FAO/GIEWS: Africa Report No.3 - December 2003 p.4

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The crop calendar of sub-Saharan Africa is indicated below. Planting of main season crops has started in southern Africa. In several countries of eastern Africa, crops are either maturing or being harvested, with harvesting of main season crops complete or nearing completion in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan. In the Sahelian countries of western Africa, harvesting of main season cereal crops is complete.

Cereal Crop Calendar

Sub-RegionCereal Crops
Eastern Africa 1/March-JuneAugust-December
Southern AfricaOctober-DecemberApril-June
Western Africa  
- Coastal areas (first season)March-AprilJuly-September
(second season)August-SeptemberNovember-December
- Sahel zoneJune-JulyOctober-November
Central Africa 1/April-JuneAugust-December
1/  Except Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo which have two main seasons and Tanzania whose main season follows the southern Africa planting calendar. For Sudan, the planting period for the staple coarse grain crop is June-July and the harvesting period is October-December.

In southern Africa, planting of the 2003/04 cereal crops is underway with forecasts of normal rainfall for the season. The 2003 cereal production (including rice in paddy terms) has been estimated at 21.7 million tonnes, a slight increase over last year’s output. Consequently, cereal import requirements for 2003/04 are lower than last year. Although cereal surpluses in South Africa and trade among the other countries are expected to meet much of these requirements, substantial amounts of emergency food aid are still required in the sub-region. However, given that only 197 135 tonnes (or around 37 percent) of the total appealed amount of food aid and under the current regional Emergency Operation (EMOP) have been received by the end of October, WFP has projected a serious shortfall in the pipeline for distribution during the February to April lean period.

In Angola, the above normal rains in the second half of October benefited planting operations of main season crops. With the improvement in the security situation, large numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees are returning to their areas of origin. In addition, nearly 2 million farmers are to receive emergency agricultural assistance. Thus prospects for 2004 agricultural campaign appear to be favourable.

Even though the 2003 cereal output was above average, it can meet only half of the country’s total cereal requirement. AnFAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission in May 2003 estimated that the number of people in need of food assistance in 2003/04 would remain at 1.4 million. This includes a large proportion of the returning IDPs and refugees, and the ex-UNITA soldiers and their families. Total food aid requirements for the marketing year are estimated at 219 000 tonnes of cereals and 17 800 tonnes of pulses.

In Lesotho, planting of main season crops is in progress and the prospects for the 2004 main-season cereal crops are favourable with recent rainfall throughout the country except in mountain areas where it was insufficient during October. However, the food supply situation remains very tight due to below average cereal production in 2003. Much of the cereal import requirements are expected to be covered on commercial basis. An FAO/WFP Mission in May 2003 estimated that 32 000 tonnes of emergency cereal food aid would be needed during the 2003/04 marketing year (April/March) for 270 000 people affected by localized crop failure and those affected by HIV/AIDS.

In Madagascar, normal to below normal precipitation during September followed by good rainfall throughout the country since mid-October benefited the potato crop planted in September. However, prospects for maize and rice usually planted in November are uncertain at this stage. The preliminary estimate of paddy, the main staple crop in the country, in 2003 is 2.8 million tonnes, about 10 percent more than the average of the previous five years. A drought in the southern provinces severely reduced 2003 maize production. Consequently, Government assessment indicates that 600 000 people are in need of food assistance. Current reports point to an increase in the number of severely malnourished children. However, food aid distributions by WFP had to be suspended in May due to lack of resources. There is urgent need for additional food aid contributions to prevent a deterioration of the nutritional situation during the lean season that started in September.

In Malawi, planting of main season crops is underway under normal weather outlook for the season. The Government has launched a free input distribution programme for 1.7 million poor farm families. The overall food supply is satisfactory but the country has high levels of maize carryover stocks following a substantial increase in cereal production in 2003 and large amounts of imports. Market prices of maize have reached about 10-13 Kwacha/kg and are currently lower than they were at the same time last year. To help sustain farm gate prices the Government plans to export 100 000 tonnes of stocked maize and build a strategic reserve of 100 000 tonnes.

