Date: Tue, 18 Jun 1996 09:49:01 -0500
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/* Written 7:15 AM Jun 11, 1996 by apic in igc:africa.news */
Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture
Food supply situation and crop prospects in Sub-Saharan Africa
Press Release by Food and Agriculture Organization, no. 2/96, May 1996
FAO says sharply higher cereal prices make sub-Saharan Africa's food security outlook precarious
NAIROBI, 29 May (FAO) -- A United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report, released in Nairobi today, calls sub-Saharan Africa's food security outlook "precarious" as global cereal supplies tighten and food said availabilities shrink. Sharp increases in cereal prices on the world market and consequent higher cost cereal imports, coupled with balance-of-payments difficulties in food deficit African countries, will mean that a large proportion of food imports of the region will need to be covered by food aid.
Yet, FAO is forecasting global food aid availability in 1995/1996 at 7.6 million tons, the third consecutive annual decline and the lowest level in 20 years.
According to the report, "There are no signs of an imminent improvement in the food supply situation in the current year in sub-Saharan Africa as a whole. There are currently about 22 million people in the region facing food emergencies of varying intensity."
The report says a combination of unfavourable factors threaten sub-Saharan Africa's progress towards food security, including a 9.5 million ton drop in aggregate cereal production compared to the 1994 level and international cereal prices that have risen by more than 50 per cent over the past year. Reflecting this sharp rise in prices, the cereal import bill for the low-income food-deficit countries of Africa in 1995/1996 is forecast to increase by about $1.4 billion above last year's cost.
The head of FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System, Abdur Rashid, which published the report, said, "Africa's precarious food security could lead to a genuine human tragedy". Already 210 million people in Africa suffer from hunger and undernutrition -- 40 per cent of that continent's population. The World Food Summit, which will convene from 13 to 17 November at FAO headquarters, will be seeking ways to head off this tragedy by finding ways to end such food shortages and guarantee the most basic of human rights: the right to adequate food for all at all times.
"Water has a crucial role to play in African food security", according to Mr. Rashid. "That's why we added a special feature on the crucial need for increased irrigation to improve food production in sub-Saharan Africa."
Significant expansion of irrigation in sub-Saharan Africa is urgently needed. Compelling reasons include the overwhelming reliance on highly variable, erratic rainfall; frequent severe droughts; rising population pressure accompanied by declining farm size; falling soil productivity and land degradation; and the existence of substantial, untapped irrigation potential.
Noting "some positive signs," the report says, "The food supply situation is generally satisfactory in western Africa, following good harvests in most Sahelian and coastal countries. Ethiopia, one of the major recipients of international food aid over the last decade, will require smaller quantities of food aid imports in 1996."
Angola, Mozambique and Rwanda are gradually beginning to reap the dividends of peace, and a recent peace agreement in Sierra Leone offers the hope of partial recovery of food production and marking in 1996, it continues.
In southern Africa, the report says "Initial indications are that the subregion's output may be above average and well up on last year's drought-reduced level, on account of an increase in area planted and expected above average yields". South Africa and Zimbabwe may even become self-sufficient in maize once again, possibly generating significant surpluses, according to the report.
In Monrovia, Liberia, the report warns, "The volatile security situation could undermine agricultural production in 1996 and hamper relief operations, which are generally coordinated from Monrovia". Continuing insecurity in some provinces in Burundi and unfavourable weather conditions have reduced the 1996 season food production by 15 per cent below normal.
The report estimates aggregate cereal production in the Horn of Africa in 1995/1996 at 5 per cent below the previous year's harvest. "Reduced crops in Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan more than offset the significant gain in production in Ethiopia. Production also declined in Kenya, but remained above average. Large numbers of vulnerable people and those affected by localized crop failure require continued food assistance throughout 1996", according to the report.
"There are an estimated 9 million people currently facing severe food shortages in eastern Africa, including some 7 million in the Horn of Africa."
Precarious food security outlook for sub-Saharan Africa, as global cereal supplies tighten and food aid availabilities shrink. Sharp increases in cereal prices on the world market and consequent higher cost of cereal imports, coupled with balance of payments difficulties in food deficit African countries, will mean that a large proportion of food imports of the region will need to be covered by food aid. FAO, however, forecasts that global availability of food aid in 1995/96 will be 7.6 million tons, down for the third consecutive year and the lowest for 20 years. The reduced availability and continued stiff competition for food aid from countries of eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States suggests that Africa's minimum food needs in 1996/97 will remain unmet. Unless exceptional food aid allocations are made, undernutrition will rise further from its already high level.
Slim prospects for recovery in food production in Liberia. Recent civil disturbances in Monrovia could undermine the fragile peace accord signed in 1995, further disrupt agricultural production in 1996 and hamper relief operations in all parts of the country. Domestic food production is seriously reduced due to the effects of six years of civil strife and the current volatile situation is not conducive to a much needed recovery in production. Agricultural production also continues to be hampered in Sierra Leone by insecurity and internal conflict. Elsewhere in western Africa, the food supply situation is generally stable, although localized food supply difficulties persist in several traditional food deficit areas of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger. In the Sahelian countries, seasonally dry conditions prevail, while planting of the first maize crop has begun in southern areas of countries along the Gulf of Guinea.
In the Horn of Africa, aggregate cereal output in 1995/96 estimated to be lower than last year, despite a good second season cereal crop. A decline in the main season harvest more than offset an increase in the second season crop output. In Kenya and Sudan, though production declined overall it remained close to average. In both Eritrea and Somalia, outputs were poor and the food situation is expected to deteriorate in coming months, unless flows of food assistance are maintained until the next harvests later in the year. Elsewhere in Eastern Africa, Tanzania and Uganda gathered record harvests.
Food supply situation remaining tight in Burundi and Rwanda. Food production in both countries remains depressed as a result of massive population displacement. In Burundi, continuing insecurity is also seriously disrupting agricultural activities in several parts. In Rwanda, the number of returnees so far remains well below expectation. Elsewhere in the Great Lakes region, the food supply situation remains tight, particularly in the urban areas of Zaire. Overall, some 2.4 million refugees and displaced persons will require continued emergency assistance through 1996 in the Great Lakes region.
A bumper harvest in prospect in Southern Africa, notwithstanding significant crop damage in several countries by floods and pests. Sustained rains have favoured widespread plantings in most countries and an above average maize harvest is in prospect in Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa and Zimbabwe. However, flooding in parts of Madagascar, Mozambique, Malawi , South Africa and Zambia, together with pest infestations, threaten crop prospects in some areas. Early indications point to the possibility of South Africa and Zimbabwe becoming self-sufficient in maize once again, and possibly generating significant surpluses. However, much of the surplus is likely to be used to replenish depleted stocks. FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions are currently visiting Angola and Mozambique to evaluate the harvest outcome and the food supply outlook for 1996/97.
COUNTRIES FACING EXCEPTIONAL FOOD EMERGENCIES
FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS
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