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Dry weather increases by two the list of countries in need of external food assistance

FAO report highlights risks posed by locusts in Africa amid stronger output trends in the Near East and Asia.

5 March 2020, Rome - The effects of inadequate rainfall on agricultural production added two countries - Namibia and Tanzania - to FAO's list of countries in need of external assistance for food, adding to strains triggered by desert locusts even as global cereal production appears strong, according to FAO's quarterly Crop Prospects and Food Situation report, released today.

The report has a special section on the desert locust outbreak in East Africa. It highlights that while locusts had a minimal impact on the 2019 crops, as harvests had largely been concluded before the scourge arrived, there are "serious concerns for crops and pasture resources in 2020."

Farms in Ethiopia and Somalia can expect substantial crop losses if control measures are not scaled up, with the important seasonal "Gu" harvest in Somalia at risk, which accounts for about 60 percent of the country's total annual cereal output. Locusts are already present in Somalia's key sorghum producing areas and are near the main maize growing areas.

The consequences of dry weather conditions aggravated food insecurity in Namibia and Tanzania, and both countries were added to the list of countries requiring external assistance. The list already includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Guinea, Haiti, Iraq, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Uganda, Venezuela, Yemen, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Despite the troubles in East Africa, overall cereal production in the 51 Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries (LIFDCs) rose 1.0 percent in 2019, led by gains in Central Asia and the Near East.

Nonetheless, the anticipated cereal import requirements for LIFDCs is estimated at 719 million tonners, up 4.2 million tonnes from the previous year. Import needs have risen notably in Zimbabwe and Kenya due to weak harvests and low stocks, while they have fallen in Afghanistan and the Syrian Arab Republic.

FAO has also raised its estimate for 2019 world cereal production to 2 719 million tonnes due to higher than-previously-anticipated maize outputs in West Africa and Ukraine.

For 2020 crops, the early global outlook for wheat production is favourable, particularly in the Far East in view of expected increased acreage and conducive weather conditions, while improved rainfall has boosted yield expectations in several Near Eastern countries.

Photo: ©FAO/Marco Longari
Farmers in Tanzania.