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FAO Press Release 02/18

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FAO Appeal for drought-affected farmers in Western Georgia

Rome 21 February -The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is today appealing for US$1 537 066 towards assistance to 77 720 drought-affected farming households in western regions of Georgia.

Two years of drought have resulted in an emergency situation. With a maize yield of only 17 percent of normal in 2001, a large proportion of the 160 000 households in western regions of Georgia will not have enough good seed and other necessary agricultural inputs to plant their main subsistence crop, maize, in time for the spring 2002 season, FAO said.

"Without external assistance this year, fields will go unplanted or will be planted late, with poor quality seed and no fertilizer," said the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in an appeal issued today. "The prospect is for a downward spiral into extended food aid dependence from which recovery will be slow, uncertain and costly in terms of human welfare," FAO said. Already - despite food aid delivered by the World Food Programme - the average caloric intake in the area has fallen by 20 percent in the past 18 months. The proportion of individuals consuming less than 2 100 calories per day has doubled, from 24 percent to 47 percent.

FAO will distribute quality maize seed and fertilizer to resident households in the areas of Samegrelo, Guria and Racha-Lechkhumi, as well as to Internally Displaced Persons in quantities sufficient for each of the 77 720 families to plant half a hectare of land for the 2002 spring planting season. Maize is the principal food grain produced in western regions of Georgia, representing some 85 percent of the annual cropland. It is also the main staple food consumed by Georgian people.

In addition - thanks to contributions from the Governments of Italy, Turkey and the United States, as well as with funding from its own resources - FAO is initiating an emergency maize seed and fertilizer distribution programme in the area of Imereti, targeting a further 43 500 vulnerable farm families.

For more information please contact the FAO Media Relations office at +39 06 5705 3625.

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