BRUSSELS, BELGIUM — The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released on Oct. 23 a crop and food security assessment of Madagascar, noting that the nation’s rice production is 10% higher than last year, but still down from the five-year average. 

Rice production is estimated at 4 million tonnes for 2014, a 10% increase from the sharply reduced 2013 harvest, but down 13% and 9% compared to the 2012 and the previous five-year average, respectively. Corn (maize) and cassava production declined by 4% and 6%, respectively, compared to 2013.

The 2013-14 cropping season was marked by locust damage and poor distribution of rains in southern regions. In the more productive northern regions, favorable climatic conditions were observed and production gains were estimated in these parts. Given the uncertain
production outcomes in the south and the impact of the locusts, the government of Madagascar requested a joint FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM).

The Mission’s remit was to identify and evaluate factors impacting on agricultural production in 2014, estimate national cereal production and assess the overall food security situation. The Mission visited Madagascar from June 18 to 17 July 17, and initially held meetings with representatives from a number of ministries and national institutions.

The Mission visited a total of 14 regions to conduct a survey and carry out field assessments. Seven survey teams were deployed to eight regions, while FAO and WFP staff visited the six additional regions and two of the surveyed regions.

Overall, improved climatic conditions were recorded in the 2013-14 cropping season. In particular, northern regions received good rains favoring crop production, however, localized floods negatively impacted on crops in parts of Boeny and Itasy. In contrast, southern regions experienced generally poor rainfall  distribution, characterized by a late start and early cessation, which limited potential yields, offsetting the impact of an estimated increase in plantings.

The Malagasy migratory locust plague was more concentrated in the south and west, particularly in Androy and Atsimo Andrefana, and mainly affected the maize and rice crops. The anti-locust campaign, which began its first operations in November 2013 and is jointly  implemented by FAO and the government of Madagascar, treated more than 1.2 million hectares through both aerial and ground operations, preventing an expansion of the locust plague and reducing the overall impact on cereal crops in 2014.

Overall, the Mission estimates that the 2014 rice output increased by 10% to approximately 4 million tonnes (in paddy terms). At this level, the harvest is still 9% below the previous five-year average.

Despite an estimated increase in rice plantings compared to 2013, yields were negatively affected by poor seed quality, inadequate water management, uneven rainfall distribution in parts, and locust attacks.

Cassava production in Androy and Atsimo Andrefana declined sharply as a consequence of the widespread use of cuttings contaminated with cassava mosaic disease, which has become endemic in southern regions.

Livestock conditions are generally good, largely on account of improved pastures. However, the number of cattle is estimated to have decreased, mainly as a result of insecurity and cattle rustling, particularly in Atsimo Andrefana and Androy.

Reflecting the improved rice supply situation in 2014, the national average paddy price decreased compared to the previous year, but still remained above the levels observed in 2012. Sharp food price spikes were observed in southern parts of the country, including Anosy where prices of maize and dried cassava surged between October 2013 and February 2014, in response to supply shortages.

The national rice import requirement for the 2014-15 marketing year (May/April) is forecast at a near-averagelevel of 235,000 tonnes, which is expected to be entirely satisfied by the commercial sector. In the previous 2013-14 marketing year, an estimated 540,000 tonnes were imported to compensate for the sharply reduced rice output.

An estimated 60,000 tonnes are needed to satisfy the maize deficit, while 143,000 tonnes of wheat are forecast to be imported to meet domestic requirements. As a result of the poor cereal outputs, the food security situation was estimated to have deteriorated in southern regions, notably in Androy and Atsimo Andrefana. However, improved conditions were observed in  northern and some central regions compared to 2013.

Based on the survey results, the Mission estimated 6% of rural households to be severely food insecure, 30% moderately food insecure and 50% to be at risk. Overall, the rate of food insecurity (moderate and severe) is estimated at about 36%.

A significant proportion of households in the south and southeast of the country are expected to face a difficult lean period (October-March). The factor that poses the biggest risk is a rise in food prices, given households’ low purchasing power and the fact that a large proportion of their budgets are allocated to food purchases; over two-thirds of the surveyed households spent 75% of their budget on food.

Own production and market supplies were cited as the main sources of food, the proportions of which vary by region. Households in Atsimo Andrefana satisfy most of their daily consumption requirements from market supplies while in Atsimo Atsinanana own production is the main source. In Androy, the gathering of wild foods constitutes an important source of food, which normally characterizes emergency conditions. In general, households suffer from low quality diets and limited quantities of food, based around one staple food (rice, cassava or maize), with limited consumption of vegetables and fruit, and a minimal intake of animal protein. Sugar and oil were estimated to be consumed once a week, on average. The regions of Androy, Atsimo Andrefana and Atsimo Antsinanana were estimated to have the highest proportion of households with poor food consumption profiles.