No.2  April 2009  
   Crop Prospects and Food Situation

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Countries in crisis requiring external assistance (total: 31 countries)

Food emergencies update

Special feature: New Internet tool on domestic food prices

Global cereal supply and demand brief

Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries’ food situation overview

Special feature: Prices in developing countries remain high

Regional reviews

Statistical appendix


Food emergencies update

In Western Africa, although a good cereal crop was gathered in most countries in 2008, the food security outlook remains a concern due to persisting high food prices. After having retreated for about two months during the harvesting period, prices of coarse grains which are driven mainly by regional supply and demand factors have been increasing since November-December 2008 in most countries. The situation is worse for imported rice, whose price is determined by world prices and has exhibited high pass-through from the international market. This situation will continue to affect consumers’ purchasing power and access to food across the subregion. Therefore, safety net interventions, such as targeted distribution, sales at subsidized prices, food for work or cash for work activities, are recommended during the lean season, depending on the extent of food supply in specific areas.

In Eastern Africa, more than 17 million people face serious food insecurity due to below average harvests, conflict, civil strife or combination of these factors. In Somalia, due to the large displacement of civilians because of conflict, mainly centred in Mogadishu, and consecutive seasons of well-below average crop production, an estimated 3.2 million people currently require food assistance. The global economic recession is further contributing to the worsening food security situation, with reported decreases in remittance inflows that normally maintain consumption levels of urban households. In Kenya, the government declared an emergency in January 2009, with an estimated 3.5 million people requiring emergency food assistance, while an additional 850 000 children have been included in the School Feeding Programme. A reduction in the short rains (secondary) production has severely deteriorated food security in the marginal agricultural regions in south east, as well as the pastoral and semi-arid areas and coastal lowlands, which are extremely reliant on the short rains. There has also been a recent and steady inflow of refugees from Somalia, with more than 20 000 new refugees registered in 2009 in the Dadaab complex. In Eritrea, cereal prices continue to remain among one of the highest in the region, following a poor main harvest. The inflated prices are affecting the food security of large sections of the population. In Ethiopia, despite a decline in cereal prices since September 2008, coinciding with the good “meher” (main) harvest, the food security of millions of people continues to be adversely affected by above-average food prices. Insecurity in the Somali Region is further contributing to the poor food security conditions. Currently an estimated 4.9 million people require emergency food assistance from January to June 2009. In Sudan, the continued conflict and the recent expulsion of some humanitarian agencies in Darfur have raised serious concern for millions of vulnerable people already faced with dire situations. Potential movements of a large number of people into southern Sudan due to disruptions in humanitarian assistance, present a heightened food security threat. Already in Southern Sudan, up to 1.3 million people are expected to be food insecure during 2009. This group is comprised of returnees, the chronically food insecure, and households negatively affected by conflicts, dry spells, and flooding in 2008. In addition, escalating Lords Resistance Army (LRA) attacks since December 2008 have affected the food security of large number of people residing in Western Equatoria. Overall, an estimated 5.9 million people in Sudan are in need of food assistance. In Uganda, despite an improved harvest, the food security condition in Karamoja has deteriorated significantly, due to a continuation of drought conditions. Approximately 970 000 people will require emergency food assistance.

In Southern Africa, continuing high level of domestic prices in some countries due to the slow pace of imports and high seasonal food demand for purchased grains in the market during the peak hunger months have affected some 8.7 million people, including those in Zimbabwe (about 5.1 million), Lesotho (353 000) and Swaziland (239 000) according to various national Vulnerability Assessment Committees (VACs) and FAO/WFP Missions. The number of food insecure people during the 2008/09 marketing year increased almost by one-third compared to the previous year. Early harvesting of some grains, including green maize, is improving the food security situation somewhat. In Zimbabwe, the ongoing outbreak of cholera with over 90 000 recorded cases, and 4 030 fatalities since August 2008 (as of March 2009, OCHA data) continues to pose a serious threat to health and nutrition of the vulnerable population.

In the Great Lakes region, recent fighting in the north-eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of 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 resettlement of returnees and IDPs.

In the Far East, the severe winter drought in the major wheat producing areas of China had seriously affected some 50 percent of the national winter wheat area. However, rainfall during late February and March and increased irrigation supplies due to Government support have eased the drought situation and the crop condition has improved. In Nepal, rising food prices and crop failure have reportedly resulted in a significant increase in household food insecurity. The winter crop production in many areas of the Hill and Mountain districts of the Far- and Mid-Western regions and in some areas of Central region has been reportedly affected significantly. In Myanmar, areas where 2008 food production was affected by cyclone Nargis still need food and agricultural assistance. The food security situation of a large number of people in Sri Lanka continues to be affected by the intensification of civil conflict. Over 5 000 civilians have reportedly been killed and 220 000 people affected since January 2009.

Severe food shortages persist in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea after two years of sharply reduced harvests. The country has also recently stopped accepting food assistance from the United States.

In the Near East, the food situation in the Gaza Strip continues to be of concern. Much of the population in Gaza has been severely affected by the war during the 20-day period starting on 27 December 2008. In view of this, an Emergency Operation (EMOP) was jointly approved by FAO and WFP in January 2009 to provide food assistance to 365 000 most affected people, including social hardship cases, vulnerable groups, internally-displaced people and affected farmers over a period of 12 months (20 January 2009 to 19 January 2010).

Elsewhere, in the Syrian Arab Republic, an Emergency Operation was jointly approved by FAO and WFP in November 2008 for food assistance to 40 000 households (200 000 people) affected by drought during the 2007/08 growing season. The EMOP is worth USD 5.2 million for a period of six months (15 November 2008 to 15 May 2009). In Yemen, the high food prices prevailing during much of 2008 have worsened the food security situation of poor households which were already suffering from moderate to severe food insecurity. In view of this, a joint FAO and WFP Emergency Operation was approved in January 2009 to assist about 511 000 most affected people (about 29 000 tonnes of food) over a period of 12 months (January to December 2009).

In Central America and the Caribbean, Haiti and Honduras are still receiving international assistance to recover from the intense second half of the 2008 hurricane season that severely damaged food and cash crops and disrupted local livelihoods. Declining prices from previous peaks and the good performance of small second season crops are leading to a reduction in the number of food vulnerable households that, however, remains quite high.

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