A Joint FAO/WFP mission, which visited the country in November 1999, found that the outlook for significantly increasing cereal (mainly wheat) production in the short term is poor. Lack of access to credit for quality seed and fertilizer, coupled with the unreliable availability of irrigation water supplies, prevent most farmers from increasing the yield of domestic wheat to a level where it would be competitive with imports in urban areas, and increasingly, in rural areas. In addition, poor marketing infrastructure and the lack of an enabling environment for producers, processors and traders has severely limited investment in the agri-food sector and domestic producers' access to the growing urban markets. Rural households are increasingly producing food for autoconsumption, selling surpluses on the rural market. Moreover, private farmers are shifting land to more profitable crops (potatoes, vegetables, fodder crops) and livestock production.
Grain production in 1999 is forecast at 1 090 000 tonnes, 14 percent more than in 1998 but still nearly 20 percent below output in 1991. Improved yields because of better weather and management by private farmers offset the sharp reduction in the area sown to grains. Production of potatoes and vegetables has increased but that of cotton, tea, tobacco and grapes continues to fall. Production of meat, milk and eggs expanded in 1999.
There is no shortage of food in rural or urban markets. Any shortfall in domestic production is offset by imports. Urban areas are almost entirely supplied by imported wheat, as well as poultry and processed products. In 1999/2000 imports of cereals are estimated at 601 000 tonnes, about 10 percent less than last year. The bulk of this will be covered commercially although the vulnerable groups, including the internally displaced, still need targeted food assistance. WFP continues to support to 485 000 beneficiaries through the 3-year Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation which started in July 1999. Total food commodities committed for the life of the project amount to 47 880 tonnes of food aid. The current programme supports IDPs with supplementary assistance, relief support to socially vulnerable groups, resettlement of refugees/returnees and recovery through food- for-work and food-for-training.