Press Release 97/74
FAO MISSION REPORT SAYS MOST FORMER USSR COUNTRIES SHOW GRADUALLY IMPROVING FOOD SUPPLY SITUATION; BUT AFFORDABILITY REMAINS A PROBLEM
Rome, December 15 -- The "sharp contraction in food supplies" in most the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) "is bottoming out," according to a mission report released today by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The CIS is made up of most of the countries that were once part of the former USSR.
The report says: "Many countries are now experiencing growth in GDP, albeit from levels less than half that prior to the transition to a market economy. Food aid needs and the number of vulnerable persons needing targeted food assistance have fallen sharply."
However, the report added, "the situation in Tajikistan
remains precarious, the humanitarian and reconstruction
needs in the North Caucasus are daunting and there are
residual humanitarian needs in all countries."
Seven CIS countries, with a combined population of 53 million people, are now classified as low-income food-deficit countries with an annual per capita GNP of less than $1,465. The report says that is just $28 per week and indicates a disposable income of significantly less money.
Food consumption patterns are reported stabilizing following sharp changes between 1990 and 1994, when lower incomes and the removal of subsidies in most countries resulted in dramatic price increases, forcing many consumers to buy less and cheaper food items. The sharp cut back in the consumption of livestock products during the first half of the nineties has slowed as incomes stabilize. "In the Russian Federation, even the registered retail sales of income elastic items such as meat, sausage, butter, cheese and eggs increased in 1996," according to the report.
Throughout the CIS, the report points to "affordability
rather than physical supply of food" as the main problem.
"Market prices for food are very high relative to salaries,
reflecting structural inefficiencies in the production,
processing , marketing, transport, banking and legal systems
which will take years to address. Within countries, market
reforms and the growth of the private sector has seen income
disparities grow considerably. A small but growing
proportion of the population can afford a highly
The report says that although overall food supplies in the CIS remained adequate to meet effective demand, there are large variations between countries and within countries. It said in Tajikistan, for example, over 16 percent of the population need relief assistance to survive.
The full Special Report by FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System is available through the FAO Internet Homepage: http://www.fao.org/ then click on WAICENT, ECONOMICS and GIEWS.