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July 16, 2009

Late rains have delayed the growing season in most of Niger

Low rainfall has disrupted the planting season throughout Niger as farmers who sowed seeds in May are forced to replant when their first crops died, according to the national association of farmers.

"There are real concerns with the planting season this year," said the association's coordinator, Djibo Bagna.

Idrissa Halidou in the semi-arid village of Torodi near the border with Burkina Faso said he lost his first planting. "We had planted in May, but lack of rains forced us to plant again." He said he was tapping into his cereal stock to face the lean season.

The period between plantings and harvests typically lasts from June to September. Nationwide, almost 8,000 out of 11,000 villages had reported to the government first plantings by 30 June.

In 2009 late rains have resulted in plants withering in dry pocketsin certain localities, especially during the first 20 days in May, according to the government's 30 June inter-ministerial report on rain and agriculture, which characterized rainfall in most parts of Niger as 'weak to moderate.'

The national farmer association's Bagna said in some regions at this time last year, crops had already begun to grow.

Farmers in Diffa, a commune in the southeast, said the first rain of the season arrived on 14 July, a month later than in 2008.

Delayed rains have resulted in pastures that are progressively degrading in quality, causing pastoralists to seek rain-fed pastures elsewherefor their animals. The most affected areas are Diffa and Maradi in the south, according to the government’s 10 July rain report.

Late rains coincide with rising food prices, according to the government's weekly system of information on agricultural markets (SIMA), which reported that as of the first week of July, the prices of millet and maize were three percent higher than the previous week, while sorghum was five percent more expensive, costing up to US$42 for 100kg.

Prices for millet, sorghum, rice and maize are up to six percent higher than this time last year, according to the government's price index.


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