IRAQ* (1 June)

Prospects for the 1998 cereal harvest in May/June remain uncertain. The rainfall has been below average and unevenly distributed, and has substantially affected sowing operations. This season’s production is likely to be constrained, as last year, by serious shortages of essential agricultural inputs and the widespread incidence of pests, weeds and animal diseases.

Despite some improvement in the overall food supply situation following the implementation of the “Oil for food” deal, malnutrition still remains a serious problem throughout Iraq. Although food rations under the deal provide a significant proportion of overall energy and protein needs, the provisions are low or deficient in a number of other nutrients, particularly Vitamins.

In view of these shortfalls, the UN Secretary- General has approved the distribution plan for the fourth phase of the oil-for-food deal, allowing Iraq to sell up to US$5.2 billion worth of crude oil over a six month period, to buy food, medicine and health supplies, and for emergency infrastructure repairs.