- The food security situation in Chad this year is reported to be "more than satisfactory." Food availability is quite good on most of the country's leading markets, though food access was "still problematical for low-income groups due to their weak purchasing power."
According to the conclusions of a joint mission conducted by a team of the US agency Famine Early Warning System (FEWS) and the Chadian National Rural Development Agency (ONDR), the country's cereal market remains stable and food security is at a satisfactory level.
- Grain prices on most markets around the country are either down slightly or show no change from last month, the monitors had observed. Also millet prices show the same trends, something that had "more or less stabilised consumer purchasing power with respect to grain products."
The positive situation is a product of two subsequent years of over average harvests. The final grain production figure for the 2002-03 crop year show a reduction of 8 percent from last year, ending at 1,212,390 tons. This final figure however puts grain production slightly above Chad's average of the last decades.
The country's harvests of flood-recession sorghum crops (berbéré), which began in late February, were still in progress in some provinces as the mission made its observations.
In the Salamat Department, which is the country's leading berbéré production zone the mission however reported good harvests throughout most of the area, which "should have a positive effect on food security conditions, not only for the local population, but also for residents of neighbouring departments reporting production deficits for rainfed grain crops."
Also the final rice production figure was reported to be 49 percent above the preliminary estimate, which means that rice harvests were "not as bad as expected." Thus, despite the rainfall deficit in floodplain areas, the September and October rains had been able to make up for part of the water stress suffered by rice crops.
Pasture production was however down in northern Biltine and Ouaddaï Departments, due to the low rainfall totals recorded in this part of the country during the past growing season. This problem was exacerbated by the lack of wells for watering animals and the drying up of seasonal lakes and ponds, causing pastoralists and their animals to take off for seasonal grazing lands earlier than usual. The mission had observed migrating animals from areas in the northern reaches of the country still heading south.
While the average nominal price of millet on the N'djamena market showed no change from February to March of this year, the price of sheep had plummeted 43 percent during this same period, which is a typical seasonal phenomenon. While favourable for meat consumers, this resulted in a significant regression in the terms of trade for pastoralists selling sheep.
On the whole, the food situation in Chad was assessed to be "more than satisfactory." Only the food situation in "structurally deficit departments", such as Kanem and Bahr El Ghazel, was a source of concern. These departments needed to "be closely monitored," the FEWS report said.
According to the information compiled by FEWS, however, grain access was still quite a problem for poor households, with very limited numbers of animals, if any, pursuing very few other income-generating activities such as craft-making and seasonal work. Also, government employees are owed back pay arrears, and the slump in earnings from certain occupations, such as straw fence weaving, was creating food access problems in some areas of the country.
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