As of June 2003, the number of countries facing serious food shortages throughout the world stands at 36, with 23 in Africa, 7 in Asia, 4 in Latin America and 2 in Europe. In many of these countries the food shortages are compounded by the impact of the HIV-AIDS pandemic on food production, marketing, transport and utilization. The recently published joint FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessments highlight this factor (http://www.fao.org/WAICENT/faoinfo/economic/giews/english/fs/fstoc.htm).
In eastern Africa, harvesting of the main season crop is underway in Tanzania, while elsewhere planting of the main season crops has begun. Recent heavy rains and floods in parts of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia killed a number of people, displaced thousands, destroyed or damaged crops and increased the likelihood of serious localised food shortages. In Eritrea, the smaller "azmera" season rainfall was poor in many parts, affecting land preparation. The main season rains are expected from end-June. More food aid pledges and faster deliveries are required to mitigate the severe food shortages affecting nearly two-thirds of the country's population. In Ethiopia, floods have affected tens of thousands of people in the south and east. In addition, serious food shortages persist, particularly in the south, due to last year's drought. In Kenya, heavy rains and floods have caused serious damage in parts while the effects of recent droughts are still being felt in many areas. In Somalia, flooding in Juba and Shabelle river basins in the south threatens the food security of the local populations. In north-western Somalia (Somaliland) and north-eastern Somalia (Puntland), despite some recent rainfall, severe water and food shortages remain. In Sudan, serious food shortages are reported in various parts of the country and food prices are higher than normal at this time of the year. In Tanzania, despite an overall stable food supply situation, there are food security concerns for the central, southern and northern coastal areas. In Uganda, the overall food supply situation is stable but it is precarious in the north and north-east due to persisting insurgency and poor harvests in recent seasons.
In southern Africa, harvesting of the 2003 cereal crops is well advanced. In most countries production has recovered from the reduced harvests of the previous two years. Despite a delay in the start of the rains and localized dry spells in the first part of the season, precipitation was adequate from February for crop development. Production of maize, the main staple, is estimated at average to above average levels in South Africa, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, Namibia and Angola. In contrast, cereal production in Zimbabwe, although considerably up on last year, remains well below average due to erratic rains and the impact of land reform activities. Production was also sharply reduced by dry weather in Botswana. In Swaziland, cereal output increased only marginally due to insufficient rains at low altitudes.
After a serious food crisis, the food supply situation in the sub-region has eased due to the new harvest. Maize prices have declined considerably, improving access to food for poorer and vulnerable segments of the population. However, in Zimbabwe some 5.5 million people will need food assistance during the 2003/04 marketing year (May/April). In other countries, while the food situation is satisfactory at the national level, there are pockets where the harvest was poor due to insufficient rain and food assistance is required, e.g. in the southern areas of Mozambique and Madagascar. Food assistance will also be needed for people weakened by HIV/AIDS in all countries, and in Angola where large numbers of people have been made vulnerable following almost three decades of civil war.
In the Great Lakes region, good rains in the past two months have improved prospects for the 2003 second season foodcrops. Normal cereal, bean and sweet potato production is forecast in Rwanda. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, food production in eastern parts will remain at low levels despite favourable weather conditions, due to intensified ethnic violence. In Burundi, the security situation has also deteriorated in recent months leading to renewed population displacements and disrupting agricultural activities and food aid distribution to vulnerable people.
In central Africa, the food security situation is still precarious in Central African Republic, and food production is not expected to increase this year due to persistent insecurity, notably in the north, and seed shortages are likely.
In northern Africa, harvesting of the sub-region's 2003 winter crops has started. Normal to abundant rains over the cereal growing areas led to good crops. Planted areas increased significantly. Aggregate cereal output in 2003 is forecast at 33 million tonnes, compared to last year's 28.3 million tonnes and to an average of 27.5 million tonnes over the past 5 years. Production of wheat, the main cereal in the sub-region, is expected to increase from 12.1 million tonnes in 2002 to 15.5 million tonnes. Significant increases are forecast in virtually every country.
In west Africa, the food situation remains precarious in several countries. In Mauritania, although emergency food aid distributions and subsidized sales of wheat have improved food supply in the worst-hit regions and prevented a severe food crisis, coarse grain supplies remain tight, while livestock prices continue to drop, seriously affecting the livelihood of pastoralists. In Senegal and the Gambia, coarse grain prices which increased sharply last year are still at high levels, making access to food very difficult for many households. In Côte d'Ivoire, although the overall security situation has improved, the food situation in the country remains critical, mainly in the rebel-controlled north and west. In Liberia, the current agricultural season has been disrupted by renewed fighting and mass population displacement, pointing to a further drop in rice production this year.
