LIBERIA* (9 February)
Harvesting of the 2004 paddy crop is complete. Although insecurity has prevented many farmers from cultivating, agricultural production is expected to recover somewhat from the previous year’s very low level reflecting the return of many displaced people following the end of the civil war. Paddy production in 2004/05 is estimated at 159 600 tonnes compared to 110 000 tonnes in 2003/04.
Since 1 October 2004, UNHCR has organized repatriation of over 8 000 out of the 300 000 Liberian refugees scattered across West Africa. The UN disarmament programme has been officially completed on 31 October as planned. By 6 November 2004, a total of over 96 325 ex-combatants had been disarmed and some 85 240 demobilized since December 2003. With the improvement of the security situation, WFP has extended its operation to 10 counties out of the 15 counties in the country. In 2004, WFP distributed a monthly average of 8 000 tonnes to feed 650 000 beneficiaries. Under the current PRRO, WFP estimates that nearly a third of the Liberian population would be food insecure and may require food assistance. Accordingly, WFP plans to feed an average of 750 000 people between January to June 2005. However, the agency is facing a serious shortfall in resources and has been forced, since June, to distribute reduced rations to the approximately 250 000 IDPs receiving its assistance in the country.
Following a steep rise in rice price in the country, due mainly to an increase in the world price, the Government set up a special committee to recommend solutions to bring rice prices down and stabilize the market. Subsidized sales of about 33 000 tonnes of rice donated by China are expected to start in February.