Some 2.97 million people in the Sudan are in need of international assistance because of successive crop failures and ongoing civil strife in the south, according to a report released today by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Based on last month's expert mission to the country, the report calls the food supply outlook "highly precarious in several parts of the country following two consecutive years of reduced cereal harvests and depletion of stocks." It forecasts that the situation will worsen in the coming months with the start of the "lean season," despite Government efforts to stabilize prices.
Government efforts to mitigate the shortages by lifting customs duties on food imports and financing grain purchases through the recently instituted Strategic commodity Stock Authority have, to some extent, helped stabilize cereal markets, FAO notes. It warns, however, that with the lean season just starting and only a fraction of the appeal for international food assistance pledged so far, the situation is likely to worsen in the coming months.
According to FAO, the Sudan will need to import an estimated 1.44 million tonnes of cereal for the 12-month period ending this October, of which commercial imports are anticipated at about 1.2 million tonnes. Food aid pledges amount to 55,000 tonnes, leaving a gap of 157,000 tonnes required to cover the remainder.
The removal of Government support programmes that had encouraged high levels of wheat production earlier in the 1990s has prompted many farmers to drastically reduce wheat cultivation in the last two years in favour of more lucrative cash crops such as vegetables and oil seeds. FAO forecasts the 2001 national output of wheat at 299,000 tonnes -- 30 per cent below the average for the previous five years.