As of September 2002, the number of countries facing serious food difficulties throughout the world stands at 32, with 21 in Africa, 6 in Asia, 3 in Latin America and 2 in Europe.
In southern Africa, the food crisis following two consecutive years of poor cereal harvests is worsening due to insufficient and slow food imports, both commercial and emergency relief. Prices of cereals are rising throughout the sub-region further curtailing access to food for large sections of the population. A series of FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions in April/May 2002 estimated the number of people in need of food aid at 12.8 million. However, follow-up vulnerability assessments recently undertaken by SADC Regional Vulnerability Assessment Committee, in collaboration with international agencies, have estimated the number at 14.4 million, with the largest increases in Zimbabwe and Zambia. A regional WFP emergency operation worth US$ 507.3 million to provide food assistance to 10.3 million most affected people until the next harvest in April 2003, was jointly approved by FAO and WFP in late June 2002 and an international appeal launched in early July. However, only 36 percent of the appeal had been pledged by mid-September. Coupled with the low level of pledges, some countries of the sub-region have been reluctant to accept food aid supplies produced with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which has further delayed food deliveries.
In the Great Lakes region, the overall food supply situation has improved in Burundi and Rwanda following improved food productions in 2002. However, food production in the Democratic Republic of Congo continues to be hampered by persistent civil conflict, coupled with dry weather in southern parts in recent months.
In eastern Africa, the early outlook for the 2002 crops in most countries is unfavourable due to poor rains and extended dry spells. Serious food shortages have started to emerge in several parts of the sub-region, particularly in Eritrea, parts of Ethiopia and Kenya. In Eritrea, prospects for current crops are bleak due to the failure of the short "azmera" rains and the continued drought into the important planting months of June and July. Over one million people are currently estimated to be in need of emergency food assistance. In Ethiopia, poor secondary season "belg" rains and a late start to the current main "meher" season rains have created a rather alarming food situation. Large numbers of livestock have died and unusual migrations in search of water and pasture are reported in several parts of the country. In response the Government has recently appealed to the international community for nearly US $12 million to stave off the effects of poor rains. In Kenya, the "long rains" have been inadequate in several parts, leading to a poor food outlook for 2002/03. The food supply situation is particularly alarming in the districts of Mandera, Moyale, southern parts of Tana River, West Pokot, Koibatek, Marakwet and Baringo. In Sudan, crop prospects are unfavourable due to delayed onset of rains and population displacement in the south following recent escalation of the long-running conflict. In Somalia, despite a favourable outturn of the recently harvested main season "gu" crops, continuing insecurity and escalation of conflict in parts with the attendant population displacement are cause for serious concern. In Uganda, despite an overall stable food supply situation, erratic rains in parts and recent population displacements in the north pose serious food problems in the affected areas. In Tanzania, the recent good harvests from the main season crops have improved overall food availability.
In central Africa, crop growing conditions are favourable so far in Cameroon, while in the Central African Republic, erratic and below average rainfall has affected crop development in some regions.
In northern Africa, harvesting of the 2002 winter grain crops is complete. Aggregate production of wheat and barley is estimated to be some four percent down compared to the above-average crop last year. Lower wheat outputs in Algeria and Tunisia are not offset by increased harvests in Egypt and Morocco. By contrast, increased barley production in Morocco and Egypt more than offset declines in Algeria and Tunisia. The output from the paddy crop in Egypt, is anticipated to be average.
In western Africa, the first maize crop has been harvested and the second maize crop has recently been planted in southern parts of the countries along the Gulf of Guinea. In Liberia, agricultural activities have been disrupted by renewed civil strife, pointing to reduced rice production this year. In the western part of the Sahel, the dry spell in July which severely affected growing crops and raised serious concerns over the food supply outlook, ended in the first dekad of August in most parts of The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Mauritania and Senegal. However, an FAO mission which visited Senegal and The Gambia in late August/early September anticipated declines in this year's cereal production due to reduced yield potential and localised crop failures. In Mauritania, most "dieri" (rainfed) crops failed. In Cape Verde recently planted maize also failed in parts, following irregular rains in August. Mauritania and The Gambia have declared national disasters and appealed for emergency food aid. In the eastern and central parts of the Sahel, weather conditions have been much more favourable with widespread and regular rains over most of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger. Crops are generally growing satisfactorily and overall crop prospects are favourable.
In Asia, food shortages prevail in DPR Korea, where WFP urgently requires additional pledges to implement its emergency relief operations until the end of the year. An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission is presently in the country to review the 2002 main season harvest and estimate the cereal import requirement, including food aid needs for 2002/03. A large number of countries have been affected by tropical depressions, typhoons and an erratic 2002 monsoon season, causing excessive rainfall and severe floods in some areas and drought in others. Massive relief operations are underway by government agencies and national and international aid organizations. However, in most countries the effect on national cereal production has not been significant. The most widespread damage occurred in Bangladesh, China and India. In Bangladesh, floods affected 7 million people and caused more than 150 deaths from flood-related incidents and diseases. Some 300 000 hectares of paddy fields were submerged and widespread damage to housing and infrastructure was reported. In China, notably in central and southern provinces, torrential rainfall and typhoons resulted in floods and landslides with extensive damage to property and infrastructure, displacement of millions of people and more than 1 500 deaths, while in northern and north-eastern provinces, drought affected crop production and caused devastating forest fires. In India, the monsoon brought unusually heavy rainfall from mid-June to the north-eastern states, mainly Assam and Bihar, affecting some 21 million people and causing 400 deaths. However, the monsoon did not affect the important grain producing states in north-western India, which were instead hit by a serious drought. In Nepal, heavier than normal rains led to widespread floods and landslides in central and eastern parts, affecting 260 000 people with more than 500 deaths reported. A severe drought has hit Mongolia, affecting both livestock and cereal production and increasing food aid needs above the current levels. Droughts have also affected southern parts of Sri Lanka and Sindh and Baluchistan provinces of Pakistan.
