Cereal production in Mali down 11% amid bad weather, conflict

BAMAKO (Reuters) - Cereal production in Mali fell 11% year-on-year in 2021 as farmers in the war-torn central region contended with low rainfall and mounting security threats, the agriculture ministry said on Wednesday.

Mali is a major producer of rice and maize, typically exporting around 10-15% of its crop to neighbouring countries. Grain exports were indefinitely suspended last month due to domestic supply shortages.

Overall production fell by around one million tonnes in 2021, down to 9.2 million tonnes from 10.3 million tonnes the previous year, provisional data from the agriculture ministry showed.

“The decline is partly explained by the poor distribution of rainfall, which started late in the season and ended early in some areas,” said Flamory Diabate, a statistics officer at the agriculture ministry.

“It’s also explained by insecurity problems, the jihadist threat, particularly in regions like Mopti and Segou where jihadists have stopped farmers from going into the fields,” he added.

Mali and its neighbours Niger and Burkina Faso are battling a prolonged insurgency from militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State. Thousands of people have been killed and around 2 million have been displaced throughout the region.

Fears of food shortages could be exacerbated by a barrage of regional sanctions levied against Mali earlier this month, after the ruling junta dropped plans for an election in February election and extended its mandate by another four years.

The European Union this week announced that it will sanction Mali in line with measures taken earlier by the West Africa’s main political and economic bloc. Decisions are likely by the end of January. [L8N2TX4M2]

Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by Cooper Inveen