As of June 2002, the number of countries facing serious food difficulties throughout the world stands at 32, of which 21 are in Africa.
In southern Africa, the 2002 cereal production decreased sharply for the second consecutive year in most countries. The largest falls were in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi. Only South Africa and Mozambique recorded increases. A prolonged dry spell from January and excessive rains in parts, coupled with reduced plantings in Zimbabwe due to land acquisitions activities, severely reduced plantings and yields. Consumption of green maize before harvest as a result of severe food shortages in the first three months of the year, further diminished the output. Aggregate production of maize (excluding South Africa and Mozambique) is sharply lower than the 2001 poor production, and availabilities are far worse this year because stocks were depleted in all countries. About 13 million people are estimated to be in need of over 1 million tonnes of emergency food assistance. A regional emergency operation (EMOP) is currently under preparation by WFP and is expected to be launched in early July.
In eastern Africa, good secondary season harvests and abundant main season rainfall in most parts have further boosted food supply prospects in 2002/03. Improved livestock conditions are reported in most parts of the region due to replenished water and pasture. However, floods and landslides in parts have resulted in loss of life and destruction of crops and property. In Kenya, heavy rains, floods and landslides in April and May 2002, resulted in the death of more than 40 people and left tens of thousands homeless. Large cropped areas were also destroyed. The worst affected areas include the low-lying areas near Lake Victoria in western Kenya, where rivers burst their banks, submerging fields and washing away roads, and Tana River District in the east. Similarly, heavy rainfall in parts of southern Tanzania and western Uganda caused loss of life and localised damage to crops and property. In Somalia, recent escalation of conflict has exacerbated the already precarious food situation and disrupted agricultural activity in parts. Large numbers of people have been displaced, most of them fleeing to neighbouring countries. Insecurity and reduced foreign exchange earnings due to the continuing ban on livestock imports from eastern Africa by countries along the Arabian Peninsula continue to negatively affect the food security of large sections of the population. In Rwanda and Burundi, the harvest outlook for the 2002 second season is favourable
In central Africa, growing conditions are favourable so far in Cameroon and Central African Republic. However, in the Republic of Congo a resurgence of fighting in the Pool region (surrounding the capital, Brazzaville) at the end of March has led to new population displacements and a deterioration of the food supply situation. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, agricultural activities continue to be disrupted by the persistent civil conflict.
In northern Africa, harvesting of the 2002 winter cereal crops has only started. Early forecasts point out to belowaverage aggregate cereal outputs in Morocco and Tunisia, principally as a result of reduced plantings and lower than normal yields caused by insufficient rainfall in the main growing areas. In Egypt, by contrast, above-average irrigated wheat and barley outputs are anticipated. In Algeria, recent normal to above-normal rains benefited the developing crops, which had been affected by prolonged dry weather, and average to above-average outputs are provisionally forecast.
In western Africa, the rainy season is now well established in the countries along the Gulf of Guinea. The first maize crop is developing satisfactorily in the south and the centre while millet and sorghum are emerging in the north. However, in Liberia increasing clashes between Government forces and rebels in the north, northwest and central regions have caused new population displacements and disrupted the farming season. In the Sahel, first rains permitted land preparation and early plantings in the south of Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad and the extreme southeast of Senegal; seasonably dry conditions prevail in the rest of Senegal, Cape Verde, The Gambia and Mauritania. The start of the rainy season is delayed in Guinea Bissau. Following generally good cereal harvests in 2001, the food supply situation is satisfactory in all countries, except Mauritania, which harvested poor crops.
In Asia, harvesting of the winter cereal crops is completed or is well advanced in most countries while the sowing of paddy and coarse grain crops has started. Several countries in the region anticipate lower outputs this year. In China, wheat output is expected to be reduced by some 6 million tonnes from last year due to a reduction in the area sown to the important winter wheat. Paddy production is forecast at 179.5 million tonnes (123 million tonnes in milled equivalent), 8 percent lower than the 1997-2001 average. Cereal production in Indonesia is forecast to decline mainly due to the damage caused by floods earlier in the year. In Japan, paddy production in 2001 is estimated to have declined by 4 percent to 11.3 million tonnes. Shortage of irrigation water in Pakistan will result in somewhat lower cereal output. In DPR Korea, notwithstanding increased food production in 2001, domestic supplies still fall short of requirements by some 1.47 million tonnes. In Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam planting is underway for the main wet season paddy crops which account for the bulk of aggregate paddy production. Good cereal harvests are expected in India, whose stocks of wheat and rice have grown to record levels reflecting consecutive bumper crops.
