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Tajikistan faces serious food deficit

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Tajikistan is facing serious food shortages for the second straight year, leaving one million vulnerable people in remote areas in need of food assistance, according to a recent report issued by FAO and the World Food Programme (WFP) after a joint FAO/WFP mission to the country.

The food deficit is the result of unfavourable climatic conditions that have exacerbated structural problems in the country's already fragile agricultural sector, still recovering from the civil strife and political instability of the mid-1990s. In addition, the mission's report says that a "shortage of financial and technical resources has also resulted in a near collapse of the country's irrigation systems, agro-processing industries, agricultural input production and supply units, as well as the severe deterioration of farm machinery and equipment."

Declining production, collapsing infrastructure
According to the report, cereal output in 2001 is forecast at 303 000 tonnes, down by 15 percent compared to the previous year and by 36 percent compared to the average of the past five years. Cereal imports totalling 784 000 tonnes will be required for the marketing year 2001/02. An estimated commercial cereal import of 400 000 tonnes and a food aid pledge of 43 000 tonnes leave an uncovered gap of 341 000 tonnes.

The report calls for targeted food assistance between October 2001 and June 2002, including 90 500 tonnes of emergency food aid, for about one million vulnerable people. Those living in remote border areas and mountainous regions have been hardest hit by the drought and are facing severe food shortages. Some households in rainfed areas are experiencing an almost total loss of their cereal crops as well as garden production. Lack of other employment opportunities in their vicinity has substantially reduced their purchasing power, and the terrain and lack of transportation in many of these areas make it impossible for individuals to pursue employment opportunities outside their immediate surroundings.

Urgent assistance is also needed to rehabilitate the country's collapsing irrigation infrastructure, repair farm equipment, procure quality cereal seeds and establish an adequate rural finance system. "Without such measures," the report says, "it is likely that agricultural production will continue to decline regardless of the climatic conditions."

14 August 2001

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