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Press Release 99/63

$6.7 MILLION EMERGENCY PROJECT HELPS FARMERS RESTART AGRICULTURE IN KOSOVO


Rome, 4 November - A $6.7 million project for the distribution of seeds and fertilizers ahead of the fast approaching winter season in the Kosovo province of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has been completed, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a statement issued today.

"The distribution of seeds is the first step for farmers and their families in Kosovo to become self-sufficient again," said Daniele Donati, FAO Emergency Co-ordinator for the Balkans."This will finally start to reduce the dependence on external aid."

According to FAO, approximately 14,500 metric tonnes of winter wheat seeds and 9,000 mt of fertilizers were handed out to more than 70,000 farming families. The planted area in the 1999/2000 winter season is estimated at about 70,000 hectares of which 46% comes from relief inputs.

The harvest in June 2000 is estimated at 245,000 mt of wheat. Compared with the production of a normal year of 290,000 mt, the production next year is expected to be 15 percent below normal, FAO said.

"The main problems Kosovo farmers face is shelter and access to land. Many of their houses have been destroyed and some of their land has been mined, agricultural productivity has been sharply reduced. To strengthen agriculture is one of the best options for a quick recovery in rural areas in Kosovo. We expect the number of farmers in need to be reduced by half to 35,000 in a year's time," Donati said.

The distribution of seeds and fertilizers was channelled through seven international non-governmental organizations including Acted, Action Against Hunger, World Vision, Care, Mercy Crops International and the International Committee of Red Cross. Major donor countries were United States, Sweden, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Finland.

In the next few weeks, FAO will establish a laboratory for seed quality control in Pristina. In addition, the UN agency plans a vaccination campaign in order to reduce and limit further losses of livestock.

FAO will also soon start a programme on farm machinery to renovate and repair agricultural machinery in Kosovo. More than 50 percent of tractors in the country before the crisis have been stolen or destroyed during the conflict, according to FAO. FAO therefore has launched an emergency appeal for further agricultural assistance for $25 million.

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For further information please contact Daniele Donati, Tel: 0039-335-65 36 700, e-mail: Daniele.Donati@FAO.Org, or Erwin Northoff, 0039-06-5705 3105.

For video footage, please contact :
Gillian Hazell, Media Relations Officer
Tel: 0039-06-57055980, E-mail: Gillian.Hazell@fao.org


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