MADAGASCAR (22 September)
In spite of three major cyclones, which caused considerable crop and property damage, the latest official estimate of 2004 national rice (paddy) production is put at 3 million tonnes, some 8 percent higher than the harvest year before. Rice accounts for over 90 percent of the country's cereal production. Maize production is expected at average level of 170 000 tonnes representing an increase of about 10 percent on last year’s drought reduced harvest. The impact of cyclones, rising cost of oil imports, and depressed prices of its main exports such as vanilla and shrimp have caused serious problems for the vulnerable groups. Rapid rise in price of rice, primarily due to high world prices and devaluation of local currency, has worsened the food security situation. Reportedly more than 75 percent of Madagascar's 16 million people live below the poverty line of US$1 a day. According to WFP 4 000 tonnes of food is required to feed 100 000 people in the southern part of the island. In June the European Union committed 70 million euros to its biggest ever African project to rehabilitate the main north-south road.