Press Release 00/53 Joint FAO/WFP
700,000 PEOPLE IN DROUGHT-STRICKEN GEORGIA NEED URGENT FOOD AID
Rome, 21 September 2000 -- Nearly 700,000 people in Georgia need emergency food assistance because of a devastating drought coupled with on-going economic problems, according to a crop and food supply assessment mission undertaken by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP).
The report says that this year cereal production in this southern Caucasus country is down 58 percent over 1999 because the drought plaguing all of Central Asia. Rainfall has been sparse, badly affecting rain-fed crops and sharply reducing the water availability for irrigation.
The drought has affected almost all aspects of agriculture, the main source of income and employment for more than 50 percent of Georgia's 4.7 million people. The country endured long years of civil war after the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.
"The drastic decline in agricultural production - of cereals, fruit, vegetables and livestock - this year will seriously affect household food security, because of reduced availability not only of foodstuffs but also of earnings from the sale of livestock products and other produce," says the report, based on a joint FAO/ WFP mission to the country from Aug. 7-18.
As a result, to meet basic food requirements the country will need to import almost 750,000 tonnes of cereals in 2000/01, much more than usual. The uncovered food aid requirement is estimated at 223,000 tonnes, including 112,000 tonnes of wheat, 88,000 tonnes of maize, as well as barley and rice.
The report notes that in some markets, the price of tomatoes and onions has shot up by more than 100 percent. "The drought is forcing more and more people to rely mainly on bread consumption," says the report. It notes that in the households most affected by the drought, the main meal is "empty soup" - a few vegetables boiled in water with what spices are available.
"Many rural households are faced with sharply reduced output of virtually all basic crops and livestock products and will be forced to cut back food consumption," the reports says, adding that rural Georgians have little money with which to buy food at commercial markets.
WFP is carrying out a long-term rehabilitation operation for some 450,000 Georgians, but is examining ways in which to expand its assistance to help the hundreds of thousands of people most affected by the drought.
FAO is appealing to the international donor community to provide funds to assist drought affected farmers with the seeds they need to ensure production and avoid food aid beyond next year's harvest.
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