FAO/GIEWS Special Alert No. 302: Madagascar (10 March 2000)

(Circulated only for countries where foodcrops or supply situation conditions give rise to concern)

Torrential rains and high force winds reaching up to 200 km per hour brought by Cyclones Eline on 17 February and Gloria on 2 March, have caused loss of life, severe damage to infrastructure and left over 10 000 people homeless. Worst affected areas are north and central parts of the East Coast including the areas around the cities of Andapa, Antalaha, Vatomandry and Mahanoro, as well as Belo-Tsiribihina and Morondava on the West Coast. Preliminary Government assessments indicate that 560 000 persons have been affected by the cyclone damage to varying degrees. Access to these people is difficult due to damage to main roads and bridges. The roads linking the main port of Tamatave to the capital city Antananarivo and to the north are damaged, seriously hampering movement of food and other commodities within the country. It is reported that 114 villages and cities are isolated by the floods or destruction of the transport infrastructure. The Government has appealed for international assistance to cope with the emergency. The humanitarian situation in the affected areas is reported to be critical and there is an urgent need for international relief assistance to rescue the stranded people and to provide them with food, drinking water, medicines and other assistance. As several areas are inaccessible, airlift operations are needed to reach the isolated population. A UN appeal is expected to be launched soon.

A full assessment of crop losses and agricultural damage is not yet possible, as large agricultural areas are unreachable and submerged. However, preliminary indications point to almost total crop losses in low-lying areas. Serious damage to coffee plantations by heavy winds in the major growing areas of the eastern coast are reported, including those around Andapa/Samabava and Mahanoro. Banana, orange, avocado and cocoa trees have also been seriously affected. These are cash crops which play an important role in the food economies of farm families. Thousands of hectares of rice along the eastern coast strip north of Mahanoro, around Belo and Morondova on the western coast and around Antananarivo are completely flooded. The prolonged submersion and the siltation of the paddy fields could result in total crop loss in these areas. Severe damage and losses of food stocks in households will further diminish food supplies.

Overall prospects for the 2000 main paddy crop, normally harvested from April, were already poor before the two cyclones hit the country. After a good start of the rainy season in November last year, a prolonged dry spell from the third dekad of December to the first dekad of February resulted in large declines in plantings and potential yields in the major northern growing zones. The losses and yield reductions caused by the cyclones have therefore worsened the already unfavourable harvest outlook. Thus, this year's rice production is forecast to decline sharply from the good level of 1999 and the food supply situation is expected to tighten in the next marketing year. Imports of rice, which averaged 80 000 tonnes per year over the past five years, are likely to be substantially higher in 2000/01 (April/March).

As soon as conditions permit, FAO plans to field a mission to the country, to assess the crop losses and the food supply situation and to estimate the country's food import requirements for 2000/01 (April/March), including food aid needs of the affected population.

This report is prepared on the responsibility of the FAO Secretariat with information from official and unofficial sources. Since conditions may change rapidly, please contact Mr. Abdur Rashid, Chief, ESCG, FAO, (Fax: 0039-06-5705-4495, E-Mail (INTERNET): GIEWS1@FAO.ORG) for further information if required.