Ten million people in Brazil suffering from El Niño-related drought

FAO has issued a Special Alert about the situation in Northeast Brazil, where a prolonged drought stretching across ten states is severely affecting crop production and threatening the population's food supply. According to the alert, "the position is difficult for almost 10 million people of which about 4.8 million are facing critical food supply problems".

The alert quotes the government's regional development agency for the Northeast, SUDENE, as saying that as of early May 1998, these 4.8 million people are at "immediate risk of starvation". Relief operations (distribution of food baskets) initiated by the government have helped ease the situation for these people.

The drought is linked to the El Niño weather phenomenon, which has intensified the region's annual dry spells and caused insufficient rainfall during the rainy season. Total grain production in a normal year in the Northeast region is about 4.5 million tonnes. Current indications are that this year's cereal output is unlikely be more than half of this figure. The drought is forecast to continue until at least December 1998.

1 June 1998

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