Crop prospects and food situation - No. 2, Abr 2007

from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Published on 03 Apr 2007

World cereal production in 2007 is forecast by FAO to increase some 4 percent to a record 2 082 million tonnes. The bulk of the increase is expected in maize, with a bumper crop already being gathered in South America, and a sharp increase in plantings expected in the United States. A significant rise in wheat output is also foreseen, with a recovery in some major exporting countries' crops after weather problems last year.

Another good cereal crop likely in 2007 in the group of Low-Income Food-Deficit countries (LIFDCs). Although still highly tentative, FAO's first forecast indicates that for the LIFDCs as a group, the 2007 cereal production could remain around the above-average level of 2006.

In Southern Africa, the 2007 main season harvest is underway. Preliminary forecasts put aggregate maize production at 14.8 million tonnes, about the same as last year's below average crop. However, prospects vary considerably from country to country with significant crop losses due to floods in some parts, and reduced yields due to persistent dry weather in others.

In Eastern Africa, the outcome of the 2006/07 secondary season crops, just completed in most countries, has been generally good. Thus, following above-average to bumper first season crops in many countries, a record aggregate cereal output is confirmed for 2006/07, improving the overall food supply situation.

In Latin America and the Caribbean region the first of the 2007 cereal crops are already being harvested. Record 2007 main season maize crops are being gathered in South America, where the planted area increased in response to strong demand, largely for ethanol production, and yields increased with the benefit of good weather. A good wheat crop is being harvested in Mexico, the main producing country in Central America and the Caribbean.

In Bolivia, contrary to the favourable harvest and food outlook for the Latin American and Caribbean region as a whole, severe weather excesses ranging from torrential rains in some parts to drought in others have caused extensive damage to agriculture and the food security of vulnerable rural communities is threatened.

Emergency update

Despite improved food supply in many of the countries normally most at risk from food insecurity, following record or bumper 2006 cereal crops, FAO's latest assessment indicates that food emergencies persist in 33 countries worldwide. In 18 of the cases, the food crisis is wholly or partially a result of current or recent civil strife or conflict, while in the remainder, the impact of adverse weather on one or more of the most recent foodcrop production seasons, is the main cause.

In Western and Central Africa, serious localized food insecurity is reported in several countries due mostly to insecurity and lack of access problems. In Central African Republic, persistent insecurity continues to compromise the food security of thousands of people. A WFP Mission that visited the country in February 2007 estimated that 70 000 additional people have been displaced since September 2006, bringing the total number of IDPs in the country to about 220 000. The Mission recommended the distribution of emergency food aid to about 190 000 people. In Chad the worrying security situation in the eastern part of the country is disrupting agricultural and marketing activities. In Mauritania and Niger, localized populations, already suffering the compounded effects of reduced production in recent years, had poor harvests yet again in 2006, because of adverse weather, and their food security situation remains precarious. Emergency food assistance continues to be needed in Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone for large numbers of IDPs and refugees as a result of civil conflicts.

In Eastern Africa, impacts of floods, localized drought, recent outbreaks of Rift Valley Fever (RVF) in some countries and conflict related displacement continue to negatively impact on the food situation of a large number of people. In Eritrea, continued high prices of food commodities is compromising the access to food of large numbers of urban poor, displaced people and pastoralists. Similarly, in Ethiopia, continued high levels of food prices are negatively affecting poorer households. Overall, about 2.3 million people are identified to be in need of food assistance during 2007. In addition, as many as 7.3 million chronically food insecure people will be targeted with cash and/or food assistance under the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP). In Kenya, an outbreak of Rift Valley Fever (RVF) in late December 2006 is a cause for serious concern. The disease has already killed hundreds of people and many livestock and reduced livestock reproduction rates. Control measures, including market closures and livestock movement restrictions, have constrained pastoralist income. Vaccines are in short supply, and the upcoming rainy season may renew conditions favourable for rapid RVF transmission. The Northeastern Province is the worst affected, with large livestock losses.

In Somalia, a large number of people are facing serious food insecurity. Escalating violence and insecurity in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, forced at least 40 000 people to flee the city in February alone. Insecurity had also affected the ability of humanitarian organizations to respond to emergencies and emerging needs. Increased cases of diseases, linked to post-flooding conditions, lack of access to safe drinking water and poor hygiene and sanitation practices, have affected many people and killed hundreds. Currently, nearly 1 million people, including 400 000 people displaced countrywide, will need food aid until June 2006. In Sudan, problems of physical and financial access to food due to war, displacement, poor infrastructure, weak marketing system and economic isolation continue to render millions of vulnerable people dependent on food assistance. About 4.6 million people in Sudan will need emergency food assistance during 2007 mainly due to civil unrest. In the United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda, food difficulties remain in parts due to localized drought and/or insecurity. In Uganda, WFP still provides assistance for nearly 1.28 million IDPs and 500 000 drought affected people in Karamoja. In addition, 182 000 refugees in Uganda receive food assistance.

In Southern Africa, excessive rains from January to March have caused serious flooding damaging infrastructure and thousands of hectares of standing crops in Zambia, Mozambique and Madagascar. A UN Consolidated Appeal to help the affected population and to resettle farming has been launched for Mozambique and Madagascar and one is being prepared for Zambia. In Zimbabwe, the Minister of Agriculture has officially declared a drought situation in the country and food shortages are anticipated for millions of vulnerable people struggling under the deepening economic crisis. In Lesotho and Swaziland, anticipated poor cereal harvests again in 2007 preclude an improvement in the food security of these countries. In Madagascar, the food security situation has worsened in southern parts because of drought last season and dry weather and severe floods in parts this season. In the Great Lakes region, the continuing civil strife in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has affected large numbers of people who need food assistance. Food aid is also needed in Burundi following the reduced 2006 total food crops harvest, combined with resettlement of returnees and IDPs.

In Far East Asia, in Timor-Leste, where the current crops are significantly affected by unfavourable weather conditions and locusts, an estimated 100 000 IDPs are in need of food assistance. A tight food supply situation in Nepal continues as a result of a sharp decline in 2006 main crop production. In the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, despite an upward revision to the official estimate of 2006 cereal production, the Government has announced a deficit of 1 million tonnes of cereals, and the food security situation of millions of people remains a serious concern. In Sri Lanka, conflict, displacement and localized flooding continue to affect large numbers of people. In the Near East, in Iraq, conflict and insecurity continue to affect the lives of a large number of people, triggering a large scale displacement. In the Asian CIS, a large number of people in Armenia have been rendered food insecure as a result of drought-reduced harvests last year.

In Central America, assistance continues to be required in Haiti, due to long-term problems of insecurity and economic crisis. In South America, adverse weather conditions (floods in the lowlands and drought and frost in the highlands) have affected Bolivia's agricultural and livestock sectors, threatening the food security of the most vulnerable communities.