Nevertheless, itis estimated that 400 000 people will need food assistance of about 30 600 tonnes in marketing year 2003/04 (April/March), including those that experienced crop failures and those seriously affected by HIV/AIDS. In view of the high levels of maize stocks in the country, the FAO/WFP Mission of April 2003 recommended that food aid grain should be procured locally.

In Mozambique, plantings of the main season crops are underway with normal to above normal precipitation in the latter part of October. The 2003 cereal production, estimated at 1.8 million tonnes (some 3 percent above the good harvest of last year), shows a continuation of steady recovery in agricultural production over past several years.

However, the country as a whole faces a deficit of about 744 000 tonnes of cereals particularly in the south and parts of the centre. A recent estimate by the Vulnerability Assessment Committee shows that 659 000 people are in need of food assistance. In October, WFP was able to bring food relief to about 72 percent of the needy.

InSwaziland, the sowing of main-season crops was delayed due to dry conditions in much of October and prospects for crops are uncertain. With a self-sufficiency rate for cereals of only 36 percent in 2003, food security is mostly dependent on the purchasing power of the population. The FAO/WFP Mission of April/May 2003 estimated that 217 000 people would face food shortages and would need food assistance equivalent to 24 000 tonnes of cereals as two-thirds of the population live below the poverty line.

In Zambia, judging from the cold cloud duration satellite images for October, the 2003/04 agricultural season has started normally. The long range forecast for the season is also considered to be favourable. The Government is encouraging increased plantings and fertilizer use through its extended input subsidy programme. The 2003 cereal production, estimated at 1.36 million tonnes, is about 83 percent higher than the reduced harvest of last year and 35 percent above the average of the past five years.

In order to stabilize maize prices in the country, the Government has lifted the ban on maize exports and plans to replenish the country’s strategic reserves by procuring 206 000 tonnes of maize domestically. However, specific areas in the south and west of the country, where the harvest was poor, require targeted food assistance in 2003/04.

In Zimbabwe, with the exception of certain areas, such as in Matabeleland North province, the above normal precipitation during the last two dekads of October was conducive to planting of the 2003/04 season crops. However, farmers are reportedly facing seed, fertilizer, fuel, spare parts and draught power shortages. This could lead to use of sub-standard planting material and reduced planted area.

In spite of an increase in cereal production of about 40 percent in 2003 over the poor harvest of last year, domestic production cannot even cover half of the country’s cereal requirements in 2003/04. Escalating inflation is further eroding the purchasing power of the already low levels of income, thus greatly limiting access to food for the most vulnerable population estimated at 5.5 million. The country received pledges of about 250 000 tonnes of food by late November while total food aid needs for the year are estimated at 610 000 tonnes.

In eastern Africa, harvesting of the 2003 main season cereal crops is underway in northern parts of the sub-region while it has been completed in southern parts. The 2003 aggregate sub-regional output is anticipated to increase over the reduced level of last year. However, the impact of successive droughts in parts of Somalia and south-eastern Ethiopia is a cause for serious concern.

In Somalia, reports indicate that a serious humanitarian crisis has emerged in the Sool Plateau due to cumulative effects of successive droughts, including the failure of the current “deyr” season. Widespread loss of livestock and other livelihoods and severe scarcity of water are reported, with an estimated 93 000 people in need of urgent food and other humanitarian assistance. The trend decline in livelihoods in the Sool Plateau requires not only immediate response but also long-term measures including rebuilding of assets and environmental conservation. Recent climatological data and field reports indicate that the situation on Sool Plateau is potentially one part of an emerging crisis for Somali pastoralists throughout the areas of Central and Northern Somalia and in Eastern Ethiopia.  These areas collectively constitute the normal migratory lands for the pastoralists, whose current grazing and water options are increasingly limited due to below normal vegetation and outbreaks of civil insecurity in Central Somalia.  The FAO-managed Food Security Assessment Unit for Somalia will closely follow the situation.

The recently harvested main “gu” season cereal crop is estimated by the Food Security Assessment Unit (FSAU) at some 169 400 tonnes, about 25 percent below last year’s good crop and 8 percent below the post-war (1995-2002) average.

