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Nepal Monitor: The National Online Journal

Hungry Nations: Nepal in the Club of 33

Chronic food shortages are reported particularly in the Far-Western and Mid-West mountain regions of Nepal. The country is among the 33 nations that require external assistance.

A United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report says Nepal is suffering from widespread lack of access to food.

A Nepal Monitor Special
Nepal is hungry and it needs to be fed, and fed urgently. The latest report entitled Crop Prospects and Food Situation released on May 16 by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says the Himalayan nation is among 33 countries with a food crisis that requires external assistance.

While most of the countries—25 to be precise-- are from Africa (with exceptional shortfall in aggregate food production and supplies, or widespread lack of access, and severe localized food insecurity), Nepal is among the 7 countries of Asia described under those categories and among 3 in Asia described with “widespread lack of access.”

The main reason for the widespread lack of food in Nepal is citied as civil strife and drought. Other two countries in Asia with widespread lack of food include Afghanistan (causes include Conflict, Internally Displaced People or IDPs and returnees, floods) and Dem People's Rep of Korea (causes include Economic constraints, floods).

While Iraq is described as having “exceptional shortfall of food” due mainly to conflict and insecurity, IDPs, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Timore-Leste face “Severe localized food insecurity.”

The only country outside of Africa and Asia with food shortage is Bolivia, in Latin America. Adverse weather conditions (floods in lowlands; drought, hail and frost in highlands) in Bolivia have led to severe localized food insecurity.

In Africa, millions of Zimbabweans are expected to face food shortages as the country’s economic crisis deepens and inflation continues to skyrocket, while the recent flare-up of conflict in southern Somalia has led to so much displacement that crop production is almost certain to drop sharply around the capital Mogadishu.
The “countries in crisis requiring external assistance” in Africa are: Burundi, the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, the Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

The Prospects
But it is not that food supply is limited. In fact food supply has improved, with a record or bumper 2006 cereal crops. The FAO reports says that cereal production is on track to reach 2,095 million tons, an increase of 4.8 per cent on the figures from last year. The bulk of that produce will be maize. The fast-growing biofuels industry is in demand of more and more maize, and that has also contributed to an increase in cereal prices.

The report warns that such demands and high prices will affect many of the above mentioned countries that are low-income and food-deficit countries. Several of these nations, include Morocco and Zimbabwe, are also expecting reduced harvests this year.

The report says the food supply situation remains tight in Nepal as a result of a big decline in 2006 main crop production despite a recently harvested good secondary wheat crop. Chronic shortages are reported particularly in the Far-Western and Mid-West mountain regions.

The 2007 wheat crop in Nepal, normally accounting for some 22 percent of total cereal production, is being harvested. Following excellent growing conditions this season, production has been estimated, by a recent FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission, at a record 1.46 million tones, about 7 percent above the average of the past five years.

However, food insecurity is still a big concern for the households severely affected by last year’s droughts, especially in the worst-affected districts of the Eastern region, where crop losses amounted to 25 percent on average and over 40 percent in some districts such as Siraha and Saptari. Due to low productivity and poor market access, many households in the Far-Western and Mid-West regions are extremely poor and suffer from chronic food shortages.

Many households in Terai (plain) are also vulnerable to food insecurity as a result of civil strife and chronic poverty. WFP has started and emergency operation to provide food assistance in Far-Western and Mid-West regions since January 2007.

FAO’s latest forecast for world cereal production in 2007 continues to point to a record output, now put at almost 2 095 million tones (including rice in milled terms), 4.8 percent up from 2006. Expectations for the world wheat harvest have deteriorated slightly since the previous report in April, and the crop is now forecast at just below 621 million tones.

An early and very tentative forecast for world rice production in 2007 points to a slightly larger crop at some 422 million tones, which would match the 2005 record. The increase is expected entirely among the developing countries, and mostly those in Asia, since production in the developed countries is anticipated to fall for the third consecutive year, bringing their contribution to the world total down to less than 4 percent. Expectations of growth reflect favorable price outlooks, renewed institutional support to the sector, and also assume a return to average growing conditions among the countries concerned.

In Asia, wheat output in 2007 is seen to remain close to last year’s good level. A reduction in China’s production will likely be offset by increased outputs in both India and Pakistan, where bumper to record crops are approaching harvest.

In Asia, prospects for winter crops, to be harvested from July, are overall favorable. In particular, in Afghanistan, despite localized losses due to flash floods, cereal output is anticipated to recover from last year’s drought-affected level. In the Far East, prospects for the 2007 wheat crops, about to be harvested, remain overall favorable. The sub-region’s aggregate output of LIFDCs is forecast slightly above last year’s good level with larger crops in India, Pakistan and Nepal, more than offsetting lower outputs in China and Bangladesh.

Prospects for the winter grain crops (mostly wheat), that are in the latter development stages or nearing harvest throughout the main producing countries remain generally favorable. In China, recent rainfall and warm temperatures have been favorable for the reproductive development of winter wheat and for planting of maize and rice in the major producing area. Current forecasts point to a wheat output of about 99 million tones in 2007, close to the five–year average but almost 5 percent lower than last year. The wheat area was reduced as a result of dry weather during the planting season and early growing period.

In India, reflecting continuing favorable weather, the 2007 wheat output forecast has been revised up to 73.5 million tones. This would be 6 percent up from last year reflecting area expansion and favorable weather during most of the growing season. As a result, wheat imports in 2007/08 are forecast to be much lower at 2 million tones, compared to 6.5 million tones in the previous marketing year.

Similarly, the forecast for Pakistan’s wheat output this year has also been revised up, by 1 million tones, to a record 23 million tones, 15 percent above the five-year average. The good results are attributable to increased fertilizer subsidies, allowing farmers to raise application rates, and favorable weather. Given the increase in domestic wheat supplies expected, the country is expected to export some 1.5 million tones of wheat in 2007/08. By contrast, a smaller wheat crop is in prospect in Bangladesh due to unseasonably high temperatures during the important winter development period. As a result, the country’s wheat imports in 2007/08 are expected to increase to about 2.8 million tones.

Overall rice prospects are mixed. In Indonesia, output of the 2007 main season rice crop, which is already well advanced, is forecast to fall by about 2 percent, following a 3 percent cut in plantings caused by the late arrival of the north-east monsoon rainfall, normally due in September–October, but which only reached the country in December. Harvesting of main Maha season paddy crop in Sri Lanka is complete and output is estimated at an above-average level. Dry season rice prospects in Thailand, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Cambodia, and Vietnam are generally satisfactory.

Despite such overall satisfactory food supply situation in the region, vulnerable populations in several countries are still affected by serious food supply difficulties.

Posted by Editor on May 17, 2007 1:53 PM