- The so-called Kremti rainy season in Eritrea, which form the basis for the main annual harvest, have so far been better than normal. If the rains continue another week, the first good harvest in years could be a reality. Eritrea continues suffering the worst food crisis in its history.
With some exceptions, the performance of the Kremti rainy season looks positive compared to previous years. However, continuity and distribution patterns will ultimately determine the success of crop production. For better results, consistent rainfall has to continue at least up to mid-September.
If the rains become erratic and end earlier than mid-September, Eritrea could again experience widespread crop failure. This week therefore is crucial for the impoverished country's food security outlook for the next year.
Food crops on cultivated land in the highland areas of Eritrea were adversely affected by the poor performance of the preceding minor (Azmera) rainy season. Also last year's Kremti and Azmera seasons had been disastrous and plunged the country into a food crisis, which the population is still suffering from.
However, according to a crop assessment by the Food Security Sectoral Working Group of the Eritrean Ministry of Agriculture carried out in mid-August, harvests exceeding average cannot be expected. The expected harvest will not be satisfactory mainly due to poor performance of the Azmera season and uneven distribution of the Kremti rain in some places.
The US agency Famine Early Warning Systems (FEWS) on the other hand had carried out field observations and found that crops were "in a very good condition." Especially the sesame harvest was expected to produce well.
- The month of August is especially important for crop maturity and more rains are required to ensure a good crop harvest and improved pasture conditions before the end of the season, FEWS noted. Due to the good rains in August and ongoing rains, the vegetation conditions were expected to continue improving in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, Eritrea has been relatively well stocked with food aid for its population, bought by the government and donated by foreign agencies. Existing food stocks at government warehouses were 53,309 metric tons. With an estimated monthly distribution of around 17,000 tons, these stocks would be enough for the coming three months, FEWS said.
During the last month, food grain prices on local Eritrean markets had remained stable or slightly higher. Sorghum prices remain unchanged last month in all major markets of Eritrea. Compared to last year's prices, however, sorghum prices had increased by 55.5 percent in the capital, Asmara.
Sorghum-livestock terms of trade were generally stable or decreasing slightly in Asmara, FEWS reported. Thus, livestock herders are receiving slightly less sorghum - the main food crop - in return for each sheep or goat. This however only was a slight reversal of an opposite trend observed earlier this year.
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