No.1  February 2009  
   Crop Prospects and Food Situation

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Countries in crisis requiring external assistance (total: 32 countries)

Food emergencies update

Global cereal supply and demand brief

Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries’ food situation overview

Regional reviews

Statistical appendix


Food emergencies update

In Western Africa, a recent outbreak of caterpillar in northern Liberia is threatening the important cassava output and poses a serious threat to the country’s food security. The situation needs to be closely monitored as, should the infestation spread to neighbouring Guinea, Sierra Leone and Cote d'Ivoire, it could translate into a regional crisis. Otherwise in the subregion, although a good 2008 cereal crop was gathered in most countries, the food security outlook remains a concern due to the very low cereal carryovers at the beginning of the 2008/09 marketing year and persisting high food prices.

In Eastern Africa, more than 18 million people face serious food insecurity due either to conflict, unrest, or adverse weather or a combined effect. In Somalia, the large displacement of civilians due to conflict, mainly in Mogadishu, and several of consecutive seasons of well-below average crop production have rendered hundreds of thousands of people dependent on food assistance. Poor production from the current ‘deyr’ (secondary) season has exacerbated the problem. An estimated 3.5 million people require food assistance. In Kenya, millions of people are faced with serious food insecurity due to displacement, civil insecurity, poor rainfall, rising food prices, reduced cereal production and livestock diseases. Pastoralists in arid and semi-arid lands of northern Kenya, vulnerable population in Eastern Kenya and coastal lowland areas, as well as the urban poor are amongst the worst affected. The Government has declared a state of National Disaster and indicated that about 10 million people are highly food insecure including 3.2 million drought-affected people; about 150 000 IDPs; 850 000 school children; 3.5 million urban dwellers, and about 2.2 million persons affected by HIV and AIDS, including orphans. Rapid assessments are planned for February to gauge the full extent of food insecurity. In Eritrea, cereal prices remain high affecting the food security of large sections of the population. In Ethiopia, despite some easing of food prices following the recent good “meher” (main) season harvest, the food security of millions of people continues to be adversely affected by above-average food prices, the effects of the poor secondary season crop earlier in the year and civil insecurity in parts. In Sudan, recent escalation of conflict in Darfur is a cause for serious concern and is expected to exacerbate the dire food security situation faced already by millions. In southern Sudan, despite an overall improvement in the supply of cereals, inadequate transport and marketing systems will prevent any significant movements from surplus to deficit areas. In Djibouti, large-scale food aid distributions across the country have alleviated food insecurity for the time being although the primary reasons for the food insecurity (e.g. poor pasture and water availability, and high food prices) remain. Some 340 000 people, nearly half of the population, are reported to be currently in need of assistance. In Uganda, the population at risk of food insecurity, estimated at some 1.5 million, will remain largely dependant on humanitarian support.

In Southern Africa, the slow pace of imports combined with high seasonal food demand for purchased grains in the market during these peak hunger months have kept food prices high in food-deficit countries. This and the fact that there was no significant improvement in the winter crops recently harvested, have caused the number of food insecure people during the 2008/09 marketing year to increase almost by one-third compared to the previous year. Various national Vulnerability Assessment Committees (VACs) and FAO/WFP Missions have placed the total number of food insecure at some 8.7 million, including those in Zimbabwe (about 5.1 million), Lesotho (353 000) and Swaziland (239 000), where external assistance is required. In Zimbabwe, the ongoing outbreak of cholera with nearly 58 000 recorded cases, of which 3 000 fatalities, since August (OCHA data) has posed a serious threat to health and nutrition of the vulnerable population there.

In the Great Lakes region, recent fighting in the north-eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has displaced as many as 250 000 people who need food and non-food assistance. High food prices continue to adversely affect a large number of vulnerable households in Burundi, necessitating food and agricultural aid, especially for resettlement of returnees and IDPs.

In Far East Asia, severe drought conditions in the major wheat producing areas of China give rise to serious concern. If significant rainfall doesn’t arrive soon for development of crops this spring, output will be sharply reduced, with negative impact on local food supplies and farmers’ incomes. In Myanmar, thousands of people in areas where 2008 food production was affected by cyclone Nargis still depend on food and agricultural assistance. The food security situation of a large number of people in Sri Lanka continues to be affected by the resurgence of civil conflict. Severe food shortages persist in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea after two years of sharply reduced harvests.

In the Near East, the food situation in the Gaza Strip is very serious due the recent conflict. Much of the population in Gaza has been severely affected by the war during the 20-day period starting on 27 December 2008. This has made the already fragile food insecurity situation critically worse, particularly for those with no access to food and other essentials. In view of this, an Emergency Operation was jointly approved by FAO and WFP in January 2009 to provide food assistance to 365 000 most affected people, including social hardship cases, vulnerable groups, internally-displaced people and affected farmers over a period of 12 months (20 January 2009 to 19 January 2010). In addition, an Emergency Response to High Food Prices in the West Bank was jointly approved by FAO and WFP to assist 31 000 most affected people with cash-based vouchers worth about USD 4.17 million (equivalent to about 5 000 tonnes of food) over a period of 12 months (February 2009 to January 2010). Elsewhere, in the Syrian Arab Republic, poor and irregular rains during the 2007/08 growing season have threatened the food security of farmers and herders in the affected areas and seriously jeopardized their livelihoods and nutritional status. In response, an Emergency Operation was jointly approved by FAO and WFP in November 2008 for food assistance to 40 000 households (200 000 people), worth USD 5.2 million for a period of six months (15 November 2008 to 15 May 2009). In Yemen, the high food prices prevailing during much of 2008 have worsened the food security situation of poor households which were already suffering from moderate to severe food insecurity. In view of this, a joint FAO and WFP Emergency Operation was approved in January 2009 to assist about 511 000 most affected people (about 29 000 tonnes of food) over a period of 12 months (January to December 2009). In Afghanistan, insecurity and widespread lack of adequate access to food has being exacerbated by a drought-reduced harvest in 2008. The wheat import requirement for 2008/09 is estimated at 2.2 million tonnes, more than double the previous year's level, with a requirement of 700 000 tonnes to be covered as food assistance.

In the Asian CIS, in Tajikistan, widespread poor access to food has been exacerbated by a drought-reduced cereal crop in 2008 for the second year in succession. Reflecting the poor harvest, the cereal import requirement is estimated to be a high 560 000 tonnes. The country is having difficulties mobilizing cereal supplies commercially and food aid will be necessary to bring relief to the poor.

In Central America and the Caribbean, Haiti and Cuba are still recovering from the hurricane damages of the second half of the 2008 hurricane season. Food vulnerability has increased dramatically in both countries and FAO and WFP have approved two Emergency Operations for a period of six months to provide food assistance to the affected population and to avoid further disruption of local livelihoods.

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