In the Near East, favourable weather conditions in most countries have boosted domestic food production. In Afghanistan agricultural production has recovered strongly, reducing cereal import requirements by more than a third compared to the previous two years. Funding shortfalls in the face of massive return of refugees gives cause for serious concern. Investment in the agricultural sector, particularly in the rehabilitation, upgrading and maintenance of the irrigation infrastructure will be essential for speedy recovery of the Afghan economy. In the Islamic Republic of Iran, torrential rain in August triggered flash floods and landslides in north-eastern provinces, affecting 100 000 people and causing 37 deaths. The food situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is grave due to continuing confinement of families in homes by curfews and military operations.
In the Asian CIS, improved precipitation and relatively better growing conditions have improved the food outlook this year. Cereal output in the Kyrghyz Republic, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Armenia have significantly improved. However, food supply in Tajikistan and Georgia remains rather tight.
In Central America and the Caribbean, harvesting of the 2002/03 first season cereal and bean crops is underway and the outlook is favourable. Average to above-average outputs are expected in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras. However, localized droughts are still reported. Food assistance is being provided by the international community to affected farmers, many of whom have also been affected by the collapse of international coffee prices. Thousands of households and workers have been rendered food insecure by the crisis. In Costa Rica and Panama, heavy rains and flooding are reported, particularly along the Caribbean coastal areas, with damage to foodcrops. In Jamaica, the agricultural sector is slowly recovering from the impact of the heavy rains and flooding in June. In Cuba, the western parts of the country and the Isle of Youth were seriously affected by Hurricane "Isidore" (22-23 September) with damage to crops and infrastructure.
In South America, harvesting of the 2002 wheat crop has started in Brazil and near-record production is forecast. In Chile, planting of the 2002/03 wheat crop has been completed and the planted area is provisionally estimated at an above-average level. Sowing of the maize crop has started and plantings are expected to increase slightly over the 2001 good level. In Uruguay sowing of the 2002 wheat crop has also been completed and below-average plantings are estimated. Planting of the 2002/03 maize crop has just started under normal weather conditions. In the Andean countries, heavy snowstorms and freezing temperatures in the highlands of Bolivia and southern Peru have affected livestock production. In Ecuador, harvesting of the 2002 maize crop has been completed and an average output is estimated. In Colombia, harvesting of the 2002 first season cereal crops is nearly completed, while planting of the second season cereal crops is underway in some areas. In Venezuela, heavy and continuing rains since June have resulted in serious flooding in the southwest, leaving 35 000 people homeless and causing serious damage to infrastructure and some loss of livestock and crops.
In Europe, wheat output in the EU has risen this year by about 13 percent to 104 million tonnes, but the quality of later harvested crops may be reduced by widespread heavy summer rains. However, aggregate output of other grains is likely to be down overall and just below average. In eastern Europe, wheat production has dropped sharply in Hungary and Romania but elsewhere outputs are similar to last year's levels. Widespread heavy summer rains have probably had an adverse impact on the quality of the small grain crops in several countries but may be beneficial overall for the maize crops, which are still developing.
In the European CIS, cereal harvest in 2002/03 marketing year is estimated to decline by nearly 8.0 million tonnes compared with the good harvest of last year. In Russia total cereal harvest is estimated at 77.7 million tonnes compared to 83 million tonnes last year, a decrease of 7 percent.
In the Balkans, cereal harvest is estimated at levels close to the sharply recovered harvest of the preceding year. Floods and hail, which normally occur during late spring and summer in the region have had insignificant effect on crops this year.
In North America, wheat production has fallen further this year in the United States to just below 46 million tonnes, 14 percent down from the previous year's below-average output. Prospects for the maize harvest, which is just starting in the Corn Belt, have deteriorated due to exceptionally dry conditions throughout the summer. Maize output is now forecast at 225 million tonnes, about 6 percent below last year's about-average crop. In Canada, prospects for the 2002 cereal crops deteriorated sharply during July and August due to one of the worst droughts on record. Wheat production is forecast at just 15.4 million tonnes, 5 million tonnes down from last year and almost 40 percent below the five-year average, and barley production is also likely to fall sharply.
In Oceania, prospects for the 2002 grain crops in Australia have deteriorated sharply in the past two months due to continuing widespread dry conditions. Total wheat production is now estimated at 13.5 million tonnes, 10.5 million tonnes down from last season and the smallest crop since 1994/95, and barley output is also likely to fall sharply. Papua New Guinea is currently experiencing drought which may reduce agricultural production this year.
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