Millions of people in east Asia hit by heavy monsoon rains as Central Asia is gripped by drought Near East reels from three consecutive years of drought

from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Published on 28 Sep 2001
PR 01/62e
Rome, 28 September 2001 -- Millions of people in Asia have been affected by heavy and extensive monsoon rains and floods, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).  In the September issue of Foodcrops and Shortages, released today, FAO says, "The worst affected countries include China, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. DPR Korea was hit by a severe drought during the spring which seriously affected the winter-spring and the main maize crops."

Noting that the Near East has suffered through three consecutive years of drought, the report warns that food production in Afghanistan, Jordan, Iran, Iraq and Syria has been severely affected.  In addition to the food supply difficulties in the Near East cited in the report, FAO Assistant Director General Hartwig de Haen, warned: "The food supply situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip gives rise for serious concern."

The drought and persistent civil strife in Afghanistan have resulted in a very serious food crisis, according to FAO with over 7 million people expected to be dependent on international food assistance.  "The already grave food supply situation in the country is set to deteriorate should the threat of military action materialize," the report warns that fresh waves of population displacements are currently underway, exposing the increasing number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees to extreme hardship.  The evacuation of the staff of the international aid agencies from the country will have very serious implications for the food security of large numbers of vulnerable people."

The report calls the situation in Afghanistan "very grave, with a large proportion of the population facing starvation.  "Only timely and substantial international assistance will avert the looming humanitarian catastrophe", said Abdur Rashid, Head of FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System. After three consecutive years of drought, most people have exhausted their coping mechanisms and are compelled to leave home and join the ranks of IDPs or refugees.  Famine indicators such as substantially reduced food intakes, collapse of the purchasing power, decimating livestock, large-scale depletion of personal assets, soaring food grain prices, rapidly increasing number of destitute people, and ever swelling ranks of IDPs and refugees are widely observed."

The FAO report also says that food supply difficulties persist in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Armenia and Georgia due to drought.

The extended drought in Iran has caused "widespread water shortages and devastated crops and livestock."  Although the drought this year affected fewer regions, the report says its impact on the food supply situation and people's livelihoods has been far greater in some communities. Recent serious floods have exacerbated food shortages in parts.

In the Asian Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), except for Kazakhstan, the report cautions that "food supply remains very tight and many people face severe food shortages throughout the region. Drought, severe water shortages and exceptionally hot weather conditions during the crucial spring and summer cropping seasons have once again compromised crop production."  In addition, agriculture structural problems and dilapidated irrigation systems have accentuated the impact of drought and water shortages on crop production. The worst affected countries are Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and to a lesser extent, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Georgia.

In Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, FAO says crop production has declined to nearly half the average production levels in some areas resulting in large numbers of people needing emergency food assistance.  Most of the grazing land and pastures in the region are completely dry, reducing livestock at an alarming rate. In Tajikistan, drought, water shortages, dilapidated irrigation system and structural problems have worsened the food supply situation this year compared to last year when a large food deficit was experienced and food supply remained very tight throughout the year.  The two main rivers, Amu and Syr, feeding the extensive irrigation system of the country, have been flowing at about 50 percent of the average levels.  Agricultural inputs, quality seeds and fertilizers, are in short supply.  Agricultural machinery is also in short supply and inadequate to meet demand.  In addition, about 40-50 percent of the water lifting equipment and about 60 percent of the heavy machinery used for canal and drainage maintenance are out of order, which has significantly compromised the efficacy and efficiency of the irrigation system.

Foodcrops and Shortages says that this year's total grain output in Uzbekistan would not be more than 3.4 million tonnes, about 500,000 tonnes less than the poor harvest of last year and about one million tonnes less than in 1999 when production was considered average. Wheat production is estimated at 3.2 million tonnes and rice at 100,000 tonnes, which compares with 1999 production levels of 3.6 million tonnes of wheat and 421,000 tonnes of rice.  The worst affected areas are Karakalpakstan and Khorzam autonomous regions, where the spring-sown area and output have fallen by half.

In Africa, FAO reports that Zambia and parts of Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique face food shortages in areas where there were localized crop failures. The overall harvest outlook in eastern Africa is favourable except in parts of Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea, where natural and man-made disasters have affected food production.  In western and central Africa, harvest prospects are also generally favourable due to good weather conditions. However, says the report, elsewhere, food production continues to be disrupted by civil strife as in Angola, Burundi, Democractic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone.

In North America, FAO estimates total wheat production in the United States for 2001 at 54 million tonnes, some 10 percent down from the previous year and well below average. Maize output is also forecast to fall, by about 7 percent, to 235 million tonnes.  In Canada, where the harvest is just starting, wheat output is set to fall by about 20 percent below last year's good crop.

Foodcrops and Shortages reports that aggregate 2001 cereal production in the European Community is set to fall by about 5 percent from last year to 204 million tonnes due to smaller wheat crops.  By contrast, cereal crops in central and eastern European countries are generally larger, after recovering from the drought-reduced levels last year.  In the CIS west of the Urals the prospects are for significantly improved harvest this year, particularly in Russia and Ukraine.

FAO's Food Crops and Shortages lists the following 34 countries as facing food emergencies:  

AFRICA (17 countries)
Angola                         Civil strife, population displacement
Burkina Faso                  Previous drought
Burundi                  Civil strife and insecurity
Chad                         Previous drought
Congo,Dem. Rep.          Civil strife, IDPs and refugees
Eritrea                         IDPs, returnees and drought
Ethiopia                  Drought, IDPs
Guinea                  IDPs and refugees
Kenya                          Drought
Liberia                          Past civil strife, population displacement
Niger                         Previous Drought
Sierra Leone                  Civil strife, population displacement
Somalia                  Drought, civil strife
Sudan                          Civil strife in the south, drought
Tanzania                  Food deficits in parts, refugees
Uganda                 Civil strife in parts, IDPs
Zambia                  Excessive rains, floods

ASIA (12 countries)
Afghanistan                Drought, civil strife
Armenia                Drought, economic constraints
Azerbaijan                Drought, economic constraints
Cambodia                Floods
Georgia                Drought, economic constraints
Iraq                        Sanctions, drought
Jordan                        Drought
Korea, DPR                Adverse weather, economic problems
Mongolia                Economic problems, harsh winter
Syria                        Drought
Tajikistan                Water shortages, Drought
Uzbekistan                Drought and water shortages

LATIN AMERICA (3 countries)
El Salvador                Drought
Haiti                        Chronic economic problems, vulnerable groups
Honduras                Drought

EUROPE (2 countries)
Russian Fed.                Civil strife, vulnerable groups
F.Rep. Yugoslavia        Vulnerable groups and refugees
(Serbia & Montenegro)

Foodcrops and Shortages, which details the world's crop and food situation by country, is issued five times a year in four languages (English, French, Spanish and Chinese), by FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture.  

For further information, please contact:

John Riddle
FAO Media Relations
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