Special Report: FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission to Ethiopia


Mission Highlights

  • Poor belg rains and a late start to the main rains have resulted in poor land preparation, late planting, a reduction in planted area and heavy weed infestations. But the main rains were mostly heavy, well-distributed and continued into October, benefiting late sown crops.
  • Some recovery of the main (meher) crop from earlier expectations occurred but not in the north nor in parts of the south and east.
  • National cereal and pulse production is forecast at 10.72 million tonnes, 6 percent down from last year.
  • Food security will be very polarised in 2000. Most surplus-producing areas have had a productive year, whilst production in the deficit areas will be significantly down on last year. Marketing and transport will be critical issues in 2000.
  • Cereal import requirement for 2000 is estimated at 764 000 tonnes, which is expected to be mostly covered by food aid.
  • Locally purchased grain should be feasible for around 200 000 tonnes of food aid.
  • A follow-up mission is recommended for April 2000 to assess the belg crop and to finalize the meher estimates for 1999.


The FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission for 1999 was conducted in two parts, with two different time frames and two counterpart agencies. The findings of both assessments are combined into this one Special Report. The first and larger exercise was that carried out by WFP/Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission (DPPC) between 6 November and 31 December. This involved 20 teams (comprising staff of DPPC, WFP and other donors) visiting all the zones in the country and a high proportion of the food deficit woredas. The aim was to assess both the chronic and current vulnerability of local populations to food insecurity, and to quantify the amounts of food aid required during the year 2000. The analysis of the results of this survey was completed by early January 2000. The second part of the Mission was a crop survey conducted by FAO with assistance from MoA during the period of 18 to 30 November 1999. Its remit was to finalize the main season cereal and pulse production estimates for 1998 and to prepare production forecasts for 1999. The forecasts were developed at zonal level and aggregated to give a national picture of cereal and pulse availability for 2000, together with an estimate of national import requirements. The FAO/MoA team reported its preliminary findings to Government and donors on 6-7 December 1999.

The crop assessment team, comprising international and local consultants, assisted by MoA agronomists, visited all the zones except Gambella and Benshangul and most of the special woredas during a 12-day period, using six separate teams. They consulted with regional bureaux and all the MoA zonal offices to obtain post-harvest estimates of 1998 meher production and MoA's pre-harvest forecasts for 1999. In addition to the crop statistics, information was obtained from the zonal MoA offices on the 1999 growing conditions, input supplies, the stage of harvesting, cereal stocks and recent movements in grain prices. The teams then inspected crops in different parts of each zone and engaged in discussions with farmers and traders. Vegetation and rainfall satellite images (NDVI and CCD) were also used in the field to indicate rainfall and growth patterns in 1999 compared with previous years. Using all this information, the teams amended the MoA pre-harvest forecasts at zonal level and developed their own independent yield forecasts and applied them to the planted area data recorded by MoA. The preliminary forecasts of each individual team were then analysed by the whole mission and final adjustments made. Thus, the Mission has produced a dataset which contains, for each zone and special woreda, the forecast area and production for each cereal, and pulses, for the 1999 meher crop, plus a 3-year time series of actuals: from 1996 to 1998. All these data are based on MoA statistics.

Comparing the aggregated post-harvest production data for 1998 with last year's mission report indicates that the Mission's forecasts were 2.6 percent higher, in terms of total cereal and pulse production in the meher season. Actual production (on the MoA-based time series) was 11.39 million tonnes for last year's meher. For the 1999 meher season, the Mission forecasts a harvest of 10.72 million tonnes of cereals and pulses, some 6 percent below last year's outturn but 22 percent higher than the poor year of 1997. 1999 is still 9 percent short of the record 1996 year. Compared with last year, most of the reduction in production has come from a lower planted area (down by 4 percent), although the mean yield of all cereals and pulses has also fallen, by 2 percent. The most important factors affecting areas planted and yields this year were the poor belg rains, the late start of the meher rains and, in the unimodal areas of the west, the late start to the rains for long-season crops.