In the Near East, favourable weather conditions in most countries have boosted domestic food production. However, in Afghanistan the worst locust plague in 30 years and floods in parts have affected crop prospects. The food situation remains grave, notwithstanding the relative calm and improved delivery of food assistance. The massive return of refugees and funding shortfalls of humanitarian agencies give rise to serious concern. Years of civil strife and a succession of severe droughts have exposed millions of people to extreme hardship. The food situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip also gives cause for serious concern due to shortages and market disruption which are further aggravated by continued military operations and the current tense political situation.
In the Asian CIS, several countries are facing food shortages due to below-normal snowfall, a major source of irrigation, a locust invasion and general economic decline in the past three years. The worst affected countries are Tajikistan, Georgia and Uzbekistan. Some improvements in precipitation in the region might be offset by the recent locust invasion.
In Central America and the Caribbean, planting of the 2002/03 first (main) season cereal and bean crops has started with the arrival of the seasonal rains. A recovery in production from last year's drought-affected crops is expected. The coffee sector, the principal foreign exchange earner, is still suffering from declining international prices. Food assistance continues to be provided to vulnerable rural groups in El Salvador and Guatemala. In Haiti, some areas in the northwest were affected by weeks of severe dry weather with consequent damage to crops, while in the south, heavy rains and flooding in the last days of May caused serious damage to rural housing and infrastructure. In Jamaica, heavy rains resulting in flooding and landslides caused damage to rural housing and infrastructure in the south and southeast of the country. Damage to crops and livestock is also reported.
In South America, harvesting of the 2002 maize crop is well advanced and an about average output is anticipated, the result of adverse weather. In Brazil, harvesting of the second season maize crop ('zafrinha") is underway and a bumper crop is anticipated. In Uruguay, harvesting of the 2002 important paddy crop has been completed and a below-average output is estimated. In the Andean countries, normal to abundant precipitation in Colombia is benefiting planting of the 2002/03 first season cereal crops, while in Ecuador the 2002 maize crop, currently being harvested, is forecast to increase by some 27 percent. In Perú, harvesting of the 2002 wheat, maize and paddy crops is underway and above-average outputs are forecast.
In Europe, output of wheat in 2002 in the EC is forecast to increase sharply following a significant expansion in the winter wheat area and good yield prospects reflecting generally favourable weather. The Community's aggregate wheat crop is forecast at almost 106 million tonnes, about 15 percent up from last year. For coarse grains, an expected decline in area could be offset by better yields this year and aggregate coarse grains output is currently forecast at 106.7 million tonnes, 2 million tonnes below last year's level. In eastern Europe most countries are expected to harvest similar or smaller cereal crops than in the previous year. Despite generally favourable weather in most parts, plantings have declined in some countries. The exception could be Bulgaria where current indications point to an increase in wheat and coarse grains output.
In the European CIS cereal production in 2002 is estimated to decline by nearly 15 million tonnes compared to last year. The decline is mainly due to unfavourable weather conditions in the Russian Federation and Ukraine.
In the Balkans, cereal production is seen to nearly match the improved harvest of the preceding year. However, torrential floods and hail, which normally occur during late spring and summer in the region, may compromise summer crops.
In North America, wheat production in the United States could fall further this year after another decrease in area and dry weather in some parts. Aggregate wheat output in 2002 is currently forecast at just under 50 million tonnes. For coarse grains, based on the indicated area planted, and assuming normal weather conditions for the remainder of the season, aggregate 2002 coarse grains output is forecast at about 267 million tonnes, about 2 percent up on the previous year. Maize would account for 245 million tonnes. Also, in Canada, the wheat area for the 2002 harvest is estimated down from the previous year but a return to average yields is expected after last year's poor performance and the country's aggregate wheat output is forecast to rise to about 23 million tonnes. For coarse grains, latest indications continue to point to an increase in area and output.
In Oceania, prospects for the 2002 winter grain crops in Australia have deteriorated in the past two months due to lack of rainfall for planting. The wheat area is forecast to fall as a result and yields are also likely to be down from the previous year and below average but, as for the planted area, the final outcome will depend crucially on the amount of rainfall in the coming weeks. Output of barley, the main coarse grain, is also forecast to fall.
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