Sudan + 17 more

Some 36 countries worldwide face serious food shortages, says FAO report

Conflicts, bad weather cause African food problems
28 February 2005, Rome - Worldwide, 36 countries need external food assistance, while 11 countries face unfavourable prospects for their current crops, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a report released today. "The causes are varied, but civil strife and adverse weather predominate."

According to the February issue of Foodcrops and Shortages, the highest number of countries facing food emergencies continues to be in Africa, where 23 countries need external food assistance. The report warns that the food situation in Eritrea is of "serious concern" saying "successive years of inadequate rains have seriously undermined crop and livestock production."

In Sudan, FAO estimates that the harvest will be below average due to conflict and drought. By contrast, the food situation in Ethiopia has improved, partly as a result of a good weather.

Kenya's poor second season maize crop will exacerbate food shortages in parts of the country, while Somalia's good secondary harvest will improve food supplies in main agricultural areas, the report says.

Food and crop situation in southern Africa is mixed

In southern Africa, FAO says prospects for the 2005 main season crops are mixed because of "delayed, erratic and generally below normal rainfall during the first half of the season." The food security situation for vulnerable populations, particularly in Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Swaziland, is precarious during the current lean months. In western Africa, the food situation remains critical in Mauritania, while in Côte d'Ivoire insecurity continues to disrupt agricultural and marketing activities.

Impact of Tsunamis still stalks many Asian countries

In Asia, the earthquake and Indian Ocean tsunamis of 26 December 2004 "caused a large number of deaths and destroyed livelihoods of millions of people in several countries. The worst affected include Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Maldives, India and Thailand." The report says that more than 1.3 million people have received food assistance and adds that relief operations have "entered the recovery and reconstruction phase."

The majority of the people affected by the earthquake and the tsunamis made their living from agriculture and fisheries, or were employed in related enterprises. According to the report, the fisheries sector was hardest hit, but localized severe crop and livestock losses were also suffered. Losses of rice stocks are likely to be important and the report warns that salt water may prevent farmers from cropping for one or more seasons or force them to adopt more salt tolerant crops and varieties with low productivity.

The reports says that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) still needs international assistance to meet its minimum food needs despite recent gains in food production.

China to become net cereal importer

Total cereal production in China is forecast by the report to increase by 11 percent over last year, as a result of good weather, strong prices and government support policies. However, China is still expected to switch from being a net exporter to a net importer in the 2004/2005 marketing year, when they are expected to import about 3 million tonnes of cereals.

In Iraq, FAO says that recent precipitation is expected to have a favourable impact on winter crops, for harvest from May 2005. According to a study conducted by the Ministry of Health, acute malnutrition among children younger than five years of age increased to 7.7 percent this year compared to 4 percent two years ago.

A good harvest is expected in Afghanistan and Asian countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States, owing mainly to favourable weather conditions.

According to the report, a reduction in cereal production is expected in the European Union in 2005 after the bumper crop last year. An increase in the set-aside requirement will result in a reduction in the area sown and the report says it is likely that yields will fall back from last year's highs.

Western Hemisphere sees generally favourable crop prospects

Overall prospects for wheat, maize and paddy crops are favourable in South America, except in Ecuador and Peru where the report says production of maize and rice may be affected by dry weather at sowing.

In Central America, the report says that first and second season maize and bean crops have been damaged by dry weather conditions and food assistance is being provided to the affected families. "Food assistance continues to be provided in Haiti to families affected by recent floods and droughts."

Despite generally favourable weather conditions so far this winter in North America, the report say the latest information points to reduced wheat output in 2005 in the United States, as the area sown to the main winter crop has been reduced by 4 percent compared to the previous year. The main 2005 crops in Canada have still to be sown, but FAO says early indications point to a possible decrease in output this year due to reduced plantings and expected lower yields.

Australia's 2004 cereal output remained about average, but well down on the previous year's record after several major producing areas were struck by drought conditions. Early prospects for the 2005 summer coarse grain crop are very favourable, the report says.

FAO's Foodcrops and Shortages is published three times a year in February, May and October. It is posted in full on the FAO website at this URL:


John Riddle
Information Officer, FAO
(+39) 06 570 53259