A new edition of Crop Prospects and Food Situation report released by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) concludes droughts linked to El Niño and Civil conflicts have increased to 37 the number of countries in need of external food assistance.
Papua Guinea, Haiti and Nigeria are the new countries in the list. They need outside help to feed their own populations or the refugees they're hosting.
In Haiti, severe droughts have caused a decrease in the output of cereals and starchy roots. The 2015 output is the lowest in 12 years and around one third of the population, 3.6 million people, are food insecure. Half of them severely insecure and at least 200,000 are in extreme emergency situation according to the report.
This is largely caused by El Niño impacts and the severe drought in decades in the Central American dry corridor.
In the Latin American region cereal production this year is expected to decline, especially in countries like Mexico and Brazil. But the region will still remain above average thanks to a larger output expected in Argentina. Production recoveries from the 2015 levels are also foreseen in the Caribbean and Central America.
On the other hand, Africa is the worst affected region, with 28 out of the 37 countries in the FAO list. In Southern Africa 2016 cereal harvest is expected to drop 26% from the already reduced level of 2015. The region will require more imports leading to a rise in maize prices.
Papua Guinea's last year drought was followed by heavy rains and flooding. About 2.7 million people were affected. Staple food in the country's highland is expected to suffer a severe shortfall and in Timor-Leste's harvest will be reduced for a second year in a row.
Civil conflicts are also responsible for the worsening food security. The displacement of people caused by them has affected 12 of the 28 countries in the watch list.
In Syria about 13.5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. This year harvest will drop about 9% due to irregular downfall in parts of the country, damage to farm infrastructure and a lack of agricultural inputs, says the report.
Nigeria, with Africa's largest economy, has been added to the list because large scale internal displacement from ongoing conflict in the north of the country. This has also increased the number of refugees going to Cameroun, Chad and Niger, increasing their food insecurity as well. About 3.4 million people in the states of Borno and Yobe are in need of food assistance.
In Yemen over 14.4 million people are food insecure. About half of them are in severe need.
Despite cereal production in 2016 is in the rise with 2,539 million tonnes, the output will still be short to meet the 2016/17 demand.
LatinAmerican Post | María Andrea Marquez