Indonesia + 8 more

Food supply and food security situation in countries affected by the Asia tsunami

Originally published

(First version: 14 January 2005)


The earthquake and tsunamis of 26 December 2004 in 12 countries of the Indian Ocean have reportedly killed over 285 000 people (buried or missing), made an estimated five million persons homeless, resulted in massive displacement of population and caused extensive damage to infrastructure. The worst affected countries in Asia include Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Maldives, India, and Thailand. Myanmar, Malaysia and Bangladesh also affected, but with a relatively limited damages. Based on preliminary damage and loss assessments, overall losses are estimated at USD 4.45 billion in Indonesia, USD 1 billion in Sri Lanka, USD 359-500 million in Maldives, and USD 1.5 billion in India. While all countries were affected, smaller countries such as Sri Lanka and the Maldives are likely to feel a relatively heavier economic burden over the long-term from the disaster.

The majority of the people affected by the earthquake and the tsunami had agriculture- and fisheries-based livelihoods or were employed in associated enterprises. Fisheries were hit the worst, but localized crop and livestock also suffered losses. Initial assessments on the impact of tsunami on crop and fishery sectors in the worst affected areas have been completed by FAO rapid missions. In fisheries sector, the damages have been assessed as USD 25 million in Maldives; about 65-70 percent of the small scale fishing fleet and associated gear was destroyed, and some 50 percent of fishers died in Aceh Province of Indonesia; some 66 percent of the fishing fleet and industrial infrastructure in coastal regions have been destroyed and 10 out of 12 main fishery harbors devastated in Sri Lanka; and some 5400 fishing boasts were damaged in Thailand. In agriculture, the preliminary assessments indicate that about 40,000 ha of irrigated lands have been devastated in Indonesia; a total of 5 500 ha (2 600 paddy, 2 150 other food crops, 150 fruit) have been damaged in Sri Lanka; some 1 300 ha of land were inundated by sea water, of which 900 ha were damaged in Thailand. About 30 percent of the field plots have been completely destroyed in the Maldives.

It is estimated that 2 million people in different countries in the disaster region are in need of emergency food assistance, mostly in Indonesia, Sri-Lanka, Maldives, and Myanmar. WFP plans to distribute 169 000 tonnes of food aid to the neediest population over a period of six months. Over 21 000 tonnes of food have been distributed to 1.345 million beneficiaries since the advent of the disaster. FAO has appealed for USD 26.5 million to finance emergency rehabilitation projects to assist farmers and fisherfolk hit by the tsunami and another USD 2.1 million for projects in partnership with UNDP and UNEP. The total funding available to FAO for recovery and reconstruction in agriculture and fisheries sectors may reach USD 67 million.

Even in cases in which national food supply and food security impacts are limited, local communities will experience severe food security impacts in the short and long-term because parents and relatives have been lost, livelihood assets have been destroyed, and previous sources of income no longer exist. At the farm level, losses of rice stocks are also likely to be important. Salt water may prevent farmers from cropping for one or more seasons or force them adopt more salt tolerant crops and varieties with low productivity. It will require huge investments for a long time to restore destroyed or damaged storage, processing, irrigation flood control and coastal protection infrastructure in rural community.

In spite of local crop losses, overall food availability in the affected region appears adequate to cover the immediate food assistance needs. Among the countries most severely affected by the wave surges, Thailand and India are consistently large exporters of rice. Myanmar has also an exportable surplus in 2005. Indonesia, while a food importer, gathered a bumper paddy crop in 2004 and carries adequate levels of stocks. Sri-Lanka had a relatively large rice deficit last year, and the Maldives are a net importer, but their relief food needs could be covered by supplies in neighbouring countries. Since relatively large rice supplies are available in the region, it is recommended that local purchases be made whenever possible in order to meet food aid requirements in the different affected countries, so as to avoid domestic food markets disturbances. Given the damage to infrastructure, in particular roads and ports, the lack of suitable transportation means, and civil strife, access to the affected population is difficult.

The situation in the worst affected countries is summarized below.


