FAO/GIEWS: Africa Report No.2 - September 2005 p.4

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Planting of main season crops is expected to begin in the next few weeks in southern Africa. Crops in several countries in eastern Africa are maturing or being harvested, while harvesting of main season crops is due to commence in October/November in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan. Harvesting is underway in the coastal countries of western Africa and main season crops are maturing in the Sahelian countries. The crop calendar of sub-Saharan Africa is indicated below.

Cereal crop calendar

SubregionCereal 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 eastern Africa, harvesting of the 2005 main season cereal crops is being concluded in southern parts of the subregion while in northern parts crops are at varying stages of development. Despite beneficial rains and favourable crop prospects in parts, the food situation remains precarious for a large number of people with high malnutrition rates reported in several countries.

In Eritrea, the 2005 main cropping season, “Kiremti”, is well underway and the outlook is generally favourable following good distribution of rainfall. However, even in good years, Eritrea produces only a fraction of its total food requirements and largely depends on imports.

In the last several years the food situation deteriorated sharply as a result of consecutive poor harvests and lingering effects of war with neighbouring Ethiopia, compounded by serious macro-economic imbalances. High cereal prices continue to impact on purchasing power and food security of large numbers of people. In June, market prices for white sorghum, the main staple crop, increased by 25 percent in Asmara, 91 percent in Keren and 62 percent in Mendefera, compared to the same time last year. It is expected that these prices will remain as high, or increase, until harvest in October-November. Currently, about 2.2 million people are facing varying degrees of food shortages with an estimated 1.3–1.4 million receiving food assistance. Current cereal stocks and food aid in the pipeline are expected to cover needs for the remainder of 2005.

An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission is planned to visit the country from late-October to assess the main season production and estimate food assistance requirements in 2005.

In Ethiopia, the 2005 main “meher” cropping season is well advanced across the country. The main producing regions in western and central parts are expected to have a favourable outturn while the outlook is less favourable in the eastern and southern crop producing areas due to late and erratic rains. Furthermore, despite the general improvement in the secondary “belg” season compared to last year, some areas were adversely affected by either excessive or erratic and late rains. Normally, the belg season rains extend from February to May and the crop accounts for some 10 percent of total grain production but in some areas it provides the bulk of annual grain production.

Household food availability in parts is poor and high malnutrition rates, particularly for children, are of serious concern. The situation is exacerbated by significantly higher than average food prices. A multi-agency mission, composed of Government, UN and other humanitarian agencies, last April revised the total number of people in need of emergency food assistance in 2005 upwards from 3.1 million to 3.8 million, with a food requirement of about 464 000 tonnes. A subsequent inter-agency assessment of belg-dependent and pastoral areas in late June-early July has reported that emergency food needs have risen with additional 2.5 to 3 million people now requiring an extra 200 000 tonnes for the remainder of 2005. Inadequate implementation of the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP), launched in January 2005, has partly contributed to the increase in the emergency requirements. The PSNP was expected to support more than 5 million chronically food-insecure people with cash and food transfers. Overall, the global food aid pipeline and emergency food security reserves (EFSR) are expected to cover the estimated requirements for the remainder of the year.

An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission is planned to visit the country in November to assess the main season production and estimate food assistance requirements in 2006.

In Kenya, prospects for the 2005 long rains maize crop, being harvested, are generally favourable due to good rains in main agricultural areas. These rains counteracted somewhat the adverse impact on yields of delayed planting due to the late start of the season. The long rains cropping season (March-May) normally accounts for 80 percent of total annual food production. Serious flooding, however, caused the displacement of tens of thousands of people and destroyed cropped areas, particularly in the low-lying areas near Lake Victoria and in Tana River District in the east. Most north-western pastoral areas also received above average rains in April and May.

Overall, serious food problems remain in the south-eastern lowlands and the north-eastern pastoral areas. In the marginal agricultural areas of Eastern Province, particularly in Kitui and Makueni districts, the household food security situation has deteriorated sharply due to the near-total crop failure during the current season. This followed the earlier failure of the critical October-December 2004 short-rains season. The next important harvest is not due until February 2006. In addition, the northeastern pastoral districts including Garissa, Wajir, Tana River and Isiolo, are faced with serious food shortages. Recent reports indicate high child malnutrition rates in several districts. Refugees fleeing from the Gedo region of Somalia into Mandera District, due to conflict, are expected to exacerbate the food security situation in the area. Simmering clan tensions have also resulted in vicious clashes in several pastoral areas. Ever dwindling resources like water and pasture are some of the underlying causes that continue to plague these communities.

