- The 2003/04 agricultural year in Niger got off to a very slow start last month as rainfall in most of the poor Sahelian country was less than expected.
Four out of eight Nigerien departments have reported only small amounts of rain during May, which usually the first month of the rainy season. By 20 May, less than thousand villages had started sowing or planting their crops, representing only 9 percent of the country's settlements, the US agency Famine Early Warning Systems (FEWS) reports today.
The month of May, however, only constitutes the beginning of the rainy season and final yields will depend on the regularity and amount of rainfall throughout the season. Early rains however would have meant a greater security for the entire growing season.
FEWS therefore does "not consider this indicative of the total outcome of this year's agricultural season and this should not be a cause of concern." Furthermore, most villages in Niger - particularly in the arid north - usually have their crops in the ground by mid-June.
Meanwhile, the food situation for households in most farming areas of the country is reported to be "comparatively good," and markets around the country have been reporting normal supplies and moderate prices since September last year.
May is the time of year when household food insecurity problems tend to peak, with the usual deterioration in food security indicators. The household food situation in May of this year had also suggested "difficult living conditions," FEWS reported.
A mission by FEWS' Niger representative to the central region of Tahoua assessed the situation of household food insecurity in several local villages representative of the conditions in the agricultural and pastoral areas of that region.
The mission had found a visible deterioration in conditions in a number of communities the region in May compared with the previous month based on indicators such as increasing sales of animals by local households.
Market prices of millet had not shown movements during the last month. The comparatively moderate market prices of grain products for this time of year were the main mitigating factor helping to temper the extent of household food insecurity problems.
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