Friday, July 11, 2008
high global food prices, conflict in the north and the onset of the
lean season which lasts from July to September, the food security
situation in the north and elsewhere, looks positive this year in Mali.
"[Food] prices are going up, but it's normal; stocks are good
and the cereal is available. We think overall, the harvest will be
good," said Alice Martin-Diahirou, director of the World Food Programme
(WFP) in Mali.
"There are pockets of concern for us around the
towns of Bourem and Ansongo, near Gao, but the situation this year is
not serious like in previous years," she said.
The positive outlook for food security in the north comes despite the insecurity that has recently gripped the region.
A number of violent raids and clashes have caused more than 50 deaths
over the past few months as the Touareg rebellion has escalated.
1,200km north of the capital, Bamako, is currently under an unofficial
curfew, and many people fear the rebels have laid landmines on the road
up to Kidal.
However, aid agencies said so far this was having
little effect on their ability to operate. "Although Gao is classified
by the UN as facing a security threat, we are not seeing any
interruptions to our work here," said Mohammed Ag Hamalouta, from WFP
in Gao. "This year is quite a normal one for us."
Rains good so far
rainy season in the Malian Sahel appears to have started well.
"Although we have to treat first predictions with caution, it seems
like the rainy season in the Gao and Timbuktu regions will be good,"
Dirama Diarra, head of research and the development of rainfall
prediction at the National Meteorological Office, told IRIN. "We think
it will be humid with more rains than normal."
This is welcome
news for farmers in and around Gao which lies deep in the Sahelian
belt. Mostly they rely on rain-fed agriculture. Even in a good year, it
only rains about 10 times in Gao.
Self-sufficient in millet, sorghum
has been more protected than some of its neighbours by global food
price rises because it is self-sufficient in millet and sorghum, the
staple food of 80 percent of its population, and it exports these
grains to its West African neighbours, including Mauritania, Senegal
and Burkina Faso.
But the country has not been entirely
insulated from global food price rises, particularly when it comes to
rice. Mali produces on average half of its total annual rice
consumption, importing the rest mostly from Asia. "We have seen some
rises in the price of local rice," said Christian Bren from the
non-governmental organisation Action contre la Faim in Gao, "but Mali
has better managed the high prices than the other countries."
rice prices mainly affect urban residents who prefer to eat it rather
than traditional grains. Consumer rice prices in Bamako were 27 percent
higher than the five-year average in March 2008, according to the
Ministry of Agriculture.
cushion the blow, the government has levied import taxes on rice, and
heavily subsidises fuel costs, making them among the lowest in West
Africa. The ministries of economy and finance also introduced
additional regulations for imported rice in March: "Any businessman who
benefits from tax exemptions on rice imports has to sell it at a fixed
price to consumers," said Mahaman Assouma Touré, the national director
Because of these measures the government has so
far succeeded in stabilising the price of rice at about 70 US cents per
The government has also adopted the 2008-2009 Rice
Initiative, in which it commits to setting aside land and providing
agricultural equipment to increase its rice paddy fields by half,
bringing production up to 1.6 million tonnes per year.
next step, according to Touré, is for Mali to increase its
self-sufficiency in other basic products. Mali is still heavily reliant
on imports of basic necessities, importing 70 percent of products such
as cooking oil and dairy products, but there are as yet no concrete
schemes in place to improve yields for any of these products.
to a World Bank official who preferred anonymity, with the right
investment Mali could go even further - moving beyond self-sufficiency
to becoming a major exporter.
"Mali has to get over its
addiction to rice and start growing other crops in higher quantities -
sesame seeds, dates, potatoes, bananas, and mangoes," the official told
IRIN. "Mali could become a major bread-basket in West Africa if it
plays its cards right."
Source: IRIN NEWS http://irinnews.org