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.
For further information, please contact:
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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.