Special Alert warns of disruption to food supplies in Kosovo Province, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

In a Special Alert issued 18 March, FAO has warned that if the recent violence in Kosovo Province, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, continues, it could have severe implications for food output, supplies and availability. Several farms have been abandoned or destroyed and food distribution is severely constrained.

According to the Alert, "Even in normal years, Kosovo is a food-deficit area where output and productivity have been falling for several years due to conflict in the surrounding areas, difficult terrain, poor soils ... and a significant decline in the use of essential farm inputs." Official figures indicate that aggregate wheat and maize production in Kosovo fell by over 50 percent between 1991 and 1996. Livestock losses during the violence have been heavy. The loss of male family members in the fighting also hits subsistence farming units hard.

About 80 people have died due to recent violence and 10 000 more - mainly women and children - have fled from the worst affected Srbrica commune to neighbouring communes of Mitrovice, Obiliq, Vushtrri and Lipjan. Many others have fled to relatives in Montenegro.

About 2 million people live in Kosovo province and more than half of them are less than 15 years old. Some 500 000 are estimated to be economically active, although 25 percent of them are unemployed. This means that every working person supports a large number of dependents. Agriculture in the province contributes 30 percent of the Gross Domestic Product, considerably more than the national average of 22 percent. These two facts combine to make agriculture vital to a large number of Kosovo's population.

Should the violence continue, there are fears that it could spread into the neighbouring countries of Albania, Macedonia and Bulgaria. This could result in a significant increase in the numbers of people internally displaced and in outmigration, thus putting further strain on the already vulnerable economies of these countries. There is an urgent need for appropriate contingency planning.

20 March 1998

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