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GIEWS Update-detail

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US National Hurricane Center

Rainfall in Sri Lanka has been extremely low since the beginning of the 2003/04 Maha season (from October 2003 to March 2004); by late February, water levels in the major reservoirs and minor tanks in North-western province and North-Central Province ranged only from 21 to 34 per cent of capacity.

The Maha crop, accounting for 60% of annual production, was severely affected by the drought. The failure of rains, especially in the districts of Kurunegala, Anuradhapura and Puttalam, reduced by 77.5, 37.0 and 63.3 percent, respectively, Maha paddy production compared to the previous year (see Special Report: FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission to Sri Lanka, April 2004). Other rainfed crops, including maize, various pulses and chillies, were also heavily damaged.

Since the beginning of the Yala season (April to September 2004), drought conditions have worsened. As shown above, the observed cumulative rainfall by mid-July were about 30 to 50 percent below normal in most parts of the country. The cumulative precipitation registered 548 millimetres (mm) on average for the country, 543 mm in North Western province, 652 in Center province, 662 mm in Southern province, and 1049 mm in Western province.

Based on recent additional FAO estimates, 2004 Yala crops have been seriously affected by the prolonged drought, especially in Kurunegala, Puttalam and Anuradhapura, where only 4% (in Anuradhapura) to 25% (Kurunegara) of available areas for Yala paddy were planted. The yields for Yala crops under minor irrigation and in rainfed zones are expected to be much lower in many districts due to low rainfall during the late development stage. Some of the Yala paddy was actually abandoned.

The next couple of months will be critical for the 2004/05 Main season. Without a significant improvement in rainfall, the next Maha crops will be at risk and some districts may suffer a third consecutive crop failure. Livestock would be affected as well. The situation continues to warrant very close monitoring.

A severe cold wave since late June has affected 8 departments in the southern highlands of Peru. The Government has declared a state of emergency in 26 high Andean provinces of the five most affected departments: Arequipa, Cusco, Huancavelica, Moquegua and Puno. The abrupt fall in temperatures, snow storms and frosts have adversely affected some 338 000 local people characterized by high levels of poverty, and has resulted in losses of pastures and livestock. While extreme cold waves are a recurrent problem in these areas, this year’s agricultural damage appears to be above average levels. A full assessment of the situation is not yet available but a preliminary evaluation made by the Ministry of Agriculture, indicates that the adverse weather conditions have resulted in locally significant losses of livestock, estimated at about 250 000 heads, mostly sheep, llamas and alpacas. In addition, over 1.6 million heads of livestock are estimated to be at risk due to the reduced availability of pasture. The department that reported the highest number of losses is Puno, the main producing department of alpacas, llamas and sheep in the country. Damages to food crops have been limited, as the harvest of the main crops in these areas –mainly potatoes– had been completed just before the arrival of the cold wave.

The current situation is of particular concern because, since the end of last year, these areas have been affected by several adverse climatic events, such as drought from October to December 2003, frosts from January to February 2004 and flooding in February 2004. The sequence of all these events is likely to have had a substantial impact on households’ income, weakening the local capacity to cope with emergencies and increasing the already high vulnerability of rural families in these areas. It is important to closely monitor the start of the next agricultural season in September in order to timely detect early signs of an eventual food crisis.

Humanitarian assistance including food and non-food items is being distributed by the Government, in cooperation with international agencies, to the affected populations in the five emergency departments, as well as in the departments of Ayacucho, Apurimac and Tacna. By late July, contributions by international agencies amounted to US $ 1 million. In the departments of Cusco, Apurimac and high areas of Tacna, distributions are being hampered by persistent snow, which has blocked roads and isolated several localities.

There is growing concern that India may face drought conditions in western and northern regions, while in India’s eastern states, parts of Bangladesh and of Nepal have had the worst floods in 17 years. More than 20 million people have been affected by monsoon floods in South Asia, mostly in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal. At least 400 people have been reportedly killed in the floods in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal. Thousands of hectares of agricultural land in these countries submerged.

Until further notice, we refer interested readers to the following links:

Terra Daily
India Meteorological Department (IMD)
Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD)
Department of Hydrology and Meteorology of Nepal (DHM)


During the last week of June, three tropical waves passed over Nicaragua with persistent torrential rains that caused several landslides and rivers overflows in central and north Atlantic departments. The Department of Matagalpa and the Autonomous Regions of the North and South Atlantic have been officially declared areas in “State of Natural Disaster”. The worst affected areas were 15 villages in the Musún Mountains, nearby the town of Rio Blanco in the department of Matagalpa, and the communities along the banks of the Prinzapolka River in the Autonomous Region of the North Atlantic.

The official evaluation of damages to agriculture and livestock is not yet available. However, early forecast estimates that flooding affected an area of about 22 000 hectares of food and cash crops, approximately 7.3 per cent of the national area. Major damages are reported to the recently planted first season maize and beans crops. In the village of Estelí, in the department of Jinotega, losses of maize and bean crops are respectively estimated at about 33 and 36.5 per cent of the area planted. The departments of Matagalpa and Jinotega are important producing areas of maize, with more than 50 per cent of the national output of the first season crop (approximately 160 000 tonnes per year), and coffee, with about 70 per cent of the national production (approximately 42 000 tonnes of green coffee per year).

A severe year-long drought is causing extensive damage to food crops and livestock in central and eastern Cuba. In the provinces of Camaguey, Holguin, Las Tunas, Granma, Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo, with about two million people, between April 2003 and May 2004 cumulative precipitation registered a deficit of more than 400 millimetres. This year, the month of May, usually the start of the rainy season, has been the driest in more than 40 years, with near-record temperatures and less than 60 per cent of normal precipitation. At the beginning of June, water levels in reservoirs in Santiago de Cuba, Granma and Las Tunas provinces were between 40 and 50 per cent of their capacity.

The drought is mainly affecting the livestock and sugarcane sectors. In Camaguey, historically Cuba’s leading agricultural province, many sources of water on which livestock depend have dried up and preliminary indications suggest that about 36 000 head of cattle have died due to the shortage of forage and water. Surviving animals, watered mainly by tanker trucks, have lost substantial weight, while farmers are seeking alternative feed material, such as banana leaves and waste material from the sugar industry. Milk production also dropped in the most affected provinces.

Standing cane to be harvested from December has been seriously hit by the heat and the lack of water and planting of the new sugar cane crop is also delayed. Although official estimates of the damage are not yet available, early forecast point to a decline in 2004/05 raw sugar output, compared to this year’s production. According to industry sources, prospects for coffee, paddy and citrus crops are also poor.

The urban areas of the affected provinces, especially the capital cities of Holguin, Camaguey and Las Tunas, are experiencing shortages of drinking water and people are essentially relying on water trucked in every five to ten days. Fuel shortage is complicating water distribution. The Government is adopting such emergency measures as sinking hundreds of new wells and building aqueducts with the aim to link cities to distant rivers and reservoirs.