The western island of Sumatra, the closest inhabited area to the epicenter of the earthquake, was devastated by tsunami. The estimated death toll in Indonesia from the tsunami rose to over 230 000 (including people listed as missing). More than 70 percent of the inhabitants of some coastal villages are reported to have died. The most affected areas are located in Aceh province and two districts in North Sumatra. They are among the most vulnerable areas in the country, with one-third of the population living below the poverty line.

The fisheries sector is an important economic activity for Sumatra Island, accounting for about one-third of the national fish catches. The sector provides employment to over 100 000 people in the disaster affected areas of Aceh Province and Northern Sumatra. Some 65-70 percent of the small scale fishing fleet and associated gear was destroyed. Some 15-20% of the fishers in the 18 worst affected kabupatens have been killed. The output of Aceh's fishing industry is estimated to fall by 60 percent in 2005. The losses of fishing equipment and gear, and the destruction and damage to fishery infrastructure and facilities, including fish ports and fishponds, will have a long term negative impact to national and local economy.

Livestock has been a growing sector in Aceh province. The preliminary estimate indicates that 23 300 large ruminants, 21 000 small ruminants, and about 2.5 million poultry birds were lost.

In Aceh province, agriculture is important for the economy, accounting for 32.2 % of regional GDP and employing 47.6% of the labor force (2003 figures). Ffood crop production was the predominant activity with minor contributions from horticulture, plantations and animal husbandry. The island of Sumatra is the second in Indonesia in terms of rice production, but the two worst affected provinces together (all districts) account for only some 10 percent of the aggregate national output in a normal year (Table 1).

Table 1: Major Foodcrops Area and Production in Aceh and North Sumatra Provinces, 2003

Area ('000 ha)
Prod ('000 tonnes)
Area ('000 ha)
Prod ('000 tonnes)
Area ('000 ha)
Prod ('000 tonnes)
Area ('000 ha)
Prod ('000 tonnes)
Area ('000 ha)
Prod ('000 tonnes)
North Sumatra
Total Indonesia

The 2005 main season paddy and maize crops, to be harvested from March, were already on the ground when the tsunami hit Sumatra. It was reported that agricultural areas up to 2 kilometers from the coastline in the west coast have been seriously affected. On the east coast, areas about 1 kilometer inland were badly affected. FAO assessments indicate that some 40 000 hectares of irrigated lands have been devastated by the floods, with 30 981 hectares of rice production damaged. The immediate crop losses are estimated at 80 000 tonnes of unhusked rice and 160 000 tonnes of other crops. Besides the immediate losses in crop production, sand and mud deposits on the agricultural land plus erosion, high soil salinity, and irrigation scheme damage, will result in some permanent loss in agricultural land (some 5 000 to 7 500 hectares) and future crop losses.

In addition to the tsunami damage, flash floods in the last decade of January have reportedly destroyed over 21,793 hectares of rice fields and 3,686 hectares of maize crops in Lampung. The flood waters also damaged 16 678 hectares of rice fields in the neighboring province of South Sumatra. The crop damage will have a serious impact on food security for the affected populations, although it is not expected to affect overall prospects for the 2005 main paddy harvest.

Nationwide, the overall food supply situation in Indonesia is satisfactory. The aggregate 2004 paddy output (main and secondary seasons) was officially estimated at 54 million tonnes, some 3 percent above the good harvest of 2003, due to excellent growing conditions and government support to domestic producer price. Indonesia has been a large rice importer in recent years. However, following last year's bumper crop, the Government banned rice imports in 2004; this ban has been extended until June 2005.

WFP has provided some 8 200 tonnes of food aid since the advent of the disaster. The government of Indonesia declared on 4 February that the first phase of the emergency relief operation in Aceh province has ended and that recovery and reconstruction in tsunami-affected areas will begin. There are now 250 international organizations operating in Aceh province. FAO continues to take the lead in the coordination of relief and recovery in agriculture and fisheries. A procurement plan for agricultural inputs, including rice and vegetable seed, fertilizers, hand tools, hand tractors and threshers has been completed.

