Special report: FAO/WFP crop and food security assessment mission to Madagascar


Mission Highlights

- The 2008-09 agricultural season benefited from good rainfall in the main rice production zones throughout the whole country, and particularly in the centre, the north and west. Despite the considerable damage in human and material terms by the cyclones, their impact on agriculture was comparatively slight. Furthermore, good climatic conditions in the main rice-growing zones will benefit off-season rice production which will take off in July-August.

- Conversely, the drought which has ravaged the south of the country lowered the national maize, sweet potato and cassava output because of the substantial contribution made by the south of the country to the production of these crops. The Mission has forecast that maize production at Toliara (southern province) in 2009 might drop by one-half in comparison with last year's, while the output of sweet potato and manioc should fall by 20 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

- The aggregate national cereals requirement (including cassava and sweet potato, expressed in cereals equivalent) should exceed total availability by about 206 000 tonnes. Commercial wheat and rice imports should normally meet this expected shortfall. But there is considerable uncertainty about possible imports in 2009/10 following the government's announcement that it intends to import 150 000 tonnes of rice for sale at a moderate price in the lean season. This announcement, which was made with no prior consultation with the "Plateforme de concertation et de pilotage de la filière riz", (consultative platform to manage the rice sector) is likely to upset commercial imports. For unless the government takes up a clear stance in this regard, the importers might adopt a wait-and-see attitude which would certainly lead to delays or stock drawdowns, and cause very sharp price increases in the lean seaon beginning in September/October. This would be comparable to the chain of events that led up to the 2004-05 food crisis.

- The state of food supplies, which are fairly adequate at the national level, must not conceal the cereals shortfall and the precarious food situation in most of the southern area covered by the EWS project, where the food economy is largely based on maize, cassava and sweet potato. The inadequate rainfall and the slump in production over the past few years have given a powerful impetus to food price increases in this part of the country. The prices of the main cereals and rootcrops rose between 100 percent and 400 percent between March 2008 and March 2009, before beginning to decline in May. At the same time, the deteriorating state of the herds due to the lack of rangelands and distress sales pushed down livestock prices, leading to plunging terms of trade for the agro-pastoralists. Households are having to cope with a serious lack of access to food, and a marked shortage of seed in the wake of several consecutive years of drought and poor harvests.

- According to EWS estimates, 44 municipalities in the south are now prone to extreme food vulnerability and require both food aid and seed supplies during the inter-season period.