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Press Release 97/2

FAO/WFP report on food and nutrition in Rwanda


ROME, January 15 -- A report just released by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that, following the influx of over one million returnees, Rwanda will need substantial food assistance in 1997. "The additional upsurge in food needs will undoubtedly strain the already fragile and unstable food supply situation in the country," it says.

The report - based on the findings of a joint FAO/WFP mission to Rwanda in early December - warns that despite an overall improvement, food production in Rwanda remains below the 1994 pre-civil strife average.

It says that the country will face a food deficit for the first half of 1997 of 30,000 tons of cereals, 45,000 tons of pulses, 124,000 tons of roots and tubers and 522,000 tons of bananas and plantains. (In cereal equivalent terms, the total deficit is estimated at 141,000 tons.)

The report says that only a part of this can be met through commercial imports. It estimates food aid requirements for the first half of the year at 81,000 tons of cereals and 33,000 tons of pulses, to cover the requirements of more than 2.5 million people, or one-third of the projected population.

Latest figures from WFP indicate that, while over 50 percent of food assistance requirements have been met through generous support from the international community, a significant level of additional donor support is required in 1997.

The report states that "There is also a pressing need for donor assistance with the implementation of a massive agricultural rehabilitation programme to restore food production to pre-crisis levels", or Rwanda will remain heavily dependent on imports, mainly food aid, in the years ahead.

Rwanda's food output has been affected by crop losses in regions affected by dry weather, and low yields of pulses this season. In particular the output of beans, the people's primary source of protein, has dropped by 12 percent compared with 1995, contributing to a sharp increase in prices.

Areas planted increased significantly during the most recent planting season which began in September, the report notes. FAO and WFP estimate that less than 10 percent of total arable land was left uncultivated this season.

The report, produced with the aid of satellite images, extensive field inspections, extrapolation of pre-civil strife statistics and information provided by prefectures and communes, recommends that an early warning system be established immediately to monitor the country's food and agricultural situation.

The 16-page document was prepared ahead of a meeting on January 13 between representatives of donor countries and FAO and WFP on the needs of Rwandan returnees. The meeting looked at emergency food and agricultural rehabilitation needs also in North Korea.


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