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Country Briefs


Reference Date: 16-November-2020


  1. Planting of 2021 main cereal crops underway; weather forecasts point to higher chance of below‑average seasonal rains

  2. Paddy production estimated at above‑average level in 2020 but maize harvest declined

  3. Cereal import requirements estimated slightly above average in 2020/21

  4. Prices of domestic and imported rice slightly higher on yearly basis

  5. Prevalence of food insecurity expected to remain high in southern regions during 2020

Planting of 2021 main crops underway; weather forecasts point to higher chance of below‑average seasonal rains

Planting of the 2021 main season paddy crop, which accounts for the bulk of the annual cereal output, started recently and harvesting is anticipated to begin in the second quarter of next year. The planted area is foreseen to remain close to the previous year’s above‑average level, amid a favourable start to the 2020/21 rainy season in October in the main producing northern and central regions. Additionally, movement restrictions to contain the spread of the COVID‑19 virus were recently lifted, improving farmers’ physical access to input markets and fields. However, in southern regions, soil moisture deficits remained as of early November 2020, reflecting the lingering effects of low cumulative rainfall in the previous 2019/20 cropping season and these conditions could curtail plantings.

Weather forecasts for the November 2020‑January 2021 period indicate a higher‑than‑normal likelihood of reduced rainfall amounts throughout the country, which could negatively impact yields. Furthermore, farmers’ ability to purchase fertilizers and hire labour is expected to be constrained by the reduced incomes due to the pandemic‑induced economic slowdown.

Planting of the 2021 maize crop, mostly produced in southern areas, has also started recently. The area planted is expected to decline from the reduced level in 2019 as farmers have reportedly been switching to alternative crops that are considered to be less susceptible to attacks by Fall Armyworms (FAW). In addition, the low output harvested in 2020 is expected to have reduced the availability of retained seeds.

Paddy production estimated above average in 2020 but maize harvest declined

Pending official estimates, production of paddy in 2020 is provisionally estimated at an above‑average level of 3.9 million tonnes, similar to the previous year. Large outputs were registered in the main producing northern regions due to generally favourable weather conditions. By contrast, paddy crops in southern and western areas were affected by a poor distribution of seasonal rains.

Production of maize in 2020 is estimated at a well below‑average level of 205 000 tonnes. The reduced output reflects the low yields and localized crop losses due to erractic rainfall and outbreaks of FAW.

Cereal import requirements estimated slightly above average in 2020/21

The aggregate import requirement of cereals in the 2020/21 marketing year (April/March) is estimated at 715 000 tonnes, slightly above the five‑year average and similar to the previous year’s level. Import requirements of rice, which account for the largest share of the foreseen import quantities, are estimated at 420 000 tonnes in 2020/21, near the previous five‑year average, reflecting adequate market supplies and adequate stocks.

Prices of domestic and imported rice slightly higher on yearly basis

Rice is the national food staple and on average domestic production covers about 85 percent of the consumption requirements. Imported rice is a less preferred variety, but cheaper than the domestically produced rice and it is mostly consumed in the cereal deficit areas of the country.

Prices of domestic and imported rice varieties were generally stable in the May‑September 2020 period and, as of September, they were only about 2 percent higher on a yearly basis. The generally stable levels were primarily on account of a good supply situation, while the implementation of a price ceiling on rice products in March 2020, set at MGA 1 800 per kg, helped to prevent the spikes following the introduction of pandemic‑associated lockdown measures.

Prevalence of food insecurity expected to remain high in southern regions during 2020

National food security assessments have not been conducted since the outbreak of the COVID‑19 pandemic. Therefore, the food security situation is likely to have been more severe than indicated in the latest estimations. According to the IPC analysis released in April 2020, an estimated 554 000 people were projected to be in IPC Phase 3: “Crisis” and Phase 4: “Emergency” during the Apri‑July 2020 period in southern and southeastern regions, already about 10 percent above the previous year’s estimate. The higher prevalence of food insecurity mainly reflected reduced crop production and limited income‑earning opportunities for the rural households in southern regions.

In the near term, between November 2020 and March 2021, when the main harvest period begins, the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in southern and southeastern regions is expected to be higher than the 728 000 people estimated in the same period in 2019/20. This outlook mainly reflects the impact of the pandemic‑associated economic downturn, with current projections pointing to a 3.2 percent economic contraction in 2020. The reduction in economic activitites have caused a widespread loss of income and livelihoods in the mining, textile and tourism sectors, and a decline in agricultural cash crop sales, particularly vanilla, due to a reduction in global demand. These losses are expected to have sharply reduced the households’ purchasing power and, therefore, limited their ability to buy foods. In addition, a reported oversupply of labour in rural areas, as people remain reluctant to return to urban centres due to concerns regarding COVID‑19, could suppress agricultural wages and further reduce households’ income earning potential. The generally adequate supplies of rice and the stable prices of rice products are mitigating some of these negative impacts on food security.

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