FAO/GIEWS: Africa Report, August 1997

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The harvesting of the 1996/97 coarse grain crops is virtually complete in southern Africa and the main season crops are being harvested or are in the ground in several countries in eastern Africa. Coarse grain crops are approaching maturity in parts of the coastal countries of western Africa and are at the flowering or grain formation stages in parts of central Africa. However, in the Sahelian countries of western Africa as well as in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan in eastern Africa, main season cereal crops are now being planted.

Cereal Crop Calendar
Sub-Region  Cereal Crops 
Planting  Harvesting
Eastern Africa 1 March-June  Aug.-Dec.
Southern Africa  Oct.-Dec.  April-June
Western Africa 
- Coastal areas (first season)  March-April  July-Sept.
- Sahel zone  June-July  Oct.-Nov.
Central Africa 1 April-June  Aug.-Dec.
1/ Except Burundi, Rwanda and Zaire 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, the outcome of the main season crops in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan is uncertain as much depends on weather developments until harvesting in November/December. In Ethiopia, the availability of inputs has generally been satisfactory and growing conditions have so far been average. However, the area planted may be less than expected because cereal prices at planting time were lower than a year ago, probably not attractive enough to stimulate area expansion. The outlook for Sudanís recently planted cereal crops is not yet clear and will depend on the evolution of the weather conditions. In Eritrea, normal rains have been received so far and early prospects are favourable. In Somalia, although the growing conditions for the "Gu" season crops are favourable so far, the food security situation has deteriorated rapidly due largely to the drought-reduced "Der" season harvest. In Burundi, some improvement in the security situation, increased supply of inputs and relatively favourable growing conditions led to a marginal increase in production over last year, but food output continues to be below the pre-crisis average. In Rwanda, while progress has been made in resettling the returning population, the food supply situation remains difficult as production is still below the pre-crisis level. Elsewhere in eastern Africa, the outlook is generally encouraging in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, although food supply are still very tight and prices high following the drought at the beginning of the year.

The aggregate cereal import requirement in the 1996/97 marketing year is estimated at 2.525 million tons. Anticipated commercial imports are estimated at 1.819 million tons and the food aid requirement at 706 000 tons.

In southern Africa, harvesting of most cereals is almost complete. Output is estimated at about 21.8 million tons, above average but 11 percent lower than last year's bumper crop. Rainfall was generally adequate during much of the growing season, but yields were adversely affected by a relatively late start in several areas, dry conditions in parts in January/February and excessive rains in some countries. Also, unusually cold weather in June delayed harvests in some areas, contributing further to reduced yields.

In Angola, cereal production is estimated at 431 000 tons, 15 percent lower than in 1996, due to below normal rainfall. Output in Mozambique is estimated at 1.4 million tons, about 10 percent above the previous year, due to increased plantings, higher yields and favourable weather. Above-average production is also expected in Namibia as a result of favourable rainfall. By contrast, in Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, cereal output is anticipated to be lower than the 1996 bumper harvests, because irregular rainfall reduced yields. Maize production in South Africa is expected to be about 8.5 million tons, sharply below the 10 million tons in 1996. In Madagascar, the 1997 paddy crop is forecast at 2.6 million tons, slightly above last year. However, recent outbreaks of locusts in southern parts pose a serious threat to crops. Prospects for the sub-regionís 1997 wheat crop are favourable so far. With abundant water available in dams following a good rainy season, main producing countries such South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe anticipate an above-average harvest of the winter crop now being planted.

The sub-regionís overall food supply situation during the 1997/98 marketing year is expected to be generally stable but not as favourable as in the previous year. Given the availability of large opening stocks in several countries, the aggregate cereal import requirement during the 1997/98 marketing year is provisionally estimated at 2.66 million tons, much of which is expected to be met through commercial channels. However, in some countries, particularly in Angola, Lesotho, Madagascar and Mozambique, food assistance, including emergency food aid, will be needed in several regions. With food aid requirements estimated at 480 000 tons, food aid pledges amount to 453 000 tons as of late July 1997, of which 180 000 tons have been delivered so far.

