FAO Press Release 97/65

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Press Release 97/65

FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION (FAO) SAYS FOOD SHORTAGES GRIP 29 COUNTRIES AND WARNS THAT EL NIÑO THREATENS DAMAGE TO 1998 HARVESTS IN THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE


RELEASES ANNUAL REPORT ON THE GLOBAL STATE OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURE FOR 1997


Rome, November 12 -- Food shortages continue to grip 29 countries worldwide, mostly in Africa, according to a special edition of FAO’s Food Outlook released today in connection with the on-going 29th session of the Organization’s governing Conference.

“Although in developing countries, cereal production in 1997 is forecast to decline only slightly from last year’s good level, the number of countries facing food emergencies in 1997 has increased to 29 countries compared to 25 in 1996,” Food Outlook reported. “Of the affected countries, 18 are in Africa, five in Asia, five in eastern Europe/CIS and one in Latin America.”

The countries affected in Africa are: Angola, Burundi, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. In Asia, Afghanistan, Iraq, North Korea, Laos and Mongolia are affected; Azerbaijan, Armenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia and Tajikistan in eastern Europe/CIS; and Haiti in Latin America. FAO said adverse weather is the main cause of supply difficulties in most cases, but civil strife and economic reforms continue to play a significant part.

With effects from the El Niño phenomenon expected to peak over the next few months and into 1998, FAO experts say El Niño may pose a threat to the crops planted in the coming months for harvest in 1998.

In Southern Africa, Food Outlook said “there is considerable concern over the possible adverse impact of El Niño on the 1998 coarse grain crop. Experts predict a strong possibility of poor rainfall for the planting season which is soon to start. Accordingly, most governments have prepared comprehensive contingency plans for mitigating the impact of a possible drought.”

In many Asian countries the impact of El Niño “could lead to a delay in rice planting operations resulting in a switch to early maturing but lower yielding varieties. Preliminary indications point towards reduced rice acreage in some of the southern hemisphere countries.”

The FAO report analyzes the possible impact of El Niño on such important crops as cereals, cassava, oil crops, cocoa, coffee, tea, sugar, bananas, tropical fruit, citrus fruit, grapes and horticultural products. It also looks at how the fisheries and forestry sectors may be affected. It says, global supplies of cotton and jute do not appear likely to be affected, but says production of some hard fibres may be expected to decline in the event of continued drought in some southern hemisphere countries.

FAO’s annual report on The State of Food and Agriculture - 97 ( SOFA - 97), released to delegates at the Conference and made available to reporters at today’s technical briefing, contains data which FAO experts say documents growing gap between those with access to sufficient food and those who suffer from hunger. “This widening gap between have and have nots is a most disturbing trend and must be reversed to comply with the commitments and objectives of the World Food Summit,” said an FAO expert at the briefing.

SOFA -97 devotes one of three special sections to global climate change abatement policies and their implications for some developing countries. The 265-page round-up of global agriculture, forestry and fisheries issues, says the impact on the agricultural sector of global abatement policies is likely to vary between regions and countries. It says “constraints on methane and nitrous oxide emission could impact negatively on agricultural growth.”

Among the report’s recommendations are “reducing deforestation” and increased use of improved livestock and crop management practices to reduce carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide emissions. Improving “land management practices through better use of water, fertilizer and fuel and through the conservation of organic matter” are also encouraged.

The SOFA-97 Special Chapter on Agroprocessing Industry and Economic Development calls on governments to encourage the industry “by providing a stable macroeconomic foundation and removing market distortions and rigidities through policy reforms.” FAO calls the Agroprocessing industry a driving force in agricultural and rural development. It creates employment and rising incomes, while supplying consumers with safe wholesome food.

SOFA -97 can be purchased from the FAO’s Sales and Marketing Group, Information Division (fax: (396) 5705-3360) -- E-mail: Publications - Sales at http://www.fao.org.)
Price: $45.00

The Special Food Outlook issue, including the chapter on the impact of El Niño, is available on the FAO website at:


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