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GIEWS Update-detail
FAO/GIEWS Global Watch

14 August 2007

Floods Have Adversely Affected Crop Prospects and Food Security of Millions of Small Farmers in South Asia



Torrential rains from mid-July to early August across south Asia resulted in flash floods and landslides, which caused loss of life, severe damage to housing and infrastructure which left millions of people homeless, and crops and livestock losses. Provisional estimates indicate that overall more than 28 million people have been affected by the floods in India, Bangladesh and Nepal. Most of the affected population is critically dependent on agriculture for its living and many are vulnerable to food insecurity. The floods occurred when the 2007 main season cereal crops, mainly paddy and maize, have just been planted/transplanted or were still being sown. Although flood levels have started to recede in the past days there are concerns of serious food shortages in the affected communities due to the difficulties in delivering food assistance. The prospective food situation gives also serious cause for concern because of the loss of animals and unfavorable crop prospects following damage to recently planted crops. Opportunities for replanting once the water ha fully receded are limited as the sowing period of the main cereal season normally ends in July in India and Bangladesh and by mid-August in Nepal.



Nepal

The recent floods and landslides brought large-scale destruction adversely affecting 33 of the country¡¯s 75 districts. Torrential monsoon rains from 10 July 2007 caused severe flooding in southern Terai and landslides in the zone of the Hills. According to the Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS), more than 21 570 families were displaced, over 26 500 houses were either damaged or destroyed and, overall, some 56 500 families (or 333 000 people) were severely affected by the floods. The most severely hit districts are Kalilali (Far Western Region), Banke and Bardiya (Mid Western Region), and Dhanusa, Parsa and Saptari (Central Terai Districts).

The affected agro-ecological zone of Terai (plains) is the country¡¯s grain basket, accounting for over 70 percent of the total production of paddy which is the basic staple in Nepal. Paddy is generally transplanted in June/August with the monsoon rains and harvested in October/November. Though water levels have receded from the second week of August, thousands of hectares of agricultural land have been destroyed at the peak of the rice planting season. While a detailed assessment of the crop losses is not yet available, the overall outlook for this year¡¯s paddy production has deteriorated. At sub-national level, the difficult food security in areas of the Terai, affected by drought and floods in 2006, is likely to deteriorate further with the current floods. In general, and based on a FAO/WFP Food Security Report, a total of 42 out of the country¡¯s 75 districts are estimated to be food-deficit in 2006/07 (November/October) following consecutive years of adverse weather conditions.

Nepal: Paddy field damaged by July/early August floods in Terai



Source: Photo by Mr Subhash Singh (Field Coordinator Officer of WFP).


Bangladesh

Heavy rainfall since early June resulted in floods and landslides by mid-July killing 400 people, destroying 56 000 houses and partially damaging 700 000. Overall, official estimates indicate that some 10 million persons across 39 districts have been negatively affected by the floods. Worst affected districts are Sirajganj, Kurigram, Jamalpur, Bogra and Tangail, as well as Netrokona, Gaibandha and Nilphamary. Based on the updated report of the Flood Forecasting and Warning Center (FFWC) dated 12 August, the water ha receded significantly in most rivers and the flood situation is likely to continue to improve further in next days.

Almost all of the country¡¯s cereal production is paddy crop. When the floods occurred harvesting of the 2007 ¡®Boro¡¯ paddy crop, accounting for some 30 percent of the annual production, had been virtually completed, the ¡®Aus¡¯ crop (20 percent of total production) was being harvested and the main ¡®Aman¡¯ crop (50 of total production) was being planted. Preliminary official estimates indicate that some 854 000 hectares of paddy have been lost to floods and another 582 000 hectares have been partially damaged. In aggregate, the area affected represents some 13 percent of the total paddy planted area, seriously compromising prospects for this year rice production.



India

The South-west monsoon has been active across the country since the beginning of the season in May and by the end of June resulted in the worst flooding in India for decades, causing loss of life and severe damage to housing, infrastructure and the agriculture sector. Official estimates indicate that close to 18 million people have been adversely affected by the floods, with hundreds of thousands at risk of hunger and disease. The hardest-hit areas are the three northeastern states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Assam. In Bihar, more than 10 million people in 21 districts have been officially estimated badly affected, while in Assam some 5.5 million people in 5 800 villages of 26 districts have been reportedly affected. In Uttar Pradesh, about 2 million people in 2 665 villages ha been affected.

The main (summer) cropping season coincides with the monsoon rains, extending from late-May to September. Some 85 percent of the annual production of the main paddy crop and the entire maize crop are grown in this season. According to India Meteorological Department, the 2007 southwest monsoon arrived over the South Andaman Sea on 10 May, about 10 days ahead of the normal schedule, covered the northeastern states by 10 June, and the entire country by 4 July, about 11 days ahead of normal. As on 31 July, the cumulative seasonal rainfall since 1 June was 103 percent its long-term national average. The three worst flood-affected states are important rice producers, accounting for roughly a quarter of the country¡¯s total paddy area and production. Preliminary reports indicate that about one million hectares of cereal land have been submerged in Bihar State alone. While this year¡¯s cereal production is likely to be reduced in the three north-eastern affected states, at national level the output of this season will depend on weather conditions in the coming months.