In Somalia, the current “gu” season crop being harvested in southern Somalia is forecast at about 73 000 tonnes, some 44 percent below average. The “gu” cereal crop normally accounts for some 70 to 80 percent of annual production. By contrast, the gu rains in central and northern Somalia were generally good and the cereal harvest in these parts is expected to be above average. Furthermore, the above average gu rains in central and northern Somalia have markedly improved pasture and livestock conditions. Although this signifies an end to the severe drought conditions of more than three years, a full recovery will be slow due to the cumulative effects of the drought on livelihoods, including large livestock losses and high levels of indebtedness.

The overall food security situation continues to be alarming with more than 900 000 people in need of urgent assistance. The situation is further aggravated by the outbreak and upsurge in hostilities in parts of southern Somalia and the deterioration in security conditions that are hampering the distribution of relief assistance. Further information and analysis can be accessed from the Food Security Assessment Unit (FSAU) at: www.fsausomali.org.

In Sudan, prospects for the 2005 food crops, to be harvested from October, are still uncertain. In southern Sudan, early indications suggest an average crop but remain to be verified through crop assessments. Overall, Sudan’s estimated rainfall reached near to above-normal levels, with potentially excessive totals in the northeastern agricultural areas and possibly below-normal amounts in north-eastern Darfur. Heavy rainfall was recorded in late July-early August in areas of West Darfur which is expected to benefit crops and improve water and pasture conditions.

In southern Sudan, the optimism that followed the peace deal signed in January 2005 to end the war has given way to apprehension following the tragic death of the First Vice-President of Sudan, Dr. John Garang. The optimism had prompted large numbers of Sudanese refugees in neighbouring countries to trek back to their villages. The humanitarian challenges and rehabilitation and reconstruction needs of the shattered economy and infrastructure will be enormous. According to an inter-agency UN assessment, access to sufficient food is worsening for the returnees and poor households in the south-western Sudanese region of Bahr el Ghazal and malnutrition levels are reportedly starting to rise. The continued crisis in Greater Darfur remains the most pressing humanitarian problem.

An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission is planned to visit the country in October and November to assess the main season production and estimate food assistance requirements in 2006.

In the United Republic of Tanzania, the preliminary forecast of the 2005 maize crop indicates a 2 percent increase compared to last year’s good crop. However, poor rainfall patterns in Dodoma, Tabora, Shinyanga, Morogoro (in early January to February) as well as in Arusha, Manyara and Kilimanjaro areas (during March to June) have affected maize crop production and may result in some downward revision.

The overall national food supply situation remains stable. In most markets in the southern highlands grain basket regions of Tanzania, wholesale maize prices have been below the four-year average since January 2005 due to good local production in 2004. However, in early August wholesale maize prices in Dar-es-Salaam were still 18 percent higher compared to the same time last year. The high demand from neighbouring countries, particularly Zambia and Malawi where below average crops have been gathered, may also counteract the expected fall in prices in southern Tanzania.

In Uganda, harvesting of the 2005 main season crops is nearing completion and the outlook is favourable. Already wholesale maize price have started to decline in most of the markets. However, increased demand in northern Uganda and the observed exports to Kenya since early July are expected to firm-up these prices. In northern Uganda, poorly distributed rainfall has negatively affected crop development. However, an average sorghum crop is expected in Karamoja.

The overall food situation is stable. However, insecurity remains a serious problem in northern Uganda (Gulu, Kigum, Lira and Pader districts) as the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) continues to attack communities and lay ambushes on roads, maiming and killing people as well as destroying assets and property. Food distributions continue to reach 1.4 million displaced persons and nearly 200 000 refugees and other vulnerable persons. WFP faces a shortfall of about 27 000 tonnes of food commodities, with a funding gap of about US$13 million required to maintain the food pipeline.

In southern Africa, about 12 million people are in need of emergency food assistance in marketing year 2005/06 (mostly April/March) in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Swaziland, Lesotho, Mozambique and Zambia following a poor cereal harvest early this year. The resulting food shortages, rising staple food prices (especially in Zimbabwe and Malawi), and diminished income-earning opportunities and remittances have led to an upward revision of the number of people at risk of food insecurity in many of these countries. The lean period, which usually starts in December and lasts through March, is expected to begin much earlier this year. In Zimbabwe, access to food in many areas is severely hampered by scarcity of grain on the market, transport problems and fuel shortages. For the same reasons, prospects for 2006 are dire, regardless of rainfall. Under rising prices, the number of people at risk is estimated to be over 3 million, about a quarter of the total population. In Malawi, food insecurity has worsened due to rising maize prices. The number of people facing food shortages is estimated at 4.6 million, about 40 percent of the total population. On a brighter note, South Africa’s maize harvest is estimated at a record level of 12.4 million tonnes, about 28 percent over the drought-affected harvests of the previous two years. The resulting closing stocks of about 5 million tonnes of maize are more than enough to cover the subregion’s total import requirements of 2.8 million tonnes, of which 1.8 million tonnes are anticipated to be commercial imports.

