The area planted to winter crops (mainly
wheat but also barley) fell further, partly due to the sharp increase in
the price of fuel during the planting period. The sown area to winter crops
fell to 110 000 hectares from 134 000 in the preceding year, and is below
target (124 000 hectares). An FAO Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission,
which visited the country in November 1999, found that the aggregate area
being farmed is recovering, but that the wheat area is declining steadily,
in favour of more profitable crops (sunflower, potatoes, vegetables and
maize) and also due to competition from imports of wheat.
Despite a reduction in the area sown to wheat, the 1999 grain harvest is officially estimated to have increased by 182 000 tonnes to 780 000 tonnes, including 280 000 tonnes (1998:168 000 tonnes) of grains other than maize and 490 000 tonnes (1998: 420 000 tonnes) of maize. Actual production could be somewhat higher. The efficacy of data collection is hampered by the lack of funds and the margin of error in data on foodcrop production is high. FAO's estimate of production in 1999 is 850 000 tonnes, some 10 percent higher than official data. Above all, timely rains during the growing season as well as some improvement in farmers' access to inputs and better care for crops by private farmers have led to markedly better yields than in 1998. Production of potatoes, vegetables, sunflowerseed and tea has also increased sharply, but fruit/citrus production declined further in the absence of an effective marketing/processing system.
The existence of sizeable unregistered flows of cereals (particularly wheat and flour) into the country and the transshipment to other neighbouring countries make analysis of the supply and demand situation difficult. In 1999/2000, aggregate cereal utilization is estimated at nearly 1.5 million tonnes of cereals, including 815 000 tonnes for human consumption, 100 000 tonnes for seed/processing/losses and the balance for feed. Based on the findings of the Household Budget Survey, per caput consumption of cereals is estimated at 173 kg/person per year. Given a resident population of 4.7 million, the aggregate use of cereals for food is estimated at 815 000 tonnes, including 650 000 tonnes of wheat and 155 000 tonnes of maize. Given domestic production (excluding pulses) of 841 000 tonnes, imports of cereals are estimated at 555 000 tonnes, about 8 percent less than last year, when wheat was more easily available and cheaper in neighbouring countries. Against this requirement, food aid pledges amounting to 80 000 tonnes have been reported to date. The balance is expected to be imported commercially.
There is no shortage of food in rural or urban markets. Any shortfall in domestic production is offset by imports. Although GDP has grown since 1996, it is still only about one third of that in 1990. However, available GDP statistics have to be treated with caution. In addition, income disparity has increased greatly. Food constitutes a large proportion of household expenditures, and a considerable percentage of the population is poor. Although there is no officially recognized acute malnutrition, a slow but clear increase of malnutrition among children is being observed, despite some targeted distribution of supplementary food aid. In all, several hundred thousand people still need humanitarian assistance, including the 182 000 receiving assistance from the World Food Programme under the current Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation. The PRRO is for a period of one year with a total food commitment of 18 190 tonnes and a total WFP cost of about US$10 000 000. The WFP assistance under PRRO is comprised of two components - (i) protracted relief with free food distribution to the most vulnerable people and (ii) recovery through food for work.