Sri Lanka

Over 30 000 people are reported dead, some 450 000 persons are internally displaced and 91 749 houses were destroyed as a result of the tsunami. The worst affected districts are Galle, Matara, Hambantota, Ampara, Batticaloa, Tricomalee, Mullativu, Kuchaveli, and Jaffna.

Fishery in coastal areas is the major economic activity, providing direct employment to about 250 000 people. In recent years the fishing industry has emerged as a dynamic export-oriented sector, generating substantial foreign exchange earnings. It is estimated that 66 percent of the fishing fleet and industrial infrastructure in coastal regions have been destroyed and 10 out of 12 main fishery harbours have been devastated, causing adverse economic effects both at local and national levels.

Livestock sector suffered relatively modest losses, but cattle population may be reduced by a shift to meat as a substitute for protein from fishery products.

The hardest-hit eastern and southern coastal districts are among the large paddy growing areas in the country, accounting for one-third of the production of the main Maha cropping season (Table 2). Planting of the 2005 Maha paddy crop had been completed when the tsunami arrived. Waves penetrated only 0.5 km on average, impacting only downstream parts of the main agricultural areas. But in some areas such as the Galle district, salt water moved over three kilometers inland and caused the deaths of a large number of mango- and jackfruit trees. About 5 938 hectares crops is estimated damaged completely and an additional 5 000 hectares of agricultural land ready for cultivation have been infected by salt water.

Table 2: Paddy Production in the Worst Affected Districts in Sri Lanka, 2003

Area Harvested ('000 ha)
Production ('000 tonnes)
Maha Season
Yala Season
Maha Season
Yala Season

The 2004 paddy production was sharply reduced by dry weather. Based on the findings of 2004 FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions the aggregate output (Maha and Yala seasons) was estimated close to 2.5 million tones, 20 percent below the level of the previous year. Total cereal import requirements in marketing year 2004/05 were forecast at 1.42 million tonnes, including food aid for drought-affected population.

The main crop currently in the ground is the main Maha paddy, which is planted from October to December for harvest from March onwards. Maha planting coincides with the arrival of northeast monsoon, the country's main rainy season. Overall rainfall and growing conditions are favorable during 2004/05 Maha season in the country. However, the 2004/05 paddy production in the districts of Puttalam and Anuradhapura, worst affected by droughts in last Maha and Yaha seasons, is estimated to be much below five-year average (15% to 20% below), reflecting the smaller area planted due to water shortage during the planting season. The three bad consecutive seasons may cause severe food insecurity in these areas.

WFP has provided some 11 675 tonnes of food to tsunami victims since the advent of the disaster. Funding for FAO projects totaling 16.7 million has been approved to support the rehabilitation of Sri Lanka's fishing industry.


Most of the country's 400 km western coastline, including numerous islands in the Andaman Sea has been severely affected by the tsunami. Some 5 300 people are reported dead and thousands more have been affected. In the worst-struck south-eastern provinces of Ranong, Phang Nga, Phuket, Krabi, Trang and Satun damage to tourism and fishing infrastructure is extensive.

In the fishery sector, some 3 000 fisheries households were affected and some 5400 fishing boats were either damaged or totally wrecked, with 75 percent being small-scale fishing boats. Damage to aquaculture floating cages is estimated at USD 32.7 million, with a total of about 1.1 million square meters (or 41 439 cages) for marine fish culture, some 30 hectares of shrimp farms and 79 hectares of shellfish being damaged.

In the Southern region, including the affected provinces, harvesting of the 2004 main season paddy crop was underway when the tsunami hit coastal areas. The whole Southern region (14 provinces) accounts for only 4 percent of the country's annual paddy crop. There are no major damages to crops. Some 1 300 hectares of land became covered by sea water, of which 900 hectares were damaged.

Thailand is the world's largest rice exporter. Following a succession of bumper harvests, coupled with high international prices, exports in 2004 are preliminary estimated at a record level of some 10 million tonnes. With the harvest of the 2005 main rice crop just about to be completed, current rice availabilities are, in principle, ample and sufficient to cover the immediate food needs in the affected areas.