In Angola, the 2005 cereal harvest is estimated at a record level of 881 000 tonnes. Total agricultural production is forecast to increase by 28 percent over last year, mainly due to the favourable weather, expansion of area planted following the resettlement of IDPs and refugees and substantial distribution of agricultural inputs. Although maize production estimated at 720 000 tonnes would represent self-sufficiency, still the country needs to import about 765 000 tonnes of cereals for 2005/06, mainly wheat and rice. In spite of the favourable national harvest, pockets of food insecurity exist in the central highlands compounded by poor road conditions and marketing systems. Consequently, a large number of food insecure people exist in the country. In the month of August WFP distributed 9 000 tonnes of food to about 750 000 vulnerable people, most of them IDPs.

Angola’s economy, which produces over 1 million barrels of crude oil a day that fetched more than double the budgeted price in the international market in 2004, is expected to boom with a Government prediction of 16 percent growth in 2005. Recently the World Bank approved a grant of US$21 million to Angola to help implement the HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis Control Project.

In Botswana, the Government declared an emergency due to drought that caused crop failure and a drop in cereal production by more than 50 percent from 46 000 tonnes last year to 19 000 tonnes this year. However, domestic cereal production in Botswana typically amounts to about 10 percent of the country’s total needs. The remainder is covered by commercial imports.

Cattle have been affected by successive outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease resulting in loss of access to European markets. The cattle industry is Botswana's second largest foreign currency earner after diamonds. Recently the Government unveiled a plan to battle and eventually eradicate the disease.

In Lesotho, poor prospects for the secondary winter crop have exacerbated the already tight food supply situation in the country following a below average 2005 main season cereal harvest estimated at 119 000 tonnes. Long-term decline in cereal production especially in the main producing districts of Berea, Butha-Buthe, Leribe and Maseru is cause for concern and should be investigated. Endemic soil erosion, weather-related disasters and the impact of HIV/AIDS pandemic are likely major underlying causes.

Cereal import requirements for 2005/06 marketing year (April/March) have been estimated at 303 000 tonnes and are expected to be covered by some 223 000 tonnes commercial imports and the rest by international food aid. As the lean season approaches, the problem of access to food for an estimated 548 800 people in the Kingdom is likely to get worse unless national and/or international assistance is mobilized. Emergency food aid needs have been estimated at 20 200 tonnes of cereals. From July 2005 until the next harvest in March 2006, WFP plans to assist 245 000 people with 10 000 tons of food.

In Madagascar, the 2005 paddy harvest has been estimated at a record level of about 3.4 million tonnes. Consequently, average price of local rice has dropped from about 9 000 FMG/kg at the peak of the “rice crisis” around December-January to a post-harvest low of 3 750 FMG in late June 2005. Since then the price of local rice has recovered and stabilized around 5 000 FMG in early September but has remained consistently below the price of imported rice. It is likely to further increase through the lean season months of January to March, benefiting the farmers with surplus rice to sell, but adversely affecting the vulnerable groups with limited purchasing power.

FAO estimates Madagascar’s total cereal import requirements for the 2005/06 marketing year (April/March) at 174 000 tonnes, anticipated to be covered by 139 000 tonnes of commercial imports and the remaining 35 000 tonnes by international food aid. Reportedly, more than 70 percent of Madagascar's 17 million people live below the poverty line of US$1/day. A recently released report by the national Early Warning System showed that about 3 000 tonnes of food will be needed to feed 105 000 people in the upcoming lean season (December 2005-April 2006). A four-year aid package of US$110 million was officially signed on 18 April under the US Millennium Challenge Corporation to help boost the country’s agricultural production. Madagascar’s entry into the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in August is expected to improve trade and economic prospects for the country.

In Malawi, with rapid increases in maize prices in recent months, food insecurity has worsened. The 2005 maize harvest, estimated at 1.3 million tonnes, was the lowest in a decade and some 26 percent below last year’s relatively poor output. Due to generally low residual soil moisture from the main season, the prospects for the secondary winter crop are poor. The official forecast for the winter maize crop is 192 000 tonnes, some 20 percent below last year’s output.

The Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (VAC) estimate of 4.2 million people, or 34 percent of the total population, facing food shortages during 2005/06 marketing year (April/March) was based on the assumption of a maize price band of 19-23 kwacha/kg. An average maize price from selected markets was 37 percent higher in mid-August this year compared to the same period last year. The official average monthly maize price in Liwonde market in the south has steadily increased from 16.84 kwacha in April to 21.31 kwacha in August. In the north (e.g. Mzuzu) maize prices were declining until July. Since then they are on the rise, while they are relatively stable in the center (e.g. Dowa). The highest prices for August were observed in Mwanza (32.32 kwacha), Mangochi (25.70 kwacha) and Nchalo and Balaka (25.00 kwacha). According to the VAC the number of people facing food shortages will rise to 4.6 million under the assumption of maize prices in the range of 32-40 kwacha/kg and would require 414 000 tonnes of food assistance.

Total maize import requirements for the 2005/06 marketing year (April/March) are estimated at 767 000 tonnes, of which about 300 000 tonnes were expected to be covered commercially. From April to July 2005 only 47 000 tonnes were imported mostly through cross-border trade. As of 9 September, WFP had received donor pledges for about 160 000 tonnes.

For the 2005/06 main season the Government is planning to distribute 50 kg of urea fertilizer and 5 kg of improved maize seed to about 1 million smallholder farmers under the UN Millennium Project with funding from the World Bank.

In Mozambique, the outlook for the second season winter crop is unfavourable due to the reduced rainfall in recent months and lower than usual water levels in the rivers and reservoirs. The 2005 production of cereals was estimated at 1.92 million tonnes, some 4 percent lower than last year’s record harvest, but 10 percent above the last five-year average. Despite this overall satisfactory national production, certain areas such as the southern districts of Tete Province, and many districts in southern provinces, were affected by drought. Total cereal import requirements, including rice and wheat, are forecast to be 10 percent higher than last year. Maize imports, in the order of 175 000 tonnes, may be necessary, given the high costs of moving grain from north to south. Of these, about 130 000 tonnes are expected to be through commercial channels, leaving about 45 000 tonnes to be covered by food aid imports.

Total national food assistance needs, including for the HIV/AIDS affected (under the regional PRRO), are estimated at 83 000 tonnes. In view of the maize surplus in northern and central areas, part of these food needs could be procured locally. Cassava production is also expected to ease maize shortages locally in cassava predominant areas. Processing, transportation and marketing of cassava in the form of dry chips or flour needs to be supported in the national food security strategy.

Maize prices rose in July and August in most markets in the country and are generally higher than the prices last year. This can be explained by the poor harvest in the south and large export demand in the north from the neighbouring food deficit Malawi. Rising maize prices will exacerbate food insecurity for the estimated 587 500 people. Currently WFP is distributing food aid to only quarter of these, mostly in drought-affected areas.

In Namibia, the 2005 total coarse grain production, mainly of millets, sorghum and maize, has been revised downwards by the Namibia Early Warning and Food Information Unit and is now put at 97 182 tonnes, 16 percent below last year and 4 percent below the five-year average. Reduction in crop production is attributed to severe dry spells during critical growing periods throughout the country. According to earlier Government reports, farmers in eastern Caprivi region were provided emergency assistance for procurement of seed, draft animal power and ploughing implements and accessories. Production of winter wheat is forecast at 10 500 tonnes, down by 1 000 tonnes from the previous year. The national cereal import requirement for 2005/06 marketing year (May/April) is estimated at 145 000 tonnes, mostly unchanged from last year due assumed stock drawdown. Most of the deficit is expected to be met through commercial imports.

In South Africa, the seventh estimate of 2005 maize harvest by the country’s Crop Estimating Committee revised the previous figure to a record 12.4 million tonnes. This represents an increase, due to favourable weather, of about 28 percent over the drought-affected harvests of the previous two years. The resulting closing stocks of 5.1 million tonnes of maize, as of 30 June 2005, are more than enough to cover the subregion’s maize import requirements.

The first estimate of the area planted under winter wheat shows a 4 percent decline, to 800 500 ha, over the 2004 level. However, yields are expected to improve over the 2003 and 2004 drought-affected levels resulting in a near normal production level of 2.03 million tonnes.

