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Press Release 99/70 C/5

FAO REPORT SUGGESTS FOOD EMERGENCIES INCREASINGLY CAUSED BY MAN-MADE DISASTERS


Rome, November 15, 1999 -- While increasing numbers of people face food emergencies, the causes are changing, suggest two UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports released today. "For the first time, human induced disasters such as civil strife and economic crises have more effect on food shortages than nature-induced crises," said Dr. Hartwig de Haen, Assistant Director General of FAO.

"In 1984, man-made disasters contributed to only about ten percent of total emergencies. Now, it is more than 50 percent." said Dr. de Haen presenting Food Outlook and FAO's annual The State of Food and Agriculture 1999 (SOFA) to FAO's 179 Member Nation-governing Conference meeting in Rome.

Dr. Jacques Diouf, who was elected to a second six-year term as FAO Director-General on Saturday, said that in spite of another above-average cereal output in 1999, of 1.866 billion tons, production is still below the amount needed for consumption. So, for the first time in four years, it will be necessary to use about nine million tons of food stocks, some of which is set aside for food emergencies.

Some 52 million people are facing food shortages of varying intensity in 35 countries, according to the special edition of FAO commodities report, Food Outlook. That is the largest number of people to face serious food shortages since a drought hit sub-Saharan Africa in 1984.

The improvement in early warning technology and rapid information dissemination has made the world better prepared to deal with food emergencies. However, food aid shipments have been consistently below the World Food Conference annual minimum target since the 1994/1995 season.

According to the Food Outlook, the tight food aid situation reflects lower donor country budgets and possibly donor fatigue, particularly for protracted food emergencies. This underscores the need for poor countries, particularly those emerging from food emergencies, to concentrate on agricultural rehabilitation through additional allocation of resources to agriculture. Yet, these countries are often constrained by international debt burden and without external economic assistance to agricultural programmes , they will continue to be afflicted by food emergencies.

Other forecasts in Food Outlook for the end of 1999 and early 2000 include an increase in world cereal trade, a rise in world cassava production and consumption, a moderate increase in international prices for dairy products and weak prices for sugar reflecting abundant supplies.

FAO's SOFA 1999, the Organization's annual report of the state of food and agriculture, looking back over 1999, says that even with improved prospects for global economic growth, the financial crisis, which began in Asia in 1997, continues to have implications for the world's commodity markets, despite signs of stabilization and recovery in several affected countries. The crisis, which triggered sudden reductions in capital inflow, and tightening of monetary and fiscal policies resulted in economic contraction and increased unemployment.

The reduced purchasing power of consumers has not only affected food security, the reduced demand has put increased pressure on commodity prices, which were already in a downward cycle. Overall, the more advanced industrial countries displayed a smaller economic slow-down than the developing countries. Both groups are expected to show recovery in 1999, according to SOFA 1999.

Most Conference documents are available on the FAO Web site at: http://www.fao.org/unfao/bodies/conf/C99/C99-e.htm

For further FAO election information Contact:

John Riddle, FAO/Rome
Tel. (39) 06 5705-3259
e-mail: john.riddle@fao.org

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