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Crop Prospects Mixed as 28 Countries Face Food Shortages
18/07/07

An anticipated slowdown in growth of cereal production in low-income food-deficit countries, coupled with prospects for continued high international prices, could result in a tighter food supply situation for these countries in the coming year, according to FAO's latest Crop Prospects and Food Situation report.

Rice crops are reported to be generally
favourable in the Far East.

rice field

After four successive years of relatively strong growth, production of cereals in low-income food-deficit countries (LIFDCs) is forecast to rise by just over 1 percent in 2007, which is below the rate of population growth, the report says. Moreover, if the largest producers, China and India, are excluded, overall cereal output of the rest of LIFDCs is forecast to decline slightly from last year.

Africa

In North Africa, Morocco's cereal crop this year has been devastated by drought and is estimated at just one-quarter of last year's level. In Southern Africa, the outcome of the recent main cereal harvest is mixed -- with sharply drought-reduced crops in Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland, but record or above average harvests in Malawi, Angola, Mozambique, Madagascar and Zambia.

In Western Africa, the cropping season has been slow to start in the Sahel due to irregular rains so far. In Eastern Africa, prospects for 2007 cereal crops are favourable in most countries, with the exception of Somalia where output is anticipated to be reduced due to irregular rains in the main growing areas.

Asia

In Asia, prospects for the main 2007 coarse grain and rice crops are reported to be generally favourable in the Far East, following the timely arrival of the seasonal monsoon rains.

Bumper 2007 wheat crops have been gathered in China, India and Pakistan, but in Bangladesh the wheat crop was reduced by unfavourable weather conditions.

Countries in crisis

FAO's latest assessments indicate that serious food difficulties persist in 28 countries worldwide.

Prolonged dry spells and erratic rainfall in Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Lesotho have resulted in one of their worst main season harvests ever. In 2007 production of maize, the main staple crop in these countries, is estimated to decline by about 43 percent in Zimbabwe, 51 percent in Lesotho and 60 percent in Swaziland, compared to 2006.

Lower food production and rising domestic and regional prices are expected to adversely affect the food security of more than 4 million vulnerable people in Zimbabwe. Hyperinflation surpassed 4 500 percent in May, drastically reducing purchasing power and access to available supplies for low- and middle-income households.

In Eastern Africa, the situation in southern Somalia is of particular concern due to the impact of ongoing violence, mainly in the capital Mogadishu, where hundreds of thousands of people are displaced, and trade and economic activity are restricted. In Sudan, insecurity remains a major factor inhibiting access to food, particularly in the troubled Darfur region.

In the Democratic People's Republic of Korea the food supply outlook remains precarious, but the first shipment of a 400 000 tonne pledge of rice food aid from the Republic of Korea reportedly arrived in late June.

A total of 42 out of the 75 districts in Nepal are estimated to be food deficient. Chronic and widespread food insecurity prevail in the Far- and Mid-West mountain regions, where food assistance to vulnerable populations remains limited.

In Iraq, the overall food security situation continues to be adversely affected by conflict and security problems. According to humanitarian agencies, there are more than 1.8 million internally displaced persons, and over 2 million have fled the country.

Humanitarian assistance is being provided to the most vulnerable rural families in Bolivia who were affected by serious crop and livestock losses following drought and floods during the main cropping season, earlier this year.

Click here for the complete list of countries in need of assistance.

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