In western Africa, the rainy season is now well established in most countries. In the coastal countries along the Gulf of Guinea, the growing season is well underway. In the north, the sowing of millet and sorghum is drawing to an end in most countries, while in the south and centre, the maize and rice crops planted in April/May are growing satisfactorily. Rains were abundant in May and decreased in June but remained widespread. Cumulative rainfall as of the end of June was generally normal to above normal. The first maize crop is now being harvested in southern regions. Rice is being planted in Liberia and Sierra Leone but the recent political upheaval in the latter country has adversely affected agricultural activities and will result in reduced production.

In the Sahel, rains are generally regular and widespread over most producing areas. They started normally and have behaved well so far, except in Senegal and The Gambia where a dry spell was reported in mid-July. Thus, crops are generally growing satisfactorily, but in some areas of the sahelian zone of Chad and in Senegal replantings may be necessary.

Grasshoppers are reported in Chad, Mauritania and Senegal, and caterpillars in localized areas of Senegal. Isolated Desert Locust breeding may occur in parts of the Sahel, primarily in southern Mauritania and perhaps in northern Mali and Niger (see box below).

Following generally good harvests in 1996, the food supply situation is expected to remain satisfactory during the 1996/97 marketing year, except in Liberia and Sierra Leone which are affected by past or ongoing civil strife, as well as in some localized areas of Chad, Mauritania and Niger which gathered poor harvests in 1996. In Cape Verde, the 1996 production was particularly poor but substantial commercial cereal imports and food aid are planned and the food supply situation is not anticipated to be critical. In the other countries, markets are generally well supplied and the food supply situation is satisfactory.

The localized deficits can be covered by transfers from surplus areas or by using the national security stocks, provided there are pledges for their replenishment. Imports of wheat and rice will remain necessary, but those of other grains will remain small except in border areas where local trade is active.

The aggregate cereal import requirement of the sub-region during the current marketing year is estimated at 5 million tons. Anticipated commercial imports are estimated at 4.3 million tons and the food aid requirement at 700 000 tons, mainly wheat and rice. Food aid pledges reported to GIEWS as of late June 1997 amount to 615 000 tons, of which 428 000 tons have been delivered so far. Local purchases are strongly recommended to cover needs in coarse grains for ongoing or foreseen food aid programmes or for the reconstitution of the national security stock where cereals have been borrowed from such stocks for distribution or sales in food-deficit areas.


Desert Locust infestations remain limited in sub-Saharan Africa this year. However, breeding conditions are becoming favourable in a few areas of the Sahel in western Africa and Sudan as a result of localized rainfall, although no reports have been received of significant infestations. Seasonal rains have started in some parts of southern Mauritania where scattered adults may be present and likely to breed on a small scale. Isolated breeding may also occur in parts of northern Mali and Niger as the seasonal rains commence in these areas. 

Only small numbers of adults have appeared in Sudan. Small groups of maturing adults may have moved across the Red Sea into eastern and central Sudan from Yemen, where a small swarm was seen in the north in late June. Solitary adults have been reported in these two areas as well as along the northern coast of Somalia. 

Grasshoppers have been reported in several areas of Chad, Mauritania and Senegal. Caterpillars are present in localized areas of Senegal. Control operations are underway. 


In central Africa, the growing season is progressing satisfactory. In Cameroon, the first maize crop is being harvested in the south, while planting of coarse grains is drawing to a close in the north. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the food supply situation remains very tight in urban areas and in the Kivu region.

For the five countries which are in the 1997 marketing year, the cereal import requirement is estimated at 376 000 tons. Food aid pledges reported to GIEWS as of late June amounted to 17 000 tons, of which 10 000 tons have been delivered. For the two countries (Cameroon and Congo) which have already entered their 1997/98 marketing year (July/June), their total cereal import requirement is estimated at 383 000 tons. Only 2 000 tons of structural food aid are necessary for Congo.

Sub-Saharan Africa: Cereal Imports and Food Aid Requirements by Sub-Region (in thousand tons)

1996/97 or 1997 
1996  Cereal  Anticipated 
Food aid 
production  import requirements  commercial imports  Requirements  of which:   
not yet received
Eastern Africa 
25 247 
2 525 
1 819 
Southern Africa 
24 417 
2 662 
2 130 
Western Africa 
34 365 
5 014 
4 316 
- Coastal countries 
25 485 
3 215 
2 821 
- Sahelian countries 
8 880 
1 799 
1 495 
Central Africa 
2 935 
86 964 
10 960 
8 949 
2 011 
Note: Totals computed from unrounded data. 

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