With African crop prospects mixed, UN urges trade from surplus to deficit areas

8 December 2003

Though some regions in sub-Saharan Africa can expect bumper crops, food shortages are forecast in 23 countries, with some facing a critical situation, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported today as it called for trade from surplus areas to those with deficits to combat the problem.

FAO urges aid agencies to rely on local purchases or triangular transactions to carry out food aid activities,” the agency said in a statement in Rome accompanying the release of its Africa Report. In triangular transactions a third party finances trading between two other parties.

According to the report, in eastern Africa the total cereal output is expected to increase over the last year's reduced amount, but successive droughts in parts of Somalia and south-eastern Ethiopia give cause for serious concern, the report says. Somalia faces a "serious humanitarian crisis" in the Sool Plateau where an estimated 93,000 people are in need of urgent food and other humanitarian assistance, the report adds.

In Eritrea, despite improved cereal production over last year's extremely poor crop, 1.4 million people will need emergency food aid. But Ethiopia and Sudan expect generally improved harvests. Tanzania faces serious threats to food security in central, southern and northern coastal areas due to drought, but the food situation overall is stable.

Intensified civil strife in the north and east of Uganda has swollen the number of displaced people in the country and increased humanitarian assistance needs.

In Western Africa, a bumper crop is expected in the Sahel, following generally favourable weather, but Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau and Mauritania still face food shortages. In Côte d'Ivoire, the food situation is critical, particularly in the west and rebel-controlled north. In Liberia, the humanitarian situation is improving following a peace agreement in mid-August and the deployment of a West African peacekeeping force, but the overall security situation remains precarious, the report says.

In neighbouring Sierra Leone, despite below-normal rainfall, the overall food security situation has improved with returning refugees and displaced farmers resuming farming activities.

Central Africa continues to suffer from the aftermath of conflict in the two largest countries of the sub-region, the report states. Food production in the Central African Republic is not expected to increase this year, notably in the north, due to insecurity at planting time and a lack of seeds. In the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi, food production continues to be hampered by insecurity.


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