The SAFEX price of white maize plummeted from about R900/tonne in January 2005 to under R600/tonne beginning of March in response to substantial domestic stocks, improved crop production prospects locally and internationally, and substantial drop in the international price. The price was fairly stable at around R600 until early July; since then it has steadily risen to R713/tonne in early September as the lean season approaches and demand picks up in the subregion. This price is still well below the import parity price of maize of about R1196/tonne. Thus the current low price of maize in the country should help ease the regional food shortages and improve regional food security.

In Swaziland, food insecurity for vulnerable groups remains a critical issue, in view of declining income-earning opportunities and remittances, high levels of unemployment, and the impact of HIV/AIDS on the livelihoods of households. Moreover, per capita consumption of maize from all sources (including food aid) has been declining over time, and evidently it is not being replaced by other foods. Farmers have cited low farm gate prices and high cost of fertilizer, tractor rental, fuel and transport as the key reasons for poor agricultural productivity.

The 2005 cereal harvest estimated at 83 000 tonnes was 4 percent below the average of the previous five years. Cereal import requirements for 2005/06 marketing year (April/March) are estimated at 111 000 tonnes, of which 70 000 tonnes are expected to be imported commercially. With about 6 000 tonnes of food aid in stock and pipeline at the beginning of the marketing year, there remains an uncovered deficit of 35 000 tonnes which needs to be met by additional international assistance.

Consumer prices are almost four times the prices the National Milling Corporation (NMC), a parastatal company and the sole authorized importer of maize, charges to the millers. Given that there are very few millers in the country, maize meal prices tend to be too high for poor households limiting their access to adequate supplies. There is an urgent need to examine the country’s existing pricing and marketing policies for maize.

In Zambia, the 2005 cereal output was estimated at 991 000 tonnes, 32 percent down from last year’s bumper harvest and 18 percent below average of the previous five years. Consequently, cereal import requirements for marketing year 2005/06 (May/April) were estimated at 271 000 tonnes, anticipated to be covered by 224 000 tonnes of commercial imports, and 47 000 tonnes of international food aid. So far commercial imports have been only about 11 000 tonnes but the Government has lifted a ban on imports and plans to import 200 000 tonnes of white maize.

According to the Zambia VAC some 1.2 million people will be in need of some form of food assistance amounting to about 118 000 tonnes between July 2005 and February 2006, to be provided by the Government and/or international community.

Depending on the early rain situation, the main season planting of the 2005/06 cereal crops will begin in October. The government has planned a program of 50 percent input subsidy during the 2005/06 agricultural season for targeted 125 000 small-scale farmers with 50 000 tonnes of fertilizer and 2 600 tonnes of maize seed. Zambia has qualified for a $4 billion debt relief.

In Zimbabwe, the 2005 production of maize, the main staple food crop, has been put at about 600 000 tonnes, compared to over 2 million tonnes in 2000. There are several reasons, including the continuing economic crisis, land redistribution, widespread drought, non-remunerative producer prices of maize, late availability of seeds, shortages and/or high costs of most farm inputs such as fuel, fertilizer, credit, spare parts and draught power. With a national consumption requirement of all cereals of about 1.9 million tonnes, the import requirement is over 1 million tonnes. The Government of Zimbabwe had announced its plans to import 1.2 million tonnes of maize, but commercial import capacity of the country is severely constrained by falling foreign exchange reserves. By August 2005 about 334 000 tonnes of grain had been received/contracted, primarily from South Africa. Very little, only about 1 000 tonnes, have been recorded through informal cross border channels.

According to WFP, access to food in many areas is severely hampered by scarcity of grain either from farmers/traders or from the Grain Marketing Board (GMB), and problems of transport and fuel supplies in the country. This has resulted in sharp and continuous price increases in most markets. Between June and September, 2005 maize prices increased from Z$1 100 to Z$2 200/kg in the north-central part of the country and from Z$3 890 to Z$5 560/kg in the south (FAO and FEWSNET). Inflation in August climbed to 265 percent, up from 124 percent in March due to rise in fuel and food prices, and depreciation of the Zimbabwe dollar. The continuing hyper inflation combined with extremely high levels of unemployment, is greatly limiting access to food for the most vulnerable population groups. The Zimbabwe VAC has estimated 2.9 million people as requiring food assistance on the assumption of an average maize price of Z$1 750/kg. Even in US dollar terms prices of maize in Zimbabwe, at about US$0.30/kg, are the highest among the FEWSNET monitored countries of the region. With rising prices, the number of people at risk of food insecurity is likely to be much higher.