Tsunami of 26 December 2004 caused over 10 700 people dead and thousands more missing and affected some 2.731 million people. The states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh in India's south-east coast and the Andaman and Nicobar islands were the worst affected areas. At least 140 000 people, mostly from fishing families, are in relief centres by the government.

Fishing communities have born the brunt of the damage and losses of livelihood. The fishery and aquaculture sectors in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, and in the islands of Andaman and Nicobar have suffered major damages. Many fishing villages in these areas have lost human life, fishing boats, hatchery facilities, shelters and other belongings. In Andhra Pradesh along, normally producing some 25-30 percent of India total seafood exports, 2 000 fishing boats were estimated lost; some 300 000 fishers were rendered jobless; and some 400 fish tanks were damaged.

Paddy is a major crop in the two most affected southern states, which together account for some 14 percent of the national aggregate production of rice. When the tsunami struck coastal areas, the 2005 secondary Rabi season crop, due for harvesting from April, was on the ground. Over 134 000 hectares of paddy crop farm land in Tamil Nadu (most in Nagapattinam district) were severely affected. Large areas of arable land were washed by salt water.

India is an important exporter of wheat and rice. Production of paddy in 2004 declined slightly from the good level of the previous year. As a result of this, as well as tight carry-over stocks, exports in 2005 are expected to decrease to some 2 million tonnes. However, at this level, rice surplus is more than sufficient to cover the food aid needs in the country's worst-affected areas.

The Government of India, in association with the States/Union Territories, mounted massive relief and rescue operations. The first phase of relief and rescue operations is over and the GoI is now preparing a comprehensive rehabilitation and recovery programme under the coordinating authority of the Planning Commission. The Government did not appeal for external assistance for the emergency relief phase, but has requested the UN System, the World Bank and ADB to provide support and mobilize resources for the rehabilitation and reconstruction phase.


High wave and floods caused by Tsunami of 26 December 2004 inundated all the islands and affected the entire population. Some 100 000 people, one-third of the population has been severely affected. Over 80 people were killed and 20 remain missing. Some 12 000 persons (5% of the population) have been displaced from their islands and another 8 500 people are temporarily relocated to other places on their own islands.

The tsunami resulted in severe damage to housing and infrastructure in the tourism and fishing sectors. Tourism is the largest industry of the country, accounting for some 30 percent of GDP, over 60 percent of the foreign exchange receipts and about 90 percent of government tax revenues. The fishery is the second leading sector in the economy and about 20 percent of the total population is dependent on fisheries as the major income earning activity. Hundreds of b oats, jetties, and harbors have been destroyed or damaged. Total damages to the fisheries sector have been assessed as USD 25 million while the cost of rehabilitation has been assessed as USD 15.3 million.

Agriculture, constrained by the limited availability of arable land and shortages of domestic labour, plays a minor role in the overall economy but it is an income generation activity for rural households and contributed to their food security. Losses to agriculture are severe, with an estimated 30 percent of the field plots have been completely destroyed. 50 percent of the field plots have been destroyed due to saline water flood, causing loss of perennial plants and crop failure. Perennial trees such as coconuts, breadfruits, mango etc. have been uprooted and/or are suffering from salt toxicity.

WFP has provided some 40 tonnes of food aid since the advent of the disaster. FAO submitted an appeal for USD 2 million to the UN Flash Appeal for emergency provision of seeds, tools and other agricultural inputs and rehabilitation of the fisheries and agricultural sectors.


Some 200 villages in the southern coast and relying on fishery have been hard hit by the tsunami. It is estimated that more than 60 people have died and over 3 200 people from 638 households displaced. The worst affected areas are the Laputta Township in the Ayeyawaddy Division, inhabited by poor subsistence farmers and fishing families. Direct financial damage estimated at USD 180 000-250 000. International food aid has been targeted for some 30 000 worst affected population. The damage to the country's rice crop by the Indian Ocean tsunami is very limited. WFP has provided some 78 tonnes of food since the advent of the disaster.

