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27 other countries will need external food assistance, FAO report says


United Nations   -No fewer than 27 countries will require external food assistance this year , the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says

A new report by FAO on the Crop Prospects and Food Situation around the globe released on Thursday, said the countries were facing food shortages mainly as a result of natural phenomena such as drought.

Other reasons given by the report include conflicts, which led to the internal displacement of millions of people and climate change.

It said that drought linked to El Niño and civil conflicts have pushed the number of countries currently in need of external food assistance up to 37 from 34 in March.

In Haiti, it said, output of cereals and starchy roots in 2015 dropped to its lowest level in 12 years, largely due to El Niño, which has also exacerbated the worst drought in decades in Central America’s dry corridor.

It added that about 3.6 million people, more than one third of the country’s population, were facing food shortages, almost half of them severely, while at least 200,000 were in an extreme food emergency situation, FAO said.

In Southern Africa, the report said, El Niño impacts have significantly worsened food security.

It said cereal harvest, currently under way, was expected to drop by 26 per cent from the already reduced level of the previous year, triggering a substantial rise in maize prices and import requirements in the coming marketing year.

The report also showed that prolonged drought in Papua New Guinea this past year has been followed by heavy rains and localized flooding in early 2016, affecting about 2.7 million people.

Cereal output in the country’s Highland region is expected to suffer a severe shortfall, while the harvest in neighbouring Timor-Leste is expected to decrease for the second year in a row, according to the report.

Although El Niño is now over, it said that the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) forecast a 65 per cent chance that it would be followed by a `La Niña’ episode.

This, it added, would trigger the opposite precipitation patterns, potentially a boon for parched land but also posing a risk of flooding.

The report also found that civil conflicts and their displacement of populations have worsened the food security situation in 12 of the 28 countries on the watch list.

About 13.5 million people in Syria are in need of humanitarian assistance, with the number increasing.

In Yemen, where more than 14.4 million people are estimated to be food insecure, there is a high risk that desert locust swarms will increase in hard-to-reach interior regions from early June onward, according to the report.

FAO raised its forecast for global cereal production in 2016 to 2,539 million tonnes, up 17.3 million tonnes from its previous May projection and up 0.6 per cent from last year’s harvest.

Aggregate cereal production in Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries is also forecast to increase to 420 million tonnes in 2016, led by a recovery in rice and wheat production in India after last year’s reduction due to El Niño-related drought.

It said that it would be a 2.5 per cent increase from last year’s sharply reduced level.

The report said in spite of the improved world production prospects in 2016 output would still fall slightly short of the projected demand in 2016/17, meaning global stocks would need to be drawn down from their near-record level. (NAN)

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