In an announcement on 16 August 2005, the Government removed duties on maize and wheat imports and cancelled the monopoly powers of the state-owned Grain Marketing Board (GMB). However, this trade liberalization aimed at improving imports by private traders and easing pressures on consumer prices, is expected to have little impact in the short run in the face of lack of hard currency in private hands and constrained transport/fuel facilities.

In western Africa, crop prospects are generally good in the Sahel, following widespread rains since the beginning of the rainy season in June. However, the Sahel and northern parts of several coastal countries continue to face a difficult lean season, due mainly to unusually high food prices.

In Benin, harvesting of the first maize crop is underway in the South, while coarse grains are generally developing satisfactorily in the North. In spite of above average cereal production in 2004, estimated at about 1.1 million tonnes, very high food prices have been reported across the country. This is due to higher-than-normal exports to neighbouring countries, caused by a drop in production in Sahelian countries, and lower food supplies and high food prices in several other coastal countries. The situation is expected to improve, as food supply increases with the new harvests.

In Burkina Faso, rains and soil moisture have been generally adequate to allow satisfactory development of crops since the beginning of the growing season, although localised crop failures due to inadequate rainfall are reported in the south-east and the Boucle du Mouhoun region. Millet and sorghum crops are in the heading and early maturation stages. Pastures have regenerated countrywide, improving livestock conditions. The desert locust situation remains calm in the country.

Food prices have started decreasing in the south, mainly due to increased cereal imports from neighbouring coastal countries, where harvesting of the main crops is underway. However, prices have remained very high in the south-west, centre and north, in spite of emergency interventions by the Government and humanitarian agencies, including free food distribution and subsidized sales in affected communities. A tight food situation continues to be reported in several localities. Vulnerable groups need to be continuously monitored and assisted as necessary until the end of the lean season.

In Chad, rainfall has been adequate since the start of the growing season in May, allowing satisfactory development of crops countrywide. Millet and sorghum are maturing in the Sudanian zone while they are still developing in the Sahelian zone. Harvesting of maize, cassava and groundnuts has started in some regions. Pastures are regenerating, improving livestock conditions. However, flooding was reported in the south and desert locusts remain a potential threat.

Insecurity in neighbouring Central African Republic has led to an influx of about 15 000 refugees since June, bringing the number of Central African refugees to over 35 000. Chad is also home to more than 200 000 refugees from Sudan's Darfur region.

Although a slight decrease has been observed in a few markets in August, cereal prices remain high on most markets in spite of subsidized sales and free distributions by the Government in several communities. The situation should improve as new harvests arrive on the markets.

In Côte d’Ivoire, harvesting of the first maize crop has started in the South. Satellite imagery analysis revealed that output may be affected by dry spells which occurred in the south-east in July. Moreover, conflict-induced problems, notably labour shortages due to populations displacements, the lack of agricultural support services in parts of the country, market segmentation, disruptions by insecurity, and excessive transport costs due to hefty levies at roadblocks, continue to disrupt agricultural production and marketing activities. Food security for many households also continues to be hampered by disruption of livelihoods especially in the west. In addition, due to the continuing unfavourable market situation, smallholder cash crop producers are experiencing a significant loss of income.

In Liberia, harvesting of the 2005 paddy crop, virtually the only cereal grown in the country, is due to start soon. Production should further increase this year reflecting improved security, increased plantings by returning refugees and farmers previously displaced, as well as comparatively improved conditions for the distribution of agricultural inputs. During this farming season, 149 245 beneficiaries in all 15 counties of Liberia received 2 863 tonnes of seed rice, including those in the southeast not reached in 2004/05.

The repatriation of refugees and resettlement of IDPs started in October-November 2004 and as of early September, 242 337 persons have been repatriated and resettled. This includes 37 049 Liberian returnees and 205 288 IDPs. UNHCR reports that in December 2003, over 340 000 Liberian refugees were in neighbouring countries, while an estimated 500 000 were internally displaced. With the improvement of the security situation, WFP continues to extend its operation across the country, and is shifting progressively from emergency to recovery.

In Mali, rains were widespread in July and August, and soil moisture was generally adequate to allow satisfactory development of crops. Millet and sorghum are generally in the leafing or heading stages but harvesting of early millet has started in some regions. Transplanting of irrigated rice is still underway. There are reports of low use of fertilizer on rice in Office du Niger, San and Tombouctou, which may affect rice yield this year. Moreover, grain-eating birds and grasshoppers are reported in several regions. The desert locust situation is reported to be calm, with only scattered adults reported in the north. Pastures are generally good.