In Asia, maize production in Timor-Leste declined by 34 percent compared to last year due to a severe drought. In DPR Korea, notwithstanding a reasonable harvest in 2002, a large number of families are still unable to meet their food needs. China's winter wheat harvesting was delayed by up to two weeks due to extremely cool spring weather and the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Sri Lanka suffered the worst floods in 50 years which damaged crops and left hundreds of thousands homeless. Harvest prospects this year in Afghanistan are favourable, owing to improved precipitation and a larger than average area under cereal cultivation. However, targeted food aid will be necessary for vulnerable groups such as returning refugees, the nomads and the disabled.
In the Near East, generally favourable weather conditions improved the outlook for the 2003 crop production, mainly wheat. In Iraq, the harvesting season is well underway but the outcome is uncertain due to insecurity and shortages of spare parts for harvesting machinery. An FAO/WFP Crop, Food Supply and Nutrition Assessment Mission is currently in the country assessing the food security situation. In the West Bank and Gaza Strip, food insecurity continues to be serious due to disruptions caused by military operations.
In the Asian CIS, a severe winter compromised crop production in Kazakhstan and Armenia, while the weather was favourable for crop production in the rest of the region. Many of the governments in the region have made concerted efforts to increase food production, but except in the past couple of years their efforts have been compromised by recurrent droughts.
In Central America and the Caribbean planting of the 2003/04 first (main) season cereal and bean crops has started with the arrival of the rains. In El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, the impact of the coffee crisis continues to affect household food security. In Mexico, planting of the spring/summer maize crop is underway, while harvesting of the irrigated wheat crop is about to be completed. A slightly below-average wheat output is provisionally forecast due to inadequate water in reservoirs. Sowing of the sorghum crop is also underway in the main producing west central states. In the Dominican Republic, planting of the 2003/04 first season maize is underway with normal rains since April. Harvesting of the 2003 main paddy crop has started and an above-average output is anticipated. In Cuba, heavy rains in April disrupted sugarcane harvesting operations.
In South America, planting of the 2003 wheat crop has started in the southern areas, while harvesting of the 2003 maize crop is well advanced. In Argentina, a near average maize crop is anticipated, while in Brazil a record crop has been harvested. In Chile, an above-average maize harvest is expected, while in Uruguay, an average crop has been gathered. In Bolivia, harvesting of the 2003 first season maize crop is complete and a good output has been achieved. Planting of the second season crop is about to start. In Peru, harvesting of the 2003 white maize crop is virtually complete while harvesting of yellow maize is underway. In Ecuador, harvesting of the 2003 first (main) season maize crop, mostly yellow, is underway while planting of the second maize crop is about to start. Prospects are poor due to adverse weather. In Venezuela, sowing of the 2003 maize and sorghum crops, as well as the important irrigated paddy crop, is underway. However, the outlook is poor due to inadequate use of fertilizers and high quality seeds owing to low purchasing power of farmers. Prospects are also poor for the irrigated paddy crop, principally due to inadequate water caused by a three-year long drought.
In Europe, latest information continues to point to a reduction in wheat output in the EU in 2003 but similar outputs to the previous year for most of the coarse grains. The 2002/03 winter grain season in the CEECs has been characterized by delayed planting because of adverse weather last summer/autumn, which led to reduced winter grain areas in many countries. In addition, irregular winter weather, with sharp temperature swings has led to above-normal winterkill. Increased spring plantings may have compensated for part of the reduced winter cereal area but even the spring season has been unfavourable in parts where it arrived later than normal, thus restricting the planting window and limiting yield potential.
In the European CIS, severely cold weather conditions and inadequate snow cover compromised significant areas under winter cereals, whereas late and cold spring has significantly delayed spring planting. Winter-kill in the Russian Federation is estimated at more than 3 million hectares, while in the Ukraine winterkill is now estimated at 3.7 million hectares. Aggregate cereal harvest is seen to decline by about 14.2 million tonnes in Russia and by about 7 million tonnes in the Ukraine compared with the 2002 harvest. Crop losses in Moldova are estimated at more than 50 percent of last year's harvest. The drop in cereal harvest will severely affect exports from the region, which was at a record high during the marketing year coming to an end. In the Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), cereal harvest is seen to match the harvest in the past couple of years.
In North America, cereal output is set to recover sharply in 2003 from last year's drought-reduced crops. The wheat crops in the United States and Canada are forecast to increase by 31 percent and 57 percent respectively, with strong gains expected in both harvested areas and yields. Likewise, the coarse grain crops in both countries are also expected recover from poor performance last year, with the most significant gain expected in the United States maize crop.
In Oceania, cereal planting and production should rebound sharply after last year's drought-reduced output. Planting got underway in May in some parts after the arrival of satisfactory rains. Although a normal winter rainfall season is expected given that the El Niño event, which brought last year's drought, is finished, as of early June, several areas were still awaiting the arrival of sufficient planting rains. Assuming more rains arrive in June and weather conditions are normal for the remainder of the season, the wheat crop in 2003 is forecast to reach 24 million tonnes, close to the record harvest in 2001.
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