In Eritrea, the 2003 main “Kremti” season cereal harvest has started. A recent FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission indicates an improvement in cereal production over last year’s extremely poor crop but still below the ten-year average. Serious food shortages persist with as many as two-thirds of the country’s population facing severe food difficulties due to last year’s drought. Of these, an estimated 1.4 million need emergency food assistance. In addition, humanitarian assistance continues to be needed for large numbers of people internally displaced by the recent war with neighbouring Ethiopia, returning refugees from Sudan, and children benefiting from WFP’s Emergency School Feeding Programme.

In Ethiopia, harvesting of the 2003 main “meher” cereal crop has also started. Overall prospects are favourable reflecting good rains during growing season in major producing areas. The 2003 short "belg" season crop, normally harvested from June, was also good and a substantial recovery from last year’s poor harvest. By contrast, in pastoral areas of south-eastern Ethiopia, particularly the Somali Region, the secondary “deyr” season rains are reported to be late by more than one month raising serious concern. Critical water shortages and abnormal migration of livestock are already reported in several zones.

An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission has recently concluded its field work and a report is to be issued soon.

In Kenya, harvesting of the 2003 main “long-rains” cereal crop is complete in the main growing areas of the Rift Valley, Western and Nyanza Provinces. The revised forecast by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development of this season’s maize crop stands at 2.2 million tonnes, similar to the average of the previous five years.

Maize prices decreased in September and October, reflecting the arrival of the new harvest onto the market, as well as high levels of imports. Despite a reportedly adequate overall food supply situation, the Government has recently allocated funds for relief assistance in 13 districts experiencing food shortages. They include Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Ijara, Marsabit, Tana River, Taita Taveta, Kilifi, Lamu, Malindi, Kwale, Busia (Budalangi) and Nyando.

In Sudan, a recent FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission to the southern part reported a generally improved cereal harvest compared to last year due to favourable rainfall and improved security conditions. Nevertheless, food assistance requirements remain high as the fragmentation of markets and absence of normal trade routes preclude easy movement of food commodities from surplus to deficit areas.

In central and northern Sudan, harvesting of the 2003 main season cereal crops has just started. Despite floods, locust invasion and insecurity in parts, overall harvest prospects are favourable following some good rains and increased area under cultivation. An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission to northern Sudan has recently concluded its field work and a report is to be issued soon.

In the United Republic of Tanzania, planting of the 2003/04 “vuli” season crops in the bi-modal northern areas has started. Forecasts of the 2003 food crop production indicate a 10 percent decline compared to the previous year caused mainly by extended dry weather in several parts of the country and by early cessation of the main seasonal rains.

Serious food shortages have recently been reported in several regions, including Dodoma, Shinyanga, Singida, Manyara, Lindi, Coast and Morogoro.Also, there are pockets of food insecurity in Tanga, Kilimanjaro, Arusha, Mwanza, Mara and Tabora Regions, where crops failed due to drought. Overall, nearly 2 million people are estimated to be in need of food assistance. In addition, a seed deficit of approximately 3 200 tonnes is anticipated and seed assistance will be needed for the next cropping season.

In Uganda, prospects for the 2003 second season food crops, to be harvested from next January, have improved with recent good rains. Harvesting of the 2003 main-season cereal crop is complete. Despite a late start to the season, most of the country is reported to have received normal to above-normal rainfall for the season.

The overall food supply situation is satisfactory. However, average prices of food commodities continue to be generally higher compared to last year. Insurgency in northern and eastern Uganda continues to claim the lives of civilians on a daily basis. Since June 2003, the population in the four districts of Soroti, Katakwi, Kumi and Kaberamaido has borne the brunt of frequent brutal attacks, abductions, killings, looting and destruction of property. The displaced population in Teso region currently exceeds 300 000 people, in addition to over 800 000 in Acholi region. WFP continues to assist IDPs, refugees and other vulnerable groups, but access to these people is possible only with armed military escort.

