Drought in Georgia
Domestic cereal production, expected to reach only 326 000 tonnes, is down almost 60 percent from last year. The mission projects Georgia's total cereal requirement to be 1.07 million tonnes. With commercial imports estimated at 437 000 tonnes and only 88 000 tonnes of food aid pledged, Georgia faces an uncovered cereal deficit of 223 000 tonnes this year. At the household level, the drought has also hit vegetable gardens, an important source of food for many families. Potato production, a staple food crop, is also badly affected.
The decline in food production is reflected in higher market prices. "In some markets, tomato and onion prices have increased by 100 percent, and the price of cheese increased between 40 and 55 percent compared to the same time last year," states the report.
In Georgia, many farmers cultivate very small parcels of land and can grow limited amounts of food even at the best of times. They have little capital and little access to credit, and as a result they lack quality seeds, equipment, fertilizers and pesticides. The country's irrigation and drainage systems have fallen into disrepair, which has made coping with water shortages all the more difficult.
As with many countries of the former U.S.S.R., Georgia has suffered an economic decline that has reduced its capacity to deal with the drought. In addition, since its independence in 1991, the country has been racked by civil wars, which have left 260 000 people internally displaced.
WFP is appealing for about 66 000 tonnes of food aid for the 8-month period between November 2000 and June 2001. This will be directed to the nearly 700 000 people most severely affected by the drought. The mission also points out that if Georgia is to become less vulnerable to food shortages next year, "the provision of seeds to farmers is paramount". Currently, the country only has 4 000 tonnes of wheat seed, but farmers will require 30 000 tonnes for this year's growing season, starting in September/October.
21 September 2000