 2
of which
food aid
of which
food aid
Africa (44 countries) 38 978 41 011 2 686 12 265 1 308
North Africa18 19318 242 08 630 0
Eastern Africa5 5325 910 1 5551 697 930
Southern Africa3 1534 013 5931 851 335
Western Africa10 48211 068 453 81 44
Central Africa1 6191 778 85 7 0
Asia (25 countries) 39 565 42 767 2 662 13 929 816
CIS in Asia3 7584 141 441 387 31
Far East24 74323 261 1 8248 074 568
Near East11 06415 365 7944 468 217
(3 countries)
1 661 1 725 198 705 116
Oceania (6 countries) 438 438 0 0 0
Europe (4 countries) 1 652 1 230 0 354 0
Total (82 countries) 82 294 87 170 5 546 27 253 2 240
1 The import requirement is the difference between utilization (food, feed, other uses, exports plus closing
stocks) and domestic availability (production plus opening stocks).
2 Estimates based on information available as of mid-January 2009
Note: Totals computed from unrounded data.

Despite an improved 2008 cereal production, the aggregate cereal imports of the LIFDCs a group in marketing years 2008/09 or 2009 is forecast at 87 million tonnes, a significant increase of some 6 percent from the level of the previous year. This reflects higher imports in large importing countries in the Near East (Iraq, the Syrian Arab Republic and Afghanistan) and Africa (Zimbabwe, Kenya) where outputs were sharply reduced by drought, coupled with replenishment of stocks in several countries, notably in China. In addition, other LIFDCs in Asia and Africa are increasing their cereal inventories which were at low levels following releases in the previous season to mitigate the impact of high international prices and in view of the current price volatility in international markets. Notwithstanding the increase in import volumes in 2008/09, the cereal import bill of the LIFDCs is anticipated to decline on account of the sharp decline in international prices in the second half of 2008. Latest FAO’s forecast puts the aggregate cereal import bills of LIFDCs in 2008/09 at USD 29.9 billion dollars, 22 percent below the previous year’s record level of USD 38.2 billion.

Slow import progress

Available information in GIEWS by mid-January 2009 indicates that against the LIFDCs’ estimated aggregate cereal import requirement of 87 million tonnes in the 2008/09 marketing years, only 31 percent has already been covered by commercial imports and food aid deliveries/pledges. The pace of imports this marketing year is slower than in the two past ones, particularly in Southern Africa where the season is well advanced.

Food prices remain high despite 2008 improved harvests and declines in international export prices

Despite bumper cereal harvests and lower international cereal prices in the second half of 2008, food prices remain at high levels in several LIFDCs. In countries of Southern Africa and Central America, prices of main food commodities have continued to rise or have not decreased in recent months. In Western and Eastern Africa countries, prices have fallen significantly since the beginning of the harvests in September-October, but by January this year they were well above their levels of a year ago. The situation is worse for imported rice and wheat, important staples in these subregions, as prices are still on the increase. Prices of rice and wheat also remain high in several LIFDCs in Asia, including Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

1.  The Low-Income Food-Deficit (LIFDC) group of countries includes food deficit countries with per caput annual income below the level used by the World Bank to determine eligibility for IDA assistance (i.e. US$1 675 in 2005), which is in accordance with the guidelines and criteria agreed to by the CFA should be given priority in the allocation of food aid.

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GIEWS   global information and early warning system on food and agriculture