GIEWS Country Brief: Timor-Leste 24-September-2020

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  • Main season maize output in 2020 estimated below five-year average

  • COVID-19 pandemic heightens food insecurity

Main season maize output in 2020 estimated below five-year average

Harvesting of the 2020 main season maize crop was completed in April. The area planted is estimated below the five-year average due to poor rains in major producing areas during the October-December period, which affected planting operations and early crop development. Rains improved from January 2020 and brought some relief to the areas impacted by dry weather conditions, benefitting yields. Some localized crop losses were reported due to infestation of Fall Armyworm (FAW). The 2020 secondary off-season crop is currently being harvested. Despite some minor losses due to FAW, the output is forecast at an above-average level, following generally favourable weather conditions. In aggregate, the 2020 maize output is forecast at a below-average level of 75 000 tonnes.

The 2020 main paddy crop was harvested by the end of June. The output is estimated above the last five-year average reflecting good precipitation amounts from January onwards which supported planting operations and had a positive impact on yields. The 2020, mostly irrigated, secondary off-season paddy crop, to be harvested at the end of the year, is growing under generally favourable weather conditions, but some concerns exist due to low irrigation water availability. Overall, the 2020 aggregate rice production is forecast at an above-average level of 69 000 tonnes.

Weather forecasts indicate a high probability of above-average precipitation amounts between October 2020 and February 2021, due to La Niña conditions that are likely to persist throughout the main 2020/21 cropping season. In the country, the La Niña weather pattern is normally associated with heavy rainfall and strong winds. Above-average rains are expected to benefit the 2021 main season crops, which will be planted from October onwards, but carry the possibility of flooding and associated crop damages.

Cereal import requirements in 2020/21 estimated at average level

The country relies on imports, which amount to almost 50 percent of the country’s total cereal consumption needs. Cereal import requirements in the 2020/21 marketing year (April/March) are estimated to remain close to the previous year’s average level of 150 000 tonnes.

COVID-19 pandemic heightens food insecurity

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries conducted a Rapid Food Security Assessment in May 2020 to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on livelihoods and food security conditions of rural communities. According to the Assessment report, as of mid-May 2020, over 40 percent of the households reported resorting to negative coping strategies due to the pandemic. About 80 percent of the households stated also that restrictions related to COVID-19, including temporary limitation on movement and closure of the markets, resulted in the loss of income and hampered access to food. In addition, as the country has been severely affected by outbreaks of the African Swine Fever (ASF) in 2019 and early 2020, most interviewed households reported that, as of May 2020, they lost about 60 percent of their animals. Pig losses have caused a substantial reduction of income, raising concerns over the livelihoods and the food security situation of the pig farming households.