Forty countries face food shortages, with Darfur the most pressing crisis: UN agency

Farmers tend to herd in eastern Africa

9 October 2006 – Forty countries worldwide are facing food emergencies and require external assistance because of floods, drought and conflict, but the crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan remains the most pressing humanitarian problem, the United Nations food agency said in a report released today, warning that things may get worse in the strife-torn region.

In Darfur, “the already precarious food supply situation may worsen if deteriorating security disrupts the main harvest due to start in the coming few weeks,” according to the Food and Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Crop Prospects and Food Situation report.

“The FAO’s latest assessment shows that 40 countries are facing food emergencies and require external assistance… FAO’s forecast for world cereal production in 2006 now stands at about 2,013 million tonnes, almost 8 million tonnes down since the previous report and 1.6 percent less than the 2005 output.”

Low supplies call for closer monitoring of the world food situation, the FAO says, adding that despite good crops in many of the low-income food-deficit countries, this year’s anticipated sharp fall in global stocks may lead to a more precarious situation next season should weather problems prevent an increase in world cereal production in 2007.

The early outlook for the northern hemisphere’s main winter cereal crops for harvest in 2007 is generally favourable so far. Planting is reported to be proceeding well in Europe, and in the United States, where a large expansion in wheat area is expected.

While the situation in Darfur remains the most critical, the FAO also said that floods, erratic rains and conflict-related displacement have harmed the food situation in other regions of Africa, citing problems in 15 countries throughout the continent, including Somalia where a “food crisis” is affecting almost two million people.

Turning to Asia, the report highlights that reduced food aid and crop damage due to floods in July has “increased the severity of food insecurity” in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), while also noting problems in Timor-Leste, India, Pakistan and China.

Conflict also continues to displace hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq, while similar problems have “further exacerbated food insecurity” in Afghanistan, the FAO said. It also cited high temperatures for affecting food production in Armenia, and added that aid is still being distributed in El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Nicaragua and Honduras.

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