In western Africa, the food outlook in most Sahelian countries is good following generally favourable weather since the beginning of the growing season. In October/November 2003, joint FAO/CILSS Crop Assessment Missions to the nine CILSS member countries provisionally estimated aggregate cereal production in the Sahel at some 14.3 millions tonnes, about 25 percent above last year’s output and some 31 percent above the average for the last five years. Following this bumper harvest, the food supply position should improve significantly. Farmers will also be able to increase their grain stocks. In order to support producer prices, Governments are encouraged to replenish national food reserves depleted by food relief distributions or subsidized sales during the 2003 lean season. It is also recommended that donors use local purchases and triangular operations for their food aid programmes in the region.

In most coastal countries along the Gulf of Guinea, average to good crops are expected although food difficulties persist in parts due to civil strife.

In Senegal, an FAO/CILSS Crop Assessment Mission which visited the country recently, estimated the 2003 aggregate cereal production at some 1.6 million tonnes, which is almost the double last year’s poor harvest and 73 percent higher than the average for the previous five years. Groundnut production, the main source of cash income for rural households, was estimated at 445 000 tonnes, 71 percent above last year’s poor harvest. This is due to both good rains and a significant expansion of cultivated area, driven by government programmes with the assistance of FAO. Maize production increased sharply from about 80 000 tonnes last year to over 500 000 tonnes in 2003. The production of beans, sesame and watermelon also increased significantly. Prices which have been decreasing since the beginning of harvests are expected to continue their downward trend as supply increases. Opportunities for maize exports to the coastal countries and north Africa should be explored.

In Mauritania, cereal production is expected to increase in 2003 after three consecutive years of severe drought which led to near-famine conditions in several regions. A recent FAO/CILSS Crop Assessment Mission provisionally estimated 2003 cereal production at 195 000 tonnes, some 68 percent above 2002 and about 20 percent more than the average of the previous five years. However, production would have been much higher had enough seeds been available and if large scale flooding had not damaged irrigated crops. Pastures are abundant.

In The Gambia, timely and adequate precipitation allowed normal development of crops. A joint FAO/CILSS Mission in late October provisionally estimated cereal production this year at a record 208 000 tonnes, an increase of about 50 percent over last year’s poor crop and well above the average (150 000 tonnes) of the previous five years. Groundnut production, the main source of cash income for rural households, was estimated at some 127 700 tonnes, 79 percent above last year’s poor harvest and 15 percent above the average of previous five years. An improved food security situation is, therefore, expected in 2004. In districts affected by floods and grasshopper infestations, a number of households may experience food difficulties during the year.

In Guinea Bissau, a CILSS Crop Assessment Mission has estimated 2003 aggregate cereal production at some 162 000 tonnes, 7 percent higher than the average crop of last year. This increase is entirely due to larger harvests of maize and millet. Although staple food prices remain steady, close monitoring of the food supply situation of the people living in the chronically food-deficit areas along the border with Senegal is recommended.

In Burkina Faso, exceptionally favourable weather since May resulted in a record cereal crop for the second year in succession. The pest situation has been on the whole calm and pasture conditions are good. A recent FAO/CILSS/FEWSNET mission provisionally estimated this year’s cereal production at 3.6 million tonnes, an increase of 17 percent over the record crop of 2002. As a result, the overall food supply situation is satisfactory. Farmers will be able to increase their grain stocks. Replenishment of the national food reserve as well as local purchases and triangular transactions by donors are strongly recommended to support domestic cereal prices.

In Mali, the food supply position in 2004 is anticipated to be satisfactory reflecting a record cereal harvest this year. The food situation should also improve in the structurally food-deficit areas of the north. Aggregate production has been estimated by a joint FAO/CILSS mission at 3.4 million tonnes, more than one third higher than the below-average 2002 crop. Output of millet, the most important cereal crop, is estimated to have increase by some 40 percent to 1.1 million tonnes.

In Niger, favourable growing conditions resulted in an increase in cereal harvest of some 8 percent compared to 2002, which was also a good year. A recent FAO/CILSS assessment mission provisionally estimated cereal production in 2003 a record 3.6 million tonnes. Pastures are abundant reflecting ample rains in the pastoral zones. The overall food supply situation is satisfactory reflecting successive bumper crops, adequate stocks, and relatively low prices of staples. Local purchases and triangular transactions are strongly recommended to donors to support cereal prices on local markets.