Food prices remain very high, and the food situation remains critical in northern parts of the country. However, an improvement is likely following widespread harvesting in October. Nevertheless, prices may not decline much due to depleted stocks and unfavourable weather conditions in several coastal countries, notably in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.

In Mauritania, following the first showers in late May, good rains fell from June through August over most of southern and central Mauritania. As a result, crops are developing satisfactorily in most agricultural zones. They are already in the tillering or leafing stages. Pastures are adequate countrywide and the desert locust situation remains calm. However, following last year’s widespread desert locust invasion and poor rainfall, seed shortages have affected many farmers, in spite of distributions carried out by FAO and the Government.

In Niger, rainfall has been generally widespread and soil moisture adequate, allowing satisfactory development of crops, although localised rainfall deficits may have affected pasture regeneration in the pastoral zones of Tillabery and western Tahoua regions. Stages of crop development vary between elongation/flowering/heading. Overall harvest prospects are favourable.

Although harvesting of early millet, beans and groundnuts has started in some localities, only a slight decrease in food prices has been observed and the food situation remains critical in the country. Improved food supply is expected to lower prices after widespread harvesting begins in October. However, prices may not decrease as much as expected due to depleted food stocks across the region and unfavourable weather conditions in several coastal countries.

In addition to poor rainfall and desert locust invasion which affected the Sahel in 2004, the very high prices that triggered the current crisis are also due to lower-than-normal food supplies and high prices in coastal countries which usually export cereals to the Sahel. According to a market survey carried out recently by WFP, recorded imports were 40-50 percent lower during the first five months of 2005, compared to the same period in 2004, despite larger domestic availabilities then than this year.

WFP, which began large-scale food distribution in early August, has expanded its emergency operation to assist 3 million people by the end of the lean season in October, in collaboration with the National Food Security Mechanism (DNPGCA) and NGO partners. However, the operation is only 57 percent funded as of early September. More funds and food donations are urgently needed to adequately respond to the critical food situation.

In Senegal, abundant rains caused flooding in several areas, notably in Dakar region. However, the impact on crops was limited. Millet and sorghum are generally at the heading stage in the south. Maize is maturing. In the north, coarse grains are tillering/leafing. Overall crop conditions are reported to be good and cereal production is expected to increase. Pastures are regenerating, improving livestock conditions.

In Sierra Leone, heavy rains and flooding in the southern district of Pujehun destroyed many homes and acres of farmland and made thousands of people homeless in mid-August. However, agriculture, which has been recovering steadily since the end of the civil war in 2002, is expected to improve further this year, reflecting increasing plantings by returning refugees and farmers previously displaced, as well as improved conditions for the distribution of agricultural inputs. Harvesting of the rice crop is expected to start in October.

The security situation in the country remains calm. The repatriation of the estimated 65 000 Liberian refugees in Sierra Leone has been suspended after heavy rains made roads impassable. However, the operation is expected to resume soon. From October 2001 to July 2004, about 56 000 Sierra Leonean refugees have been repatriated and an estimated 1 million internally displaced people have been resettled.

Elsewhere, crop prospects are good in the Sahel due to overall favourable growing conditions since the beginning of the cropping season in June, while harvesting of the first maize crop is well advanced in the coastal countries.

In central Africa, civil strife and insecurity continue to undermine food security in several countries.

In Cameroon, satellite imagery analysis indicates that rains have been adequate during the major growing season, and overall crop prospects are favourable. Harvesting of the first maize crop is underway in the South, which should improve food supply and reduce prices in the northern part of the country, where a serious decline in the 2004 cereal production led to a tight food situation this year.

In Central African Republic, heavy rains throughout August caused flooding in western parts of the country, notably in Bangui where thousands of people were made homeless. Moreover, about 20 000 people have fled the country to southern Chad since June due to insecurity, bringing the number of Central African refugees in the latter country to over 35 000.

In the Great Lakes region, the food supply situation in general has improved following the favourable main season cereals harvests of 2005 in all three countries. Production of roots and tubers, affected by cassava virus and other pests, is expected to be lower. Pockets of food insecurity exist especially in the chronically vulnerable districts in Burundi and Rwanda and violence-prone eastern part of DRC.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, harvesting of sorghum and millets is currently underway with expectations of a normal aggregate production. Judging from satellite imagery, above normal crop conditions in the centre and the north and normal to below normal in the south are expected. The main season maize should be ready for harvest in October in the north, is nearly all planted in the centre and the planting is currently underway in the south. Agriculture is taking hold gradually since 2004 but violent clashes and attacks in the eastern part of the country continue to displace large numbers of people, adding to the existing 3 million IDPs. Insecurity for producers and traders (who are forced to pay illegal levies on their farm produce), shortages of basic inputs (such as improved planting materials, hand tools, fishing equipment and veterinary supplies) and the decrepit rural infrastructure (notably feeder roads) are the main constraints to food production and distribution. Furthermore, staple crops, namely cassava and banana, have been severely damaged by pests and diseases this year.

