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Press Release 99/34 Joint FAO / WFP

UN FOOD AGENCIES SAY JORDAN HIT BY WORST DROUGHT IN DECADES
FOOD PRODUCTION SHARPLY DOWN, KINGDOM WILL NEED EMERGENCY FOOD AID AND ASSISTANCE FOR AGRICULTURE SECTOR


Rome, 3 June-The Kingdom of Jordan has been hit by the "worst drought in decades" affecting hundreds of thousands of people, according to a joint report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

Calling the drought "unprecedented," the report says that cereal and other food crops have been decimated and sheep farmers are facing financial ruin.

Food security for about one-quarter of the country's population of 4.75 million is now threatened. Some 180,000 drought-affected people are said to be "of particular concern." They are mostly small scale herders and landless members of rural households who will need an estimated 14,400 tons of wheat and 1,300 tons of pulses in emergency food assistance over the next eight months.

The report forecasts a domestic cereal harvest of just 13,000 tons, enough to cover less than one percent of domestic need, instead of usual 10 percent. It says, rainfed fruit production is severely reduced and rainfed vegetable production is virtually nil this year. The irrigated farming sector is suffering a serious reversal of the growth it experienced over the past six years. The total production of vegetables in this sector is down 23 percent on last year," according to the report.

The livestock sector has also been hit hard, with domestic production of red meat and milk 40 percent below usual levels. According to the report, "Sheep and goat farmers are making losses and will have to depend almost entirely on imported barley and straw for the coming year. An outbreak of foot and mouth disease has exacerbated drought-induced production losses and further outbreaks of diseases are anticipated."

The report estimates Jordan's cereal import requirement for the marketing year 1999/2000 (July through June) at "1.936 million tons, comprising 742,000 tons of wheat, 725,000 tons of barley, 370,000 tons of maize and 99,000 tons of rice." Because of the serious economic difficulties facing the country, only 80 percent of that need is expected to be met commercially, leaving a deficit of 387,000 tons which will need to be covered by emergency food aid, of which 100,000 tons have already been pledged.

Reviving Jordan's production capacity for next year will require emergency support for the agriculture sector, says the report. Its recommendations include establishing and distributing "appropriate seed stock for rainfed cereal production," providing "seed, agrochemicals for pest control, fertilizers and recovery packages in the vegetable and fruit sector." The report also suggests providing barley to meet extra feed requirements and mineral-vitamin blocks to balance livestock rations." It also warns that vaccines will be needed to cover possible outbreaks of stress-induced diseases along with training for vaccinators. Finally, the report calls for increased credit facilities to help farmers pay for the farm inputs and support services they will need to recover from the drought.

According to the report, the drought could not have come at worse time for Jordan, where unemployment is unofficially estimated at 25 percent. The UN trade embargo on Iraq and the weakening of the all-important Saudi Arabian-Gulf States markets for goods and services have reduced exports and dampened investment in the production sectors. "A fall in foreign currency revenues and debt repayment of $850 million per annum means that the country's capacity to increase imports is seriously constrained," the report concluded.

The drought affecting Jordan has also struck several other countries in the Near East, including Syria, Iraq and Iran.

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For further information, please contact:

Francis Mwanza
WFP/Rome  
John Riddle
FAO/Rome    
tel: 39 06 6513-2623 tel: 39 06 5705 3259

The full report is available on FAO's web site at: http://www.fao.org On the left side of the home page click on Economic, then GIEWS and then click on reports.


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