The rainfed-crop harvest is progressing in the Sudanian zone of Chad. In the Sahelian zone, the rainfed harvest is ending. Planting of recessional sorghum—delayed because water took longer than usual to recede from recessional croplands after the torrential rains of July and August and because above-normal rains continued in September—is still in progress in this zone.
The FAO/CILSS preharvest assessment estimates that Chad’s 1999/2000 total cereal production will be approximately 1.15 million MT, about 10 percent above the 1994/95-1998/99 national average. However, some crops in the Sahelian zone were seriously damaged by floods, excess water or pests. Production in the Sahelian zone is expected to be near average but about 23 percent lower than in 1998/99 (which was an excellent year). The Sudanian zone harvest is expected to be below average but about 10 percent higher than the exceptionally poor harvest of last year.
Cash crop production in some areas of the Sudanian zone is also expected to be lower than recent years, especially for cotton. Combined with low cotton prices (see cotton box), this could result in lower than expected incomes for Sudanian zone farmers. Normally sales of food crop surpluses would help compensate for this loss in income. But given the below-average food crop harvests and current low prices for cereal and other foodstuff, pockets of food insecurity could continue in the southern part of the country, especially in Logone Oriental and Moyen Chari.
Although there was drying during September and October, pastures and water remain available for livestock consumption. Pastoralists are beginning to move southward, but movement has been limited due to the abundance of surface water and pastures. Reports of insects harmful to livestock in southern areas will also delay the movement south until conditions there dry out.
Non-cereal food prices are decreasing as rainfed harvest products reach the markets. However, millet, sorghum and maize prices have started to increase slightly since early October in N’Djaména markets, which are typically a reliable indicator of conditions in the Sahelian zone. This price increase, even though small, is unexpected at harvest time.
Low World Cotton Prices Rock Sahelian Cotton Subsector
World cotton prices have reached a 5-year low for the 1999/2000 marketing season (figure 7). The steady decline in prices since 1995 results from increased production and stock levels; the recent entry of China as an important cotton exporter; and the Asian economic crisis, which has reduced demand from East Asia, a major cotton-importing region.
For francophone West African countries, which produce over 15 percent of world cotton, the low cotton prices are eroding some of the tremendous gains that the cotton industry has experienced since the 50 percent devaluation of the CFA in 1994. The devaluation effectively doubled the CFA price of cotton exports. West African producers responded positively to large increases in producer prices and greatly expanded production, breathing new life into a subsector that had been stagnating because of an over-valued currency and high domestic production costs.
The growth in production has made the francophone West Africa region the third largest cotton exporter in the world, after the United States and Uzbekistan. Cotton production is a growing income earner for the millions of West African small-scale producers who grow the crop on average plot sizes of less than a hectare, for the cotton companies that manage the vertically integrated cotton subsector and for the Governments that derive a significant share of total tax revenues and foreign exchange earnings from cotton.
For the Governments of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Chad—3 of the largest Francophone West African producers—the lower prices will leave an important dent in cotton foreign exchange earnings, which normally account for more than one-half of total foreign exchange earnings for each of these countries.
In addition, the Governments of Mali and Chad have announced that they will suspend certain taxes on the cotton subsector this year, which will reduce a major source of tax revenue. The tax break will allow the cotton companies to reduce costs so that the entire effect of the world price decline does not have to be born by the companies and the cotton farmers. The cotton companies in Mali and Chad will also reduce costs by freezing employee pay raises and benefits. COTONTCHAD employees have agreed to forfeit a month’s salary.
In all 3 countries, cotton farmers will receive 12 to 19 percent less for their cotton compared to last year, the first nominal price decline they will have suffered since the devaluation. The drop in price will be compounded by a drop in production for many farmers, who were not able to meet their cotton planting targets this year because of the late season start. While cotton farmers are often considered the most privileged of farmers, reduced cotton revenues represent a sizeable loss in income. For most cotton producers in Mali and Burkina Faso, however, this will not prevent them from meeting food needs during the current consumption period. But for the poorest of cotton farmers in these 2 countries and for the majority of cotton farmers in Chad (who have suffered 3 consecutive years of hardship because of poor cereal production, low cotton earnings and civil insecurity), lower cotton revenues will squeeze household income and resources and potentially result in food insecurity. Increased monitoring of food security conditions in cotton producing zones is warranted.