Food insecurity affects over 70 percent of the total population of 57 million in DRC. Hence, the Government and the donor community, in their Round Table Conference report published in May 2005, highlighted agriculture sector rehabilitation as the cornerstone of the national strategy for poverty reduction. The focus will be on two main components, addressing emergency needs on one hand and achieving the medium to long term rehabilitation on the other. Under the Minimum Partnership Program for Transition and Recovery, the donor community has pledged US$6.86 billion over the next 4 years, of which US$285 million are intended for agriculture. The country has also received a low-interest loan of US$39 million from the IMF under the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility and a promise of US$150 million new grant from the World Bank for the health sector improvements.

In Burundi, a joint FAO/WFP/UNICEF/Ministry of Agriculture Assessment in June 2005 estimated total cereal production of the 2005B season crops at 188 000 tonnes, resulting in a forecast annual cereal production of 290 000 tonnes, about 4 percent better than the 2004 harvest. From the cereal production point of view, B is the main season as it accounts for about 56 percent of total annual cereal output on average, while season A accounts for 38 percent, followed by season C with 5 percent. Over the years the contribution of season B has been going up, from 40 percent in 1996 to 65 percent in 2005. Production of banana and plantain is also forecast to improve by about 3 percent in 2005. With a decline in legumes, roots and tubers, total 2005 domestic food production in cereal equivalent is forecast to be about 1 percent less than last year. Total food import requirement in cereal equivalent is estimated at 444 000 tonnes. With anticipated commercial imports of 30 000 tonnes and food aid of 80 000 tonnes, there remains an uncovered food deficit of 334 000 tonnes, necessitating further international assistance.

According to the country’s Early Warning System, prices in Bujumbura market in August 2005 were higher for sweet potatoes (81 percent), cassava flour (26 percent), and beans (10 percent), compared to the same month a year ago. The cost of a “food basket” has increased by 13 percent compared to the same time last year. Despite some improvements, food insecurity persists in northern, eastern and southern provinces due to the reduced harvests. According to UNHCR there are about 7 500 to 8 500 Rwandan asylum seekers in Burundi. These and the host families require assistance. WFP distributed on average 6 800 tonnes of food per month to about 609 000 beneficiaries from January to May 2005.

In Rwanda, harvesting of 2005B main season crops was completed in June-July. A joint FAO/WFP/UNICEF/ Ministry of Agriculture Assessment completed in June estimated the total cereal harvest of this season at a record level of 287 855 tonnes, some 44 percent above 2004B harvest. The 2005 aggregate cereal production (season A and season B, with roughly 1/3, 2/3 proportions) is estimated at 373 000 tonnes, showing significant increase of about 28 percent over last year. Consequently, the main food prices index has been declining since late March 2005; on 30 June this index was about 10 percent less than the level on 1 March 2005, in both Kigali and Butare markets. Production of roots and tubers is estimated to be lower this year than last year. Not surprisingly, their prices are generally showing an upward movement. In spite of this favourable production, the country is largely deficit in cereals and requires over 200 000 tonnes of imports, of which food aid has been estimated at some 30 000 tonnes for 110 000 vulnerable people during the lean months of April-May and October-November in the eastern part of the country.

The Rwandan economy grew by 6 percent in 2004 primarily due to a strong performance of the agriculture sector. Significant declines in prices of the main staple foods in recent months are expected to improve purchasing power and food security of many poor market dependent households in the country. However, pockets of food insecurity especially in the chronically vulnerable districts are reported.


Estimated cereal import requirements in sub-Saharan Africa in 2005/06 are expected to remain high. GIEWS’ latest estimates of 2004 production and 2004/05 import and food aid requirements are summarized in Tables 1 and 3. Total food aid requirement in 2004/05 is estimated at about 3.2 million tonnes similar to 2003/04. Cereal food aid pledges for 2004/05, including those carried over from 2003/04, amount to 2.8 million tonnes of which 2.0 million tonnes have so far been delivered.

FAO/GIEWS - September 2005

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