North Africa faces another year of drought-reduced harvests
For a second consecutive year, drought conditions are threatening to sharply reduce cereal production in most parts of North Africa. A recent GIEWS special alert on the crop situation in the sub-region warns that, in several areas of Morocco and Algeria, where almost no rain has fallen since January, farmers are facing the prospect of "total crop losses".
Although precise information on crop damage is not yet available, cereal production in the sub-region may fall to as low as 6 million tonnes. This would be 2 million tonnes less than last year's drought-reduced harvest, which was down more than 30 percent from the year before.
Last year's drought forced countries in the sub-region to draw from cereal stocks and increase their cereal imports by nearly 10 percent. Another shortfall in production this year would have to be made up almost entirely by imports, putting considerable additional strain on national budgets.
The drought conditions are also creating hardship for livestock producers, who are facing shortages of both water and fodder. The report warns that "this will have serious food security repercussions, particularly for small herders."
Although Morocco and Algeria have been the hardest hit by the dry weather, the GIEWS special alert notes that Tunisia and Libya are also facing uncertain crop prospects.
The report's one bright spot is Egypt, where the prospects are good for an above average cereal harvest. Unlike other North African countries, most of Egypt's wheat crop is grown under irrigation. This has spared the country from the wide fluctuations in cereal production caused by recurrent droughts in the sub-region over the last ten years.
April 7 2000