Despite generally favourable weather, low sorghum prices for most of 1999, which in some cases have fallen below production costs, have prompted large-scale mechanized farmers, accounting for more than 60 percent of the total sorghum production, to reduce sorghum planting by some 50 percent. Many farmers have shifted to producing sesame, which gave much better returns last year, while others have simply reduced planted area. Lack of credit for agricultural inputs has also reinforced the farmers' decision to opt out of producing cereals.
In the Southern States, however, a relative improvement in security coupled with favourable growing conditions have yielded a 12 percent increase in cereal production from the traditional sector. Western Equatoria, which usually is a surplus area, has produced twice its local need this year due to favourable conditions and increased marketing opportunities offered by NGOs based in the State. By contrast, Unity State, which could not be visited by the Mission due to security problems, has suffered greatly from internecine fighting and Government/rebel clashes. Major cereal deficits are also estimated in Lakes and Bahr el Jebel due mainly to floods, and in specific localities throughout Jonglei, Upper Nile and Eastern Equatoria where conditions were not so favourable.
Expectations of lower harvests (sorghum and millet) in 1999 and the depletion of stocks due mainly to a surge in exports, have led to an increase in cereal prices which will have an adverse effect on poorer segments of the population. Overall, with the estimated cereal production and imports of wheat and rice estimated at 680 000 tonnes and 38 000 tonnes respectively, the country's cereal requirement of about 5.2 million tonnes in 1999/2000 is expected to be met by a draw- down of stocks of nearly 240 000 tonnes.
For the various interventions in southern Sudan, war affected and food deficit regions in the northern states, it is estimated that a total of 103 453 tonnes of food aid will be required during 2000. An Emergency Operation was jointly approved in January 2000 by FAO and WFP for food assistance to 2.4 million people affected by war, drought and floods, worth US$ 58.14 million for a period of 12 months.