- West Africa at the brink of facing food insecurity between now and the next harvest in October 2008, Food Early Warning Systems reported.
This prediction was based on abnormal price increases for all cereals in one of West Africa's main wholesale markets in Nigeria in late 2007 coupled with high cereal prices on international markets.
However, price trends in other smaller markets in the country remain below-average, with localized price increases in deficit production areas. But maize prices are high across the region mainly due to poor production condition this season.
The provisional harvest estimates for 2007/08 are similar to those of the previous year. The last harvest was 17% above the five-year production average, despite the late start and early end of rains and localised flooding during the main production seasons in parts of West Africa.
These estimated production levels, which will be updated with definitive figures in March, indicate the likelihood of a third consecutive bumper cereal harvest for the region, though production is unevenly distributed across and within countries, food experts said.
They expect the remaining surpluses, existing food security stocks and ongoing off-season production to mitigate the extent of price increases in the region. This could be possible provided supplies are sufficient to meet consumption requirements and government policies do not inhibit normal market activities
Factors such as increased international or industrial demand for cereals, traders hoarding stocks, or the implementation of national policies that inhibit normal market activities are among a number of factors capable of increasing food insecurity
across the region before the next harvest.
Mauritania and Senegal - which are heavily dependent on international imports to meet their consumption requirements - high and increasing international prices for cereals such as rice and wheat will likely decrease food access as the lean season approaches.
These import-dependent countries often depend on Mali and Burkina Faso to get additional cereal supplies.
But, high prices in large market centers that are typically dependent on international commodities may act as a draw on these regional cereal supplies, limiting availability and pushing up prices in smaller interior market centers.
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