As of November 2002, the number of countries facing serious food difficulties throughout the world stands at 39, with 25 in Africa, 6 in Asia, 6 in Latin America and 2 in Europe.
In southern Africa, the difficult food supply situation, as a result of two poor harvests in a row, continues to tighten with dwindling food stocks and slow imports. The food situation is particularly critical in Zimbabwe where serious food shortages are affecting half of the population. Food assistance to the neediest is inadequate and slow in coming, while commercial imports are hampered by the worsening economic crisis. Out of the 14.4 million people severely at risk and in need of food assistance in southern Africa, WFP has requested 993 000 tonnes of food aid to assist 10.3 million of the worst-affected people until March 2003. Against this requirement, pledges by early November amounted to some 637 000 tonnes. While food aid distributions in the sub-region speeded up in October, they remained well below target in Zimbabwe due to insufficient contributions, and in Zambia where the Government's refusal of GM grain has resulted in delays in distributions. There is urgent need for additional food aid pledges and for expediting delivery of contracted commercial imports to avoid a rapid deterioration of the food situation. Planting of the 2003 cereal crops has started, and prospects are favourable so far, reflecting generally abundant precipitation since the second dekad of October. However, unseasonably dry weather prevails in Malawi and northern parts of Zambia.
In the Great Lakes region, prospects for the 2003 first season crops are poor in Burundi and Rwanda reflecting below-average precipitation in September and October. Production is anticipated to be reduced in many areas. In Burundi, the impact of dry weather is being compounded by a deterioration in the security situation, resulting in increased numbers of people in need of emergency food assistance. In the Democratic Republic of Congo the food and nutritional condition has further worsened as a result of renewed fighting and massive population displacement.
In eastern Africa, serious food shortages have emerged in several parts mainly due to drought conditions, with increasing numbers in need of food assistance.
In Eritrea, the food situation is serious due to the failure of the short "azmera" rains and inadequate long "kiremti" rains. The Government of Eritrea has appealed for emergency food assistance for about 1.4 million people. In Ethiopia, poor secondary season "belg" rains and a late start and early cessation of the current main "meher" season rains have created an 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 food assistance for about 6 million people. In Kenya, the current maize harvest in major producing provinces has improved the overall food supply situation. However, despite recent beneficial rains the food supply situation is of concern in the districts of Mandera, Turkana, Samburu, Marsabit, West Pokot 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 the current good secondary "deyr" season rains and the favourable outturn of the main season "gu" crops, harvested last August, continuing insecurity and escalation of conflict in parts with 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, in the Central African Republic, harvest prospects are uncertain following erratic and below average rains affecting crop development in some regions. A resurgence of fighting in the capital city, Bangui, has displaced a large number of its residents.
In northern Africa, planting of the winter wheat and coarse grains has started for the spring 2003 harvest. Aggregate cereal output in 2002 was 28 million tonnes, slightly below the output in 2001 but above the past 5-year average of about 26.7 million tonnes. Significant increases have been registered in Egypt and Morocco. In Algeria and Tunisia, by contrast, production of wheat and coarse grains declined considerably from 2001 levels, mainly as a result of dry weather at planting and during the development period.
In west Africa, the performance of the 2002 cereal harvest in the Sahel is mixed. Following the first rains in June, a long dry spell from early July through August severely affected crops in Cape Verde, The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Mauritania and Senegal. Production of rainfed crops fell sharply, although rainfall in August reduced losses somewhat. In the eastern and central parts of the Sahel (the main producing countries) by contrast, growing conditions were more favourable, despite an erratic start of the rainy season which necessitated replantings. A series of joint FAO/CILSS Crop Assessment Missions in the 9 CILSS member countries of the Sahel in October estimated aggregate 2002 cereal production at 11.3 million tonnes, 3 percent lower than 2001 but 11 percent above average. Below-average harvests are anticipated in Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau and Mauritania; while near average production is expected in Chad, the Gambia, Mali and Senegal. Above-average outputs are foreseen in Burkina Faso and Niger. In the coastal countries along the Gulf of Guinea, harvest prospects are generally favourable in Benin, Nigeria and Togo but less favourable in Ghana, following below normal rains in September and October. In Liberia, agricultural activities have been disrupted by renewed civil strife, pointing to reduced rice production this year. In Côte-d'Ivoire, a reduction in rice and other cereal production is forecast as a result of unfavourable weather and conflicts that forced many farmers to leave their land.
