As of mid-April 2002, the number of countries facing serious food shortages throughout the world stands at 34. However, in several sub-regions the food supply situation has markedly improved compared to 2000/01.
In eastern Africa, favourable secondary season cereal harvests in parts and forecasts of near-normal rainfall over most of sub-region for the period March-May 2002, augur well for the food supply outlook. However, the effects earlier devastating droughts and past or ongoing conflicts continue to undermine the food security of an estimated 11 million people. In addition, recent floods in parts have displaced large numbers of people.
In Eritrea, despite a strong recovery in grain production in the 2001 main cropping season, the food supply situation of a large number of people affected by war with neighbouring Ethiopia and earlier drought remains precarious. Overall nearly 1.3 million people continue to depend on emergency food assistance. In Ethiopia, a bumper crop has significantly improved the food supply situation in 2002. Cereal market prices have fallen sharply in main producing areas, resulting in severe financial difficulties for farmers. In addition, some 5.2 million people are estimated to be facing severe food shortages in the pastoral areas in the south-eastern parts due to drought earlier. In Kenya, overall food supply has improved considerably following favourable rains in major cereal producing areas. However, a sharp decline in maize prices is negatively impacting on farmers' incomes. In northern and eastern Kenya, a large number of people, mainly pastoralists, still depend on food assistance due to the effects of earlier drought. In Somalia, despite the recently harvested better than expected secondary "Deyr" season cereal crop, up to 500 000 people are threatened by severe food shortages. The continuing ban on livestock imports from eastern Africa by countries along the Arabian Peninsula has sharply reduced foreign exchange earnings and severely curtailed the country's import capacity. In Sudan, food supply is generally adequate following the good 2001 main season cereal crop. However, large numbers of people in parts of southern and western Sudan depend on emergency food assistance due to crop failures and/or insecurity. In Tanzania and Uganda the food supply situation is generally stable, notwithstanding some localised food shortages. In Burundi, the overall food situation has improved following a satisfactory 2002 first season harvest, particularly of non-cereal crops.This reflects a relatively better security situation in most of the country and generally favourable weather during the growing season. Prices of staples in the main provincial markets have declined significantly compared to their levels a year ago. However, production was constrained by insecurity in eastern provinces and parts of Bujumbura Rural. Despite the peace agreement reached in mid 2001, the security situation remains volatile in these provinces. In Rwanda, the overall food supply situation has improved significantly as a result of a one-third increase in the 2002 first season harvests. However, many households remain food insecure, particularly in the provinces of Gikongoro, Butare and Gisenyi.
In southern Africa, the food supply situation is tight in several countries following sharp falls in maize production in 2001. Acute food shortages have emerged in Lesotho, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Zambia, where food reserves have been depleted and food prices have sharply risen, undermining access to food for large sections of their populations. The Governments have appealed for international food assistance. The food situation is also serious in the southern provinces of Mozambique, and for vulnerable rural populations in Swaziland and Namibia affected by poor harvests last year. Prospects for the current crops are mixed, with anticipated improved harvests in South Africa, Mozambique and Angola, and reduced production elsewhere.
In central Africa, while average to above-average harvests have been gathered in 2001 in most countries, agricultural activities continue to be disrupted by the persistent civil conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In the Republic of Congo the food supply situation has deteriorated in the Pool region and in the capital city Brazzaville, following a resurgence of fighting which has caused renewed population displacement.
In northern Africa, harvesting of the 2002 cereal crops is due to start for most countries from May. Production prospects are unfavourable particularly for Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, mainly as a consequence of insufficient soil moisture at planting in the main growing areas. Moisture deficits are still reported despite recent abundant rains. In Egypt, by contrast, the outlook is favourable, principally for the irrigated wheat crop. Prospects are also good for the barley crop.
In western Africa, land preparation and planting of the first maize crop is in progress in coastal countries along the Gulf of Guinea. In the Sahelian countries, seasonably dry conditions prevail and planting should begin in June/July with the start of the rainy season. The food outlook for 2002 is generally favourable, following above-average to record harvests in the Sahel and satisfactory crops elsewhere. However, the food supply situation is very tight in Mauritania where the harvest was below average. The situation was worsened by unseasonable heavy rains and floods last January that left hundreds of people homeless and killed an estimated 120 000 livestock. In Liberia, a resurgence of civil strife has led to fresh population displacements, with thousands of people fleeing their homes to seek safety elsewhere in the country or in neighbouring countries. In Sierra Leone, despite an improvement in the security situation, full recovery in food production is unlikely in the immediate term. These two countries will continue to rely on international food assistance for some time to come.
