GLOBAL INFORMATION AND EARLY WARNING SYSTEM ON FOOD AND AGRICULTURE 
 

SPECIAL ALERT No. 281

(Circulated only for countries where foodcrops or supply conditions give rise to concern)

COUNTRY: Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 
(Serbia and Montenegro)

DATE : 17 March 1998



 
UPSURGE IN VIOLENCE THREATENS FOOD SECURITY IN KOSOVO PROVINCE

Recent violence in Kosovo Province has led to about 80 deaths and resulted in population displacement, mainly women and children. The worst affected area is the Srbica commune. Available reports indicate that, so far, some 10 000 people have moved to neighbouring communes of Mitrovice, Obiliq, Vushtrri and Lipjan, whilst a large number have fled to Montenegro to stay with families.

Apart from the direct human consequences of the offensive, there is also growing concern that the unrest, if it continues, could result in a reduction in food output, supplies and availability. Several farms have been destroyed, left abandoned or untended, whilst food distribution has been constrained due to difficulties in movement. Even in normal years, Kosovo is a food deficit area where output and productivity have been falling for several years due to conflict in the surrounding areas, difficult terrain, poor soils, which limit potential, and a significant decline in the use of essential farm inputs. In the 1990s, official records indicate that the aggregate wheat and maize production fell by more than 50 percent from some 700 000 tonnes in 1991 to 310 000 tonnes in 1996. Although precise data for 1997 are not yet available, it is unlikely that output could have improved much from the substantially reduced levels in the previous year. Moreover, livestock losses due to violence, are likely to exacerbate the problems of food supply and income generation in households that depend heavily on these, whilst families on many subsistence farms remain additionally vulnerable to hardship as a number of of men, on which these units depend greatly, have been killed or injured in the unrest.

Kosovo province has a population of around 2 million people, of which more than half is under the age of 15. A quarter of the population is considered to be economically active, of which about one-fourth is unemployed. Even under normal circumstances, therefore, there is considerable onus on people employed to maintain the livelihood of large numbers of dependants. There is also greater dependence on agriculture in the province, where the sector contributes an estimated 30 percent to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), compared to 22 percent for the republic as a whole. Any further disruption in agriculture, given the high underlying unemployment and dependency on agriculture, will aggravate the already difficult food supply situation in the province.

Should the violence continue, there are fears that it could spread into the neighbouring countries of Albania, Macedonia and Bulgaria. This could result in a significant increase in the numbers of people internally displaced and in outmigration thus putting further strain on the already vulnerable economies of these countries. There is urgent need for appropriate contingency planning.
 
 

This report is prepared on the responsibility of the FAO Secretariat with information from official and unofficial sources. Since conditions may change rapidly, please contact Mr. Abdur Rashid, Chief, ESCG, FAO, (Telex 610181 FAO I; Fax: 0039-6-5705-4495, E-Mail (INTERNET): GIEWS1@FAO.ORG) for further information if required.
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