The dry belg season in much of the country (but specially in the north) left livestock in poor condition and in reduced numbers. The availability and performance of plough oxen were significantly reduced and land preparation suffered. The delayed main rains led to late cultivation and planting and, in some areas, long-cycle stalk crops (especially sorghum) could not be planted. In most areas there was a switch from long to short cycle crops (both to short season stalk crops and to small grains). Total areas of sorghum and maize are down on last year by 15 and 8 percent respectively, but wheat, pulses and teff areas are higher by 4.2 and 1 percent. Cultivation, planting and weeding of different crops were concentrated into a short time period and the effectiveness of these operations was poorer than usual.

The late start to the season, coupled with poorer land preparation, resulted in exceptionally high weed infestations with consequent losses of yield. However, once the main rains came and the crops were planted, the season was relatively favourable in most areas, except the north (Tigray, Wag Hamra and Wollo) and the south (North and South Omo, Konso, Burgi and Borena). The rains were mostly heavy and well-distributed and frequently extended into mid-late October, so benefiting late-sown crops. Although there were reports of waterlogging, floods and hail damage, and critical dry spells in some areas, the meher season was mostly good, and crops recovered, to some extent, from a poor start. The surplus-producing areas, in particular, seem to have done well, whilst the deficit areas in the north, east and south are well below average. Pests and diseases have not been a major factor overall, but weed populations have doubtless taken their toll. More farmers than ever joined MoA's 5-year old extension package scheme, and consumption of fertilizers, improved seed and even herbicides has increased. The harvest is significantly late (by about one month in many areas) but maize harvest is almost complete, sorghum hardly started and teff and wheat harvesting is now underway.

The reduction in production from last year is most severe in Tigray (35 percent decline) but the southern region (SNNPR) is also forecast to be down, by 12 percent. Amhara region is 5 percent lower and Oromia is forecast at 1 percent lower than 1998. In terms of individual cereals, the greatest reduction is the 26 percent fall in sorghum production, with maize down 13 percent and barley slightly down on last year. Production of wheat, teff and pulses are all expected to be higher than last year.

The prices of most cereals are now falling, particularly for maize, which has reached US$75 per tonne in some of the surplus areas of the west. Sorghum is still expensive (US$150 per tonne) as its harvest has hardly started, and wheat prices are coming down in anticipation of good production. Teff is maintaining its premium but prices are generally easing down. In the north and other deficit areas, prices are higher due to transport costs from surplus areas and local shortages. By early December 1999, stocks of cereals were running low, exacerbated by the late harvest. This partly explains the relatively strong prices at this time of the year.

With national production expected to be significantly down on last year, supplies will be inadequate for normal levels of consumption, but there are striking differences between the normal deficit areas which have done badly in 1999 and the surplus areas where crops are good (i.e. Gojam, Arsi, Wollega). The polarization of these two broad areas of Ethiopia, at least in terms of food security, will be more marked in 2000.

With a below-average belg crop anticipated for 2000 (due to continued shortages of oxen and possibly of seed), the Mission estimates the national import requirement to be 764 000 tonnes - significantly above last year's level. This assumes similar per caput consumption levels to last year, similar exports (mainly pulses) and no drawdown of stocks. This increased import requirement is expected to be almost entirely supplied as food aid to support 7.8 million people affected by severe food shortages resulting from droughts, waterlogging and other weather related hazards. This high level of anticipated food aid had been exacerbated by the significant depletion of assets over recent years. Beneficiaries' coping mechanisms are no longer available, including decreases in traditional income-earning opportunities and reduced agricultural output. In addition to the relief needs caused by natural disasters, food aid will also be needed for IDPs coming from the border areas with Eritrea, who have been unable to plant their land and who have lost cross border trade and labour opportunities due to the conflict.

The Mission suggests that around 200 000 tonnes of food aid could be procured locally, from the surplus-producing areas.

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