In Asia, a number of countries expect below average outputs from the 2001/02 harvest. China is forecasting the cereal crop at 7.5 percent below the 1997/2001 average, mainly due to a decrease in the planted area. In the important maize growing north-eastern province of Jilin, planting of maize is underway but is seriously hampered by very dry conditions. Cereal production will also be below expectations in Pakistan due to shortage of irrigation water. However, with large carry-over stocks, the country remains a net exporter in both wheat and rice. In Sri Lanka, despite favourable rainfall at planting, long dry spells in January and February affected yields and production is unlikely to exceed the reduced crop of last year. Cereal production in DPR Korea is estimated to be about 30 percent above previoius year, but still falls far short of domestic needs. Against emergency food requirement of 610 000 tonnes, donor pledges amount to only 275 000 tonnes, and emergency supplies will be exhausted early in the third quarter of 2002, if additional donor support is not forthcoming. Food assistance is also needed in Mongolia, where an exceptionally cold December 2001 combined with heavy snowfall brought further suffering to vulnerable pastoralists and their animals. In Indonesia, cereal production is estimated to be marginally lower than last year as floods in January/February affected some 200 000 hectares of rice fields; the shortfall will need to be met by additional imports. By contrast, the world's two largest rice exporters, Thailand and Viet Nam, expect good harvests, as does India whose stocks of wheat and rice have grown to undesirably high levels due to limited export opportunities. In Bangladesh, reflecting adequate supply of irrigation water, cereal production has increased and imports declined. In Cambodia, following a third consecutive good harvest, the national food supply situation is satisfactory, but large sections of the population remain food-insecure due to the effects of floods in 2000 and 2001.
In the Near East, favourable weather conditions in most countries have improved prospects for winter grains, about to be harvested. However, the food situation in Afghanistan remains grave, notwithstanding the relative calm and improved delivery of food assistance. Years of civil strife and successive years of severe drought have exposed millions of people to extreme hardship. In addition, a devastating earthquake in northern parts in late March resulted in hundreds of deaths and a large number of people were left homeless. The food situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has deteriorated alarmingly following the recent escalation of military operations.
In the Asian CIS, several countries are facing food shortages due to below average snowfall, a major source of irrigation, below average river flows and general economic decline in the past three years. The worst affected countries are Tajikistan, Georgia, Uzbekistan and Armenia. However, there have been signs of improvements with high levels of precipitation during late winter and early spring.
In Central America and the Caribbean, planting of the 2002/03 cereal and bean crops is about to start. The overall food supply situation continues to be tight, particularly in El Salvador and Guatemala, as a consequence of the drought and other adverse weather phenomena which affected crops last year, and the sharp fall in international coffee prices. In the Caribbean, planting of the 2002/03 first season cereal and bean crops has started under normal weather conditions.
In South America, prospects are poor for this year's maize crop in Argentina, mainly as a result of excessive rains at planting. In Brazil, where the 2002 maize crop is also being harvested, a decline from last year's record output is expected but production will still be above average. In the Andean countries, the outlook in Bolivia is uncertain for the 2002 cereal and potato crops due to heavy rains and flooding. In Ecuador, prospects are also uncertain due to heavy rains and flooding which have disrupted harvesting operations. In Peru, thousands of people have been left homeless by heavy rains and flooding in early April. Damage to paddy and cotton crops is reported.
In Europe, latest information confirms a significant increase in the EC's winter wheat area for 2002 but other winter cereal areas may be down slightly. Yield prospects are generally good for the winter crops. The weather over the winter and into the early spring has been generally favourable for the developing winter crops and for spring fieldwork, for the bulk of spring grain planting to take place in the coming weeks.
Throughout the eastern European countries winter weather conditions have been generally satisfactory but more rain would be beneficial in some parts, particularly Bulgaria and western Romania because of accumulated dryness after two years of drought. Although information on the final winter grain planting among these countries is incomplete, an overall decrease is likely reflecting reduced areas in Romania and Hungary, two of the largest producers.
In the European CIS prospects for winter and spring grain harvest this year are favourable. With favourable weather conditions, larger sown areas and general availability of agricultural inputs, the 2002 cereal harvest is anticipated to be at least as large as the sharply recovered harvest in 2001. Civil strife and military operations in Chechnya, in the Russian Federation continues to disrupt agricultural activities. WFP and NGOs continue to provide food assistance to the IDPs and refugees.
In the Balkans, cereal production is expected to be similar to the high level of the preceding year. Further recovery is expected in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, where production significantly increased last year. However, much depends on spring and summer weather conditions when most of the floods occur. WFP has extended its emergency food assistance programme to December 2002, targetting 575 000 beneficiaries.
In North America, the overall wheat area in the United States is expected to fall again this year, to the lowest level since 1972, due to smaller spring wheat planting expected this spring. However, assuming that normal weather conditions prevail for the rest of the season, this year's harvested area and yields will likely be better than last year and wheat production could recover. Early indications for the maize crop to be sown in the coming weeks point to an increase in maize plantings throughout most of the Corn Belt, but a sharp decrease for sorghum. The rice area in 2002 is expected to decrease marginally, by less than 1 percent. In Canada, early indications for the 2002 cereals to be sown later this year, point to a reduction in wheat area but an increase for coarse grains. However, if weather conditions return to normal, yields for all crops should recover from last year's drought-reduced levels and overall cereal output could increase.
In Oceania, planting of the main 2002 cereal crops in Australia is due to start in May. Early information points to an increase in wheat area but a decrease for barley, the main coarse grain. Harvest of the bulk of the minor 2002 summer coarse grains crops, mainly sorghum and maize, will start soon. Output is forecast to fall as a result of a decrease in plantings and the adverse effect of hot dry conditions during January in some parts.
Fiji was affected by heavy rains and flooding at the end of February, resulting in extensive damage to rural infrastructure and the agricultural sector. Considerable loss was incurred in the important sugar cane crop. In Cook Islands, sanitary measures continue to be in force to contain the spread of the destructive fruit fly which still poses a threat to foodcrops. In Tonga, relief assistance, including food aid, continues to be delivered following the destruction by cyclone "Waka" earlier in the year.
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