FAO Report: Food insecurity worsens mainly in African, Middle East countries

December 12, 2014 9:32 am 

ROME, Dec. 12 — Food insecurity is worsening due to civil conflicts, adverse weather and the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in some 38 countries, including 29 in Africa, FAO said on Thursday.

According to FAO's latest crop prospects and food situation report, EVD triggered one of the biggest shocks to West Africa's agriculture and food sectors, as it started to spread when crops were being planted and expanded throughout the farming cycle, especially in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The Rome-based UN food agency warned that local rice prices and those for cassava, the region's second most staple food, showed notable increases in Freetown and other cities in September.

Adverse weather in the Sahel region is also expected to result in a sharply reduced harvest by as much as 38 percent below average in Senegal.

Conflict seriously impacts on food insecurity, the FAO report noted. The situation in Syria is particularly urgent, as a weak harvest is exacerbating strains due to worsening civil conflict. An estimated 6.8 million people — some of whom are refugees in neighboring countries — are facing severe food insecurity. A notable production decline for the 2014 crop was reported due to abandoned land, scarce labor, damaged power stations and canals as well as drought conditions.

At the same time, the situation in Iraq is also acutely serious, where the number of people displaced due to civil conflict has tripled since last year to 2.8 million.

FAO noted that one third of the population is in need of urgent food assistance in the Central African Republic (CAR), where this year's food crop production is estimated to be 58 percent below average despite improving on 2013.

There has been an increase in violence since early October in CAR, where one in four households has resorted to negative coping strategies including selling productive assets and slaughtering livestock.

Prices of agricultural commodities shot up as much as 70 percent this year in CAR. According to FAO, the decline in cereal output was partially mitigated by a large 45 percent jump in the production of cassava, which though less nutritious is less reliant on labor and other inputs.

Refugee movements — especially from Sudan's Darfur region, northern Nigeria, the CAR and Mali — have put pressure on local food supplies, notably in Chad, where more than 550,000 people need food and livelihood assistance, according to the report.

While the recent harvest and delivery of humanitarian aid has offered relief, more than 6 million people in South Sudan, Sudan and Somalia are deemed to be in need of food and livelihood assistance, the report said.

Prices in those countries remain at high levels, with sorghum prices running as much as four times higher in some of the most conflict-affected areas, further deteriorating vulnerable people's access to food.

However, maize supplies remain stable in Southern and Eastern Africa, FAO said. Elsewhere in Africa, conditions were better, especially in Southern Africa, where stable maize prices declined due to ample supplies from this year's bumper output boosted food security.

More stable maize supplies also led to a 78 percent drop in the number of food-insecure persons in Zimbabwe. Recent harvests and favorable prospects for the second season crops helped push maize prices down in some countries of East Africa.

2014 cereal crop production was slightly below average in North Africa, where Morocco suffered sharp reductions due to erratic rains while the output in Tunisia recovered after a poor 2013 harvest, FAO said. (PNA/Xinhua)

FPV/EBP

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