The country exports limited quantities of rice and the available surplus in 2005 should be sufficient to cover the immediate food aid needs of the affected populations. Local purchases are, therefore, recommended.


Coastal areas on Mahe and Praslin Islands and to a lesser extent on La Digue and Cerf Islands suffered severe flooding and considerable damage to housing and infrastructure, such as bridges and roads, as well as the fishing port, jetties, hotels, and public utilities. The cost of the damages has been preliminary estimated at US $ 30 million by the National Disaster Committee in the Seychelles. The Government has appealed for international assistance in the amount of US$ 8.9 million for the next 6 months for rehabilitation of the most serious damage and to restore livelihoods in the main islands of Seychelles. The small fishing sector has been the worst-hit and damages to the entire fisheries sector are estimated at USD 6 million. A great number of fishing vessels were damaged or lost. The two fish processing plants and cold storage facilities located in the Fishing Port in Victoria were also affected. While the contribution of the fishery sector is small and has been declining in past years, it remains one of the traditional activities in Seychelles providing an important source of incomes for rural households. The services sector, including tourism, dominates the economy and has accounted for just fewer than 70 percent of GDP in recent years. Most of the country's food needs are met through commercial imports in the past year.

Bangladesh/ Malaysia

Bangladesh and Malaysia, among others, were also hit by the disaster but the damage, mainly in the fishery sector, was limited relative to that in the worst affected areas. These countries gathered good 2004 paddy harvests but are traditional net importers of rice. While Malaysia covers all its cereal import needs on commercial basis, Bangladesh is a least developed country and receives food aid on a regular basis.


It is the African country worst-hit by the tsunami, with damage concentrated along the north east coast, on the tip of the Horn of Africa. Up to 300 Somalis are reported to have died, with thousands more homeless and many fishermen still unaccounted for. About 30 000 people have been displaced and some 54 000 people are in need of urgent assistance. The residual tsunami effect destroyed 1180 homes, smashed 2 400 boats and rendered freshwater wells and reservoirs unusable. Poor communication infrastructure in the country hampers distribution operations.

Summary Table: Impact on Agriculture and Food Security

Fishery and Aquaculture
Agriculture and Livestock
Rice Trade Position in 2000-03
Food Availability in 2005
Food Mobility
Indonesia Important for Sumatra Island; 70% of the small scale fishing fleet in Aceh destroyed
Important. 40 000 ha of irrigated lands devastated; 44 000 large and small ruminants and 2.5 million poultry birds lost Net rice importer Bumper paddy crop in 2004 and adequate stock Civil strife in Aceh
Sri Lanka Important in coastal area; 66% fishing fleet and infrastructure in coastal area destroyed Important Important. 2 600 ha of paddy, 2 150 ha of other crops, and 150 ha of fruit have been lost Net rice importer Drought in 2004 and big grain deficit in 2005 Floods and civil strife in north and east regions
Maldives Important and seriously damaged (damages est. at US $25 million) Very important (30% of GDP) Not important in national economy. However, loss of agriculture in some islands is severe (30% of the field plots completely destroyed) Net cereal importer Reduced income and purchasing power Serious problem as the population is dispersed over 200 islands and scattered over 900 sq. kms
India Very important and seriously damaged Not important Localized crop losses (12 000 ha) with little impact at national level Large rice and wheat exporter Continues to export
Thailand Important. 2923 fisheries households were affected. Damage est. at USD 16.6 million Very important Not important. 900 ha of land damaged Largest rice exporter Continues to export
Myanmar Poor fishing families in some 200 villages affected (144 small vessels damaged)
Poorest subsistence farmers affected Small rice exporter Small surplus available
Somalia Smashed 2 400 boats and damaged freshwater wells and reserviors
Salt pans are flooded and pastures destroyed Net grain importer Continues to import Security in the affected areas remains a concern
Seychelles The major source of foreign exchange; damage est. at USD 6 million Important and small impact Not important, but 8% of the agricultural sector has been put out the production Net grain importer Continues to import Poor communication infrastructure