18 July 2007The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that a predicted decline in the rate of cereal production this year in many low-income food-deficit countries (LIFDCs) could lead to a tighter food supply situation as 28 countries to suffer serious food shortages. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that a predicted decline in the rate of cereal production this year in many low-income food-deficit countries (LIFDCs) could lead to a tighter food supply situation as 28 countries to suffer serious food shortages.After four successive years of relatively strong growth, cereal production in many LIFDCs is expected to rise by just over 1 per cent in 2007, which exceeds the rate of population growth, says the latest FAO Crop Prospects and Food Situation report. Moreover, if the largest producers – China and India – are excluded, overall cereal output of the rest of LIFDCs is forecasted to decline slightly from last year.Continued high international prices are also exacerbating the problem, the agency notes.Countries which have experienced harsh droughts or irregular periods of rain are facing reduced crop yields. Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Lesotho have reported their worst main season harvests ever; compared to last year, the production of maize – the main staple crop in these countries – will drop by 50 per cent on average. Meanwhile in Morocco, the cereal crop is estimated at just one-quarter of what it was last year. On the other hand, the prospects for this year’s crop yields are favourable in other areas, according to the report.In Asia, forecasts for coarse grain and rice crops are reported to be generally favourable thanks to the onset of seasonal rains. Several Southern African countries are reporting record or above-average harvests, and apart from Somalia, most East African countries estimate increased output.The report classifies 28 countries as requiring external assistance to overcome food shortages.In one of these countries, Nepal, a major obstacle in the face of providing relief for providing food assistance is the limited access to vulnerable populations. A total of 42 out of the Himalayan country’s 75 districts are estimated to be food deficient, with chronic and widespread food insecurity prevailing in some mountain regions.Violence and subsequent security problems – in such countries as Sudan, Somalia and Iraq – have adversely impacted food security. In Iraq, over 1.8 million people have been internally displaced while more than two million have fled the country, according to humanitarian agencies.The other countries on the FAO’s list include Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Afghanistan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste and Bolivia.