Reference Date: 10-March-2014
FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
Cereal and potato production significantly reduced in 2013
Cereal imports forecast to increase in 2013/14 marketing season
Cereal and potato prices continue at high levels
Severe floods affected large numbers of people and caused agriculture damage in the northern Beni department
Heavy rains during January and the first half of February 2014 caused rivers to overflow resulting in floods in the low-lying areas of the department of Beni and its southern borders with the departments of Cochabamba and Santa Cruz where landslides occurred. Preliminary official assessments indicate loss of life and serious damage to housing and infrastructure, with at least 60 000 families directly affected. On 27 January, the Government declared a state of emergency in Beni - as well as in several municipalities across the country - and has begun to coordinate and distribute humanitarian assistance, including food and temporary shelter, for the displaced population. A detailed assessment of the agriculture losses is still not available, but it is anticipated that the livestock is the most affected sector. The department of Beni is the most important bovine livestock producer, accounting for more than 42 percent of the national herd. Early official estimates by 8 February point to almost 60 000 heads of animals lost - or less than 1 percent of the national herd. However, another 1.8 million heads are at risk of disease from the excessive humidity and lack of feed due to the extensive flooding of pasture land; this number represents 21 percent of the national herd and more than half of the bovine cattle population in the department.
With respect to cultivated land, estimates indicate that close to 43 000 hectares of different crops, including rice, maize and cassava, have been negatively impacted by the heavy rains and floods. The department of Beni accounts for 6 percent of national annual rice production and less than 2 percent of total maize output. While the potential crop losses at the national level may not be substantial, the impact on local production and for small farmers - who have suffered partial or total losses of crops and livestock - is severe. The paddy crop, which started to be harvested, is likely to be the most affected as three of the four important rice-producing provinces in the department -Cercado, Marban and Moxos - were hit by the flooding. To mitigate the potential reduction of household income due to crop losses, the Government, in mid-February, created a special fund under its national crop insurance programme worth BOB 24 million (more than USD 3.5 million) to provide BOB 1 000 per hectare of destroyed cropped land.
Production outlook for the 2014 cereal crops remain favourable
At the moment of the severe flooding, the 2014 main “de verano” season maize crop was in an advance vegetative stage, while harvesting of the rice crop had just begun. Despite the crop losses in the department of Beni, the overall prospects for this year’s “de verano” season remain favourable, since the main cereal producing departments - Santa Cruz, La Paz and Cochabamba - have not been severely affected and the abundant rains may have benefited the developing crops in parts. The net effect on total production would need to be assessed later in the season. The rainy season typically goes until March/April and FAO/GIEWS will continue to closely monitor the crop situation.
The 2013 aggregate cereal production (first and second seasons gathered until last October) was significantly reduced due to drought conditions and low temperatures during key stages of the cropping season. Aggregate maize production (main and secondary seasons) was estimated at 875 000 tonnes, 13 percent below the previous year’s level. Rice production also declined by 13 percent, while wheat was estimated 4 percent less than the below-average 2012 wheat production.
Cereal imports to increase for 2013/14 marketing year (May/April)
As a result of the reduced 2013 production, cereal imports for the 2013/14 marketing season (May/April) are forecast at 516 000 tonnes or 13 percent above last year’s level. The bulk of this amount is wheat and wheat flour, but the increase also reflects higher imports of maize due to the contraction in 2013 production.
Prices of wheat and maize remain high
In February, flour prices strengthened somewhat and were significantly higher than at the same time last year. Prices were supported by low 2013 production and low stocks in Argentina, from where the country imports most of its wheat. However, common bread prices remained stable as a result of government subsidies that in 2013 increased to USD 34 million. Maize prices in February were relatively stable but remained almost two thirds above their levels from February 2013.