In Chad, where weather conditions have been exceptionally favourable this year, cereal production has increased by some 18 percent compared to both 2002 and the average for the previous five years. Aggregate cereal output in 2003, mostly sorghum and millet, was estimated by a FAO/CILSS Mission in October at a record 1.4 million tonnes, some 200 000 tonnes more than last year. Pastures are abundant and availability of water adequate. The overall food supply situation is satisfactory. In the deficit areas of the north the food supply position will improve this year as a result of increased millet production.

WFP is providing food assistance to about 41 000 people who have fled into the country from fighting in Central African Republic. An estimated 65 000 Sudanese refugees also entered the country recently, fleeing from fighting in Darfur region of northwestern Sudan.

In Cape Verde, a joint FAO/CILSS mission has provisionally estimated 2003 output of maize, the main cereal grown, at 15 800 tonnes. This represents an increase of 79 percent over last year’s drought-affected crop, but remains below the average of the previous five years.

In Côte d'Ivoire, cereal production is expected to fall for the second consecutive year, due to insufficient rains, conflict-induced population displacements and seed shortages. The food situation in the country remains critical, mainly in the west and rebel-controlled north. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), several thousand immigrant farmers and agricultural labourers from Burkina Faso and other West African countries are still being forced to leave their host communities in the west. WFP is facing a gap in donor funding for food supplies, there is no functioning health-care system and humanitarian assistance falls short of current needs. In the rebel-controlled north, access to food is very difficult for cotton farmers, who were unable to sell their crop because of the conflict. More than 1 million people have been displaced by the armed conflict, while over 200 000, mostly migrant workers from neighbouring Burkina Faso, Guinea, Liberia and Mali, have left the country.

An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission has just completed field work and a report on its findings will be issued shortly.

In Ghana, harvest prospects are mixed, following erratic and poorly distributed rainfall during the main growing season.

The crises in Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia have led to an influx of third-country nationals transiting through Ghana to their home countries, Ivorians and Liberians seeking asylum and the return of Ghanaian nationals. An estimated 70 000 people have transited through Ghana from Côte d’Ivoire since September 2002, while renewed fighting in Liberia has prompted a further influx of thousands of refugees and returnees. The capacity of the government, the humanitarian community and host communities to respond to the needs of these groups is reported to be under heavy strain.

In Guinea, despite localized floods, precipitation has generally been favourable and a good harvest is anticipated.

The presence of a large refugee population and the persistent instability in neighbouring countries have exacted a heavy toll on the country, which currently hosts more than 100 000 Liberian and Sierra Leonean refugees. The outbreak of civil war in Côte d’Ivoire added more than 105 000 refugees, including Liberians, Ivorians, Malians, Burkinabe and Guinean evacuees. The sudden return of the latter has strained domestic resources. While some 27 000 Sierra Leoneans have been repatriated this year, renewed fighting in Liberia has led to a new influx of thousands of refugees. WFP is currently assisting some 172 000 people under Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO).

In Liberia, since the signing of a peace agreement on 18 August 2003 and the deployment of West African peacekeepers (known as ECOMIL force), the humanitarian situation has been improving, notably in Monrovia where hundreds of thousands of people have sought refuge. The majority of the estimated 500 000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have been relocated in camps on the outskirts of Monrovia. However, sporadic skirmishes between rebel and government forces are reported in several areas. A survey conducted by World Vision in late August in Monrovia indicated that nearly 40 percent of young children living in camps suffer from malnutrition.

With the improvement of the security situation, WFP has launched an extensive food distribution programme, with more than 300 000 people receiving food assistance as of early November.

In Sierra Leone, crop prospects are uncertain after below normal rains and extended dry spells which may have affected crop development in some areas. This situation could reverse initial optimistic crop production expectations based on an improved security situation coupled with increased plantings by returning refugees and displaced farmers.

The food supply situation is still satisfactory thanks to last year’s improved harvest. The humanitarian situation in the country has also improved significantly following the end of the civil war. In 2002, over 100 000 Sierra Leonean refugees and 124 000 IDPs returned to their home areas. However, civil strife in Liberia has caused tens of thousands of Liberians to cross into the country.

