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GIEWS Update-detail
FAO/GIEWS Global Watch

8 May 2008

Myanmar Update



On 2 and 3 May, Cyclone Nargis ploughed through Myanmar's Irrawaddy delta, killing over 22 500 people and leaving 41 000 missing. 5 000 sq km in the delta are currently underwater and power and communications lines have been destroyed. There has been major damage to buildings and roads (for up-to-date detailed satellite imagery, see http://unosat.web.cern.ch/unosat/asp/prod_free.asp?id=66 ). Up to one million persons are without shelter with a further several hundred thousands without clean water. It is feared that if conditions do not improve, the death toll may exceed 100 000. The total population within the declared disaster areas is about 24 million.

The five states hit hardest by the cyclone produce 65 percent of the country's rice output, and are home to 80 percent of its aquaculture, 50 percent of its poultry and 40 percent of its pig production. Based on preliminary assessments, all crops have sustained extensive damage, particularly rice, the food staple, as well as oil palm and rubber plantation.

It is too early to assess the exact extent of crop losses, but it is clear that destruction of the delta will sharply decrease rice production, availability, and impair access to food nationwide. The cyclone struck when paddy farmers were harvesting their ¡°dry season¡¯¡¯ crop, which accounts for 25 percent of annual production. Entire rice-growing regions are under water and many of the roads and bridges needed to transport whatever crop may be salvaged are impassable due to flood or debris. Several rice warehouses and their stocks were destroyed and stored rice seeds kept by farmers have also been affected. Rice prices in Rangoon have already surged by nearly 50 percent.

The cyclone will impair the Government's ability to export rice in 2008. The Government of Myanmar had authorized 600 000 tonnes of milled rice for export in 2008, a substantial increase from 40 000 tonnes in 2007, but this figure is unlikely to be met. In the short term, Myanmar may need to turn to neighbouring countries, such as Thailand and Viet Nam for rice supplies. This would lead to further tightening of world rice market conditions.

The disaster may also have some repercussions on the upcoming 2008 paddy seasons, since the planting of the main crop is due to start in June Survivors may indeed not be prepared to start planting rice after homes and infrastructure have been destroyed. Furthermore, the tidal surge may have made some areas unfit for paddy cultivation and damaged the colonial-era irrigation systems.

A UN Flash Appeal has been launched today; a specific FAO Operations Update is due in the next few days.