As of October 2004, the number of countries facing serious food shortages throughout the world stands at 35 with 23 in Africa, 6 in Asia/Near East, 5 in Latin America and 1 in Europe. The causes are varied but civil strife and adverse weather, including drought predominate. In many of these countries, the HIV/AIDS pandemic is a major contributing factor. Recently published joint FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment reports highlighting these factors in greater detail can be found at http://www.fao.org/giews/english/alertes/sptoc.htm.
In eastern Africa, despite beneficial rains in parts, the food situation remains precarious due to lingering effects of drought and conflict. Currently more than 17 million people depend on emergency food assistance. The food shortages are expected to persist well into 2005 and large volumes of cereal imports, mostly in the form of food aid, are still needed to stave off starvation. In Sudan, the grave humanitarian crisis in Darfur has resulted in the death of tens of thousands and the displacement of more than a million people. Looting and burning of assets, including food and livestock have severely disrupted food availability and access for both rural and urban communities. In Somalia, early secondary "deyr" season rains have brought some relief in northern pastoral areas but it is too early to determine the impact on the emergency situation. Pre-famine conditions exist in several parts of the country with an estimated 700 000 people depending on food assistance and an additional half a million needing assistance until April 2005. In Kenya, the drought-induced food shortages persist with nearly 2.3 million people in need of food assistance. In Eritrea, poor seasonal rains and input availability have affected crop production and compounded the already precarious food situation. An estimated 1.4 million people depend on food assistance. In Ethiopia, the overall food supply situation remains highly precarious. An estimated 7.8 million people are in need of food assistance.
In southern Africa, land preparation for planting of the 2005 cereal crops has begun under seasonal forecast of normal weather conditions. A FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions visited Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe1, Lesotho, Swaziland and Angola in April-May this year. FAO's revised estimate of total 2004 cereal harvest for the sub-region is 21 million tonnes, similar to last year's about average output. Production of maize, the region's most important staple crop, at about 14.9 million tonnes, was the hardest hit by a drought in the eastern part of the sub-region, with a decline of about 5.5 percent from last year. Reduced harvest of cereals in Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland and Zimbabwe is expected to cause food shortages in these countries at varying degree of severity. On the other hand, production increased in Angola, Botswana, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia. The overall reduction of maize and other summer crops this year is expected to result in a net coarse grain import requirement for the sub-region as a whole of about 2 million tonnes for the 2004/05 marketing year. WFP has launched a three-year regional Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO) requiring US$ 405 million and involving 656 573 tonnes of food commodities to assist food insecure and AIDS affected populations in the sub-region.
In the Great Lakes region, planting of the 2005 first-season foodcrops, to be harvested from January, has begun under normal weather forecast for the season. Harvesting of the 2004 second season crops, mainly sorghum, maize and beans, is complete. Preliminary results indicate a normal to slight improvement in the overall food availability. However, resettlement of returning refugees and the food security situation continue to be hampered in parts of the region due to sporadic disturbances.
In central Africa, growing conditions are favourable for the second maize crop in Cameroon, where a satisfactory first maize crop was harvested. In Central African Republic, in spite of good weather conditions and seed distributions, production is not expected to recover significantly due to persistent insecurity.
In northern Africa, land preparation and early sowing of winter grain crops to be harvested from May next year are underway. An earlier potential threat of a Desert Locust infestation was avoided by a large-scale control operation. Thus, the full potential of this year's increased plantings, better input supply and favourable weather was realized and wheat output in the sub-region is provisionally estimated at a record 17.4 million tonnes, 38 percent higher than the average for the previous five years. In Egypt and Morocco, the largest wheat producers in the sub-region, wheat production is forecast at about 7 million tonnes and 5.5 million tonnes respectively. Aggregate coarse grain output is estimated at about 12.8 million tonnes, similar to the previous year's good crop.
In western Africa, after limited and erratic rains at the beginning of the growing season in the Sahel, precipitation improved significantly from July and crops are maturing satisfactorily in most countries. As a result, an above-average harvest is anticipated, but the deteriorating Desert Locust situation continues to pose a serious threat to agricultural production across the Sahel. Following widespread breeding in the Sahelian zone in Mauritania, Mali, Senegal, Niger and Burkina Faso, numerous new swarms formed recently. Chad and Cape Verde are also being increasingly infested. Some three to four million hectares are estimated to be infested across the Sahel. The annual CILSS meeting held in early September on crop prospects in the Sahel estimated that 2004 cereal production could be close to last year's record level if current rainfall patterns continue and if Desert Locusts do not cause substantial damage to crops. However, the meeting estimated that up to 25 percent of the Sahel cereal production could be lost if large scale damage occurs. Although FAO anticipates a lower level of crop loss at regional level, the food security impact of Desert Locusts could be locally severe in some countries, notably in Mauritania, Mali, Senegal and Niger. A series of joint FAO/CILSS Crop Assessment Missions are currently visiting each country to estimate with national services the 2004 cereal production. In Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Senegal, the most affected countries, the Missions are jointly with CILSS and WFP for a full assessment of the impact of Desert Locust on agricultural production and food security. In the southern parts of the coastal countries along the Gulf of Guinea, an average maize crop has been harvested while the secondary maize crop is developing satisfactorily. In the northern parts, harvesting of coarse grains is underway.