Elsewhere in western Africa, the food supply situation is satisfactory.

In Central Africa, crop prospects and food security outlook are unfavourable in several countries due to civil strife and insecurity.

In Central African Republic, precipitation has been generally widespread and heavy since March, causing localized flooding in places such as Sibit town in the northwest, where several days of intense rains caused some casualties and damage or loss to crops and livestock in early September. Moreover, food production is not expected to increase this year, notably in the north, due to insecurity during the planting period which limited access to fields, as well as seed shortages.

The food security situation remains precarious following civil strife from October 2002 to March 2003. Widespread destruction of physical assets, looting, and population displacement have disrupted agricultural and economic activities. In mid-November, UN agencies launched a new joint appeal for US$ 16.8 million, including US$ 6.3 million for food and agriculture. It is estimated that over 230 000 people were displaced from their homes over the past year, but most of them have returned home. Some 41 000 people have taken refuge in Chad.

In the Republic of Congo, crop growing conditions are generally satisfactory for maize and root crops. However, insecurity continues to disrupt agriculture and rehabilitation activities in the areas affected by conflicts. A resurgence of fighting in the Pool region (surrounding the capital of Brazzaville) in March 2002 led to the displacement of at least 74 000 people, but the exact number is unknown as most areas in the region are inaccessible to humanitarian agencies. Following a peace agreement between the Government and rebels in mid-March 2003, inter-agency humanitarian assessment missions were fielded over a limited area in the region between May and August which revealed a critical health and nutritional situation, particularly among children and women.

The government has launched a programme to encourage the IDPs to return to their villages. WFP is facing a serious shortfall in resources and is focussing more on emergency assistance to the most vulnerable groups (IDPs, returnees and malnourished children) while continuing to participate with other partners in rehabilitation operations as far as resources permit. It is important to note that the Pool Region remains under UN Security Phase Four.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), although there remain serious security hazards including armed conflicts in certain parts of the country, the overall security situation DRC has improved since the arrival of UN peacekeepers in early September, leading to improved food aid distribution to internally displaced persons and returning refugees. Songolo and Iga-Barriere towns, around the district capital of Bunia in the northeast, are among those reached by humanitarian agencies which report the nutritional situation of the population to be very poor.

In Burundi, planting of the 2003/04 main-season foodcrops, to be harvested early next year, is nearly complete under uncertain weather conditions. Hail damage in hilly areas in Ruyigi province and outbreaks of animal diseases in Mwaro province are reported.

Total cereal production in 2003 has been estimated at 254 000 tonnes, about 2.5 percent below last year but 3.3 percent above the average of the past five years. It should be noted, however, that total food production remains below the average of pre-civil war period (1988–93). Thus, considering population growth, per capita food production has declined over time. The marked decline in pulse production has reduced an important source of dietary protein, leading to nutritional concerns.

The security situation remains precarious in the country with violent incidents reported in some areas. An estimated 110 000 people were displaced by intensified fighting during September.

In Rwanda, planting of the 2003/04 main-season foodcrops, to be harvested early next year, is nearly complete under normal to above normal precipitation. The important bean crop is growing well and will be harvested from December. Total 2003 cereal production, estimated at 263 000 tonnes, is slightly below production in 2002 but significantly higher than the average of the last five years. Production declined sharply in Bugesera Region.


Cereal import requirements in sub-Saharan Africa in 2003 are expected to remain high, reflecting mainly the effects of last year’s droughts in southern, eastern and western Africa. GIEWS latest estimates of 2002 production and 2002/03 import and food aid requirements are summarized in Table 1. Total food aid requirement is estimated at 4.6 million tonnes, against 2.0 million tonnes estimated in 2001/02. Cereal food aid pledges for 2002/03, including those carried over from 2001/02, amount to 4.0 million tonnes of which 3.5 million tonnes have so far been delivered.

For the countries which have entered their new marketing year, 2003/04 import requirements are summarized in Table. 2, while for the countries still in the 2002/03 marketing year, their cereal import and food aid requirements are summarized in Table 3.

FAO/GIEWS - December 2003

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