In Asia, the early outlook is generally favourable for the largely irrigated cereal crops being planted now for harvest in 2003. By contrast, the outcome of the main season harvest, which has been completed in most countries, was affected by an erratic 2002 monsoon and other irregular weather developments. In a number of countries, this resulted in below average cereal outputs and consequent food shortages, while in other countries bumper crops were reaped. Thus, in DPR Korea, an FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission in October concluded that despite an improvement in cereal production, domestic food supplies continue to fall short of demand and have to be supplemented by cereal imports. Taking into account commercial imports, the food aid requirement for 2002/03 is estimated at 0.98 million tonnes of cereals. Donor pledges are urgently needed to cover the WFP emergency operation for the remainder of 2002 and the first quarter of 2003. In Mongolia, less than 50 percent of normal precipitation and scorching temperatures in the summer of 2002 seriously affected both cereal and livestock production aggravating the food situation of the already disaster-hit agricultural population. Food relief will be necessary to meet the shortfall in supplies.
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 give 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 rains 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 the continuing confinement of families in homes by curfews and military operations.
In the Asian CIS, cereal harvests this year have sharply recovered owing mainly to improved precipitation and relatively better growing conditions. Cereal harvests 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, the outlook is favourable for the 2002/03 second season cereal and bean crops. Harvesting is underway and average maize outputs are expected in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, while in Nicaragua an above-average output is expected. The food supply situation continues to be tight, however, in certain localized communities of the sub-region, particularly those affected by the crisis in the coffee sector. Plantations in many areas have been forced to close and thousands of workers were left unemployed. Food assistance from the international community is being distributed to the most affected families. In the Caribbean, the passage of hurricanes "Isidore" and "Lili" in Cuba and Jamaica, at the end of September and first days of October, inflicted considerable damage to important cash crops, such as citrus, tobacco and sugar, as well as to rural housing and infrastructure. In Haiti, seasonal rains are benefiting planting of the second season coarse grain and bean crops. The crops had been adversely affected by dry weather, particularly in the north-west, earlier in the year. In the southern departments of the country, food assistance is being provided to farmers affected by adverse weather at planting and during the growing season.
In South America, harvesting of the 2002 wheat crop and planting of the 2002/03 first season coarse grain crops is underway in the southern areas of the sub-region. Growing conditions are generally favourable. In Paraguay, by contrast, a prolonged drought is affecting the western departments, and a state of emergency has been declared by the government which has appealed for emergency assistance, including food aid. In the Andean countries, in Peru, production of wheat and maize outputs in 2002 is provisionally estimated at well above-average levels. A bumper paddy crop has also been harvested. In Ecuador, a series of volcano eruptions in October and early November affected crops and pastures. However, maize output has been above average.
In Europe, aggregate 2002 cereal production in the EU is estimated to rise to about 212 million tonnes, 5 percent up from last year, after sharply increased wheat crops several major producing countries. The estimate of aggregate coarse grain production remains at about 105 million tonnes, about 2 percent down from last year. Winter grain planting is underway in northern parts of the EU under generally satisfactory weather conditions. In eastern Europe, wheat production has dropped sharply in Hungary and Romania but elsewhere outputs are similar to last year's levels. Widespread autumn rains have improved soil moisture conditions throughout the region for the germinating winter grains.
In the European CIS, cereal harvest in 2002/03 marketing year is expected to nearly match the bumper harvest of the preceding year. In Russia cereal harvest this year includes 47.5 million tonnes of wheat and 35.3 million tonnes of coarse grains, which respectively compare with 46.9 million tonnes and 35.9 million tonnes in 2001/02 marketing year. Cereal harvest in Ukraine includes some 21 million tonnes of wheat and 15.9 million tonnes of coarse grains, which compares with 21.3 million tonnes of wheat and some15.9 million tonnes of coarse grains in the 2001/02 marketing year.
In the Balkans, cereal harvest is estimated to nearly match the sharply recovered harvest of the preceding year. Torrential floods and hail, which normally damage spring crops, did not have any significant impact on crops this year.
In North America, the latest official estimates put the 2002 wheat output in the United States at about 44 million tonnes, 17 percent down from the already reduced crop in 2001. With the bulk of the coarse grain crop harvested by the end of October, the latest forecast of aggregate coarse grain output in the United States stands at about 246 million tonnes.6.5 percent down from last year. The bulk of the winter wheat crop for harvest in 2003 was planted by the end of October, the overall rate of planting and emergence being slightly ahead of the normal for that time of year. The condition of emerging crops is reported to be on the whole better than at the same time last year. In Canada, output of cereals in 2002 has fallen sharply following severe drought in parts of the country. Output of wheat is officially estimated at 15.5 million tonnes, about 25 percent down from last year while that of coarse grains is put at 19.8 million tonnes, 13 percent down from 2001.
In Oceania, the winter grain harvest is getting underway in Australia, where this year's crops have been severely affected by drought. Wheat output is forecast at about 10.1 million tonnes, 58 percent below the previous year's near record crop. The winter barley crop is likewise expected to fall sharply. Good rainfall is needed in the coming weeks for planting in the main summer crop areas. In Papua New Guinea, a severe drought activity in West New Britain province has forced people out of their villages.
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