In Asia, millions of people have been affected by heavy and extensive monsoon rains and floods. The floods have caused considerable loss of crops and livestock and seriously damaged property and infrastructure in a number of countries, mainly in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and China. On the other hand, several countries have experienced severe drought that negatively impacted 2004 crop production. These countries include Sri Lanka, Mongolia, India, and Pakistan. In spite of an improved harvest in 2004, DPR Korea will still face a large import requirement of cereals. The country's double cropping programme seems to be severely constrained by declining soil fertility and lack of farm power. Despite a good harvest in 2004, China is expected to change its net trade position in cereals from a net exporter in 2003/04 (with net export of 9.6 million tonnes) to a net importer in 2004/05 (with net import 3 million tonnes). India's rice and wheat exports are expected at to decline due to reduced production and tight stocks.
In Afghanistan, drought conditions and crop pests and diseases as well as unusually high temperatures in Spring significantly compromised cereal harvests this year.
In the Asian CIS, cereal harvesting is nearly complete from an aggregate area of about 19 million hectares. Aggregate cereal harvest is estimated at more than 26 million tonnes, which is some 2.2 million tonnes down on last year's above average harvest. This total includes some 22 million tonnes of wheat and nearly 4 million tonnes of coarse grains.
In several countries of the Near East, drought and conflict have affected last season's crops. A severe drought in Jordan has decimated crops and left thousands of herders in need of assistance. In Iraq, insecurity and the reduced numbers of international humanitarian workers is affecting delivery of food and other types of assistance.
In Central America and the Caribbean, harvesting of the 2004 main season cereal crop is complete or well advanced. Outturns have been mixed with satisfactory maize and sorghum crops in Mexico and reduced harvests in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua following prolonged dry weather during the season. In Costa Rica, paddy production was reduced by a mite infestation. In the Caribbean, torrential rains due to the passage of hurricanes in September and excessive precipitation early in the season, resulted in severe crop damage and reduced cereal production in the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Jamaica. However, the abundant rains of September improved soil conditions for planting of the second season cereal crops.
In South America, the 2004 wheat crop is about to be harvested in southern countries. Prospects are uncertain. Despite an increase in plantings, dry weather during the season in several countries, including Argentina and Brazil, is likely to have resulted in yield reductions. The 2004 coarse grain crops, harvested earlier in the year, were below the record levels of 2003 but still above average. In Andean countries, a bumper maize crop has been gathered in Colombia but production was reduced in Venezuela. In Peru, Ecuador, and parts of Bolivia, dry weather reduced outputs of the recently harvested cereal crops.
In Europe, cereal output has rebounded sharply in 2004 throughout the region after the poor drought-struck crops last year. The increase has been most pronounced for winter wheat, output of which is estimated to have increased to well above the average of the past five years. Winter cereals for harvest in 2005 have already been planted in many northern parts and planting is ongoing in central parts under generally satisfactory conditions. However, more precipitation would be beneficial for the planting in southern parts of the region such as Spain, southern France and Italy, where topsoil's moisture is lacking after several weeks of dry weather.
In the European CIS, late Summer precipitation as well as March and April frost damaged nearly three million hectares of cereals, mainly in the Russian Federation and the Ukraine. In addition, insufficient access to farm inputs prevented many farmers in the two large producing countries to match the high areas planted in 2001 and 2002. An aggregate of about 59 million hectares of cereals were planted in the region. Cereal harvests are nearly complete and aggregate production in the region is tentatively estimated at about 120 million tonnes. This total includes more than 65 million tonnes of wheat and about 54 million tonnes of coarse grains.
In North America, planting of the 2005 winter wheat crop is progressing on schedule in the United States and plants are emerging well under generally favourable conditions. The aggregate output of wheat in 2004 was officially estimated in October at 58.9 million tonnes, 7.7 percent down from 2003 after a reduction in winter wheat area and yields. By contrast, coarse grains output should rise sharply, largely due to the record maize crop now being harvested. Maize output is forecast to reach 295 million tonnes, 38 million tonnes up from 2003. In Canada, predominantly cool and wet conditions during the 2004 growing season have resulted in slow crop development, a later than normal harvest and poorer quality crops. Nevertheless, the wheat output is forecast to increase by almost 4 percent to 24.5 million tonnes, reflecting a higher average yield compared to 2003 when drought affected some parts.
In Oceania, the 2004 cereal output in Australia is set to fall from last year's bumper level but should be about the average of the past five years. Some widespread rainfall in late August improved conditions for developing crops after a prolonged dry spell. Wheat production is forecast at just over 22 million tonnes. Soil moisture conditions are favourable for the summer coarse grain planting in the key-producing parts of northern New South Wales and southern Queensland, and the area of sorghum and maize, for harvest in 2005, is forecast to increase sharply.
1 The Mission was curtailed after 12 of the planned 19 days.
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