GIEWS Country Brief: Timor-Leste 14-December-2016

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  • Favourable start of 2017 main cropping season

  • Cereal production in 2016 declined for second consecutive year due to dry weather conditions

  • Cereal import requirements in 2016/17 forecast to increase over previous year’s already high level

  • Acute localized food insecurity persists

Favourable start of 2017 main cropping season

Planting of the 2017 main season maize is well advanced, while planting of rice just started and is expected to continue until the end of February 2017. Average and well-distributed rainfall since October over the main cereal-producing areas located in the eastern parts of the country, coupled with improved supplies of irrigation water, benefitted planting operations and early crop development. Assuming favourable weather conditions for the remainder of the season, the 2017 main season cereal output is expected to recover from the drought-affected harvests in 2015 and 2016.

El Niño-induced dry conditions result in cereal production decline in 2016

Harvesting of the 2016 secondary off-season paddy crops is well advanced, while harvesting of the main season crops was completed earlier in the year. FAO’s forecast for the 2016 aggregate rice production is set at 60 000 tonnes, 6 percent below last year’s already sharply-reduced output and 30 percent below the five-year average. The sharp decline mainly reflects the reduced main season harvest that was negatively affected by prolonged El Niño-induced dry weather conditions. Municipalities of Bobonaro, Covalima and Lautem, as well as coastal regions of Viqueque and parts of Baucau, which combined account for close to two‑thirds of country’s annual paddy production, were among the most affected. Dry weather conditions also constrained the 2016 maize crop, which is forecast at 60 000 tonnes, 8 percent down from the 2015 reduced level and 21 percent below the five-year average.

Cereal import requirements in 2016/17 forecast to increase over last year’s already high level

The country heavily depends on imports to meet its consumption needs. Cereal import requirements in the 2016/17 marketing year (April/March) are forecast to increase by 15 percent to 160 000 tonnes compared with the previous year’s already high level reflecting two consecutive years of reduced cereal production.

Pockets of acute food insecurity persist

According to official estimates, approximately 350 000 people (one‑third of the total population), mainly located in central highlands, eastern and southwestern parts of the country were affected by prolonged drought during the last two years. Although rains improved in recent months bringing some relief to drought-affected areas, vulnerable households mostly concentrated in municipalities of Ainaro (southwest), Lautem (east), Ermera (northwest), Liquica (north), coastal regions of Viqueque (south) and outskirts of the capital, Dili, have not recovered fully and may still require humanitarian assistance. Access to food also remains a major challenge in upland areas and remote villages.