- Though Mali's overall grain production this year is categorised as average, there are reports of poor harvests in a number of localised areas in the wake of aberrant climatic conditions. Poor crop performance in the northern reaches of the country is based largely to the failure of rice crops in the wake of unusually low flood levels.
Malian grain markets however are reported to have ample supplies as this year's volume of exports to Burkina Faso and Niger has been smaller than usual. Malian markets further were flooded with maize crops from the northern parts of Côte d'Ivoire due to dysfunctional markets there. These changing market conditions have stabilised and, in some cases, pushed grain prices down.
According to the latest information published by the US agency Famine Early Warning Systems (FEWS), the final grain production figure for the 2002/03 crop year in Mali is down 2.5 percent from the figure for 2001/02 and 1.3 percent above the average for the five previous years. Including projected exports, imports and aid, the net grain deficit stands at 4,000 tons.
While the food security outlook for most of Mali seems relative positive, certain areas in the north and close to Mauritania have experienced crop failures. Residents in the Mopti, Timbuktu and Gao regions and in certain communities in the northern Kayes, Koulikoro and Ségou regions could expect to face problems during the upcoming lean period. The National Early Warning Network (SAP) has recommended distributions of grain products in the form of free food aid.
This year's production figures for the Mopti and Gao regions of the country are 38 percent and 27 percent below the average for the previous five crop years. Likewise, grain production in the Mopti, Timbuktu and Gao regions has fallen well short of last year's figures, or by 56 percent, 36 percent and 55 percent, respectively. Last year's crops however were far above average.
Further, the lean period for the country's animal population is already underway. This critical period will continue until the growth of fresh grass resumes with the onset of the rainy season. While a certain degree of deterioration is normal for this time of year, on the whole, these grazing lands were reported to be "in bad shape."
The 'lean period' in Mali generally spans the period from May to September, with its actual length depending on the size of harvests for the previous growing season and the timing of harvests for the season in progress. In general, the lean period is a time of chronic food insecurity problems for the rural population of Sahelian countries. Prices for foodstuffs tend to peak during this period, making grain access increasingly complicated.
Though this year's grain production figure has been categorised as average, certain communities reporting poor harvests as a result of rainfall deficits, a rainy season which started later than usual and/or ended prematurely and the inadequate flooding of their fields are expected to face problems during the upcoming lean period. FEWS therefore predicts that certain areas will be in need of food aid throughout the lean period.
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