ROME, Italy, April 3, 2003 - ENS: The war in Iraq could be
devastating for the country's rural economy with consequences
on farmers' capacity to produce food, the United Nations
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned today.
The winter grain harvest, set to begin in a few weeks,
and the spring planting could both be affected.
The UN agency has launched a $86 million appeal to
help meet the crisis. The FAO is appealing for more
than $20 million for three emergency projects to secure
the grain harvest and the spring and fall plantings.
Six other emergency projects to protect the harvest,
increase food production, prevent outbreaks of animal
diseases, ensure water supplies in rural areas, and
coordinate relief efforts will require the remaining
Laurent Thomas, chief of FAO's Special Emergency Programmes
Service, says the agency's primary concern is the approaching
harvest of the winter wheat and barley crop, expected
to begin in late April. It is estimated at between 1.5
and 1.7 million metric tons of grain.
"Loss of the winter harvest, especially in Iraq's
northern bread basket provinces, which account for more
than half of the country's entire cereal production,
would further aggravate what is already a difficult
situation," Thomas said. "All efforts have
to be made to save this harvest throughout the country
where access will be feasible, by making sure farmers
are in position with their combine harvesters working,
and fuel, spare parts and storage in place."
Planting for the irrigated spring crops of vegetable,
maize [corn] and rice should be underway now. It must
proceed on schedule so that Iraqis can receive an essential
supply of the vitamins, proteins and micronutrients
that are missing from food aid baskets which generally
contain flour, oil, sugar, and beans, but not vegetables.
Some 60% of Iraq's 24.5 million people rely entirely
for their daily sustenance on food baskets provided
under the UN's Oil for Food Program, suspended since
the war began.
The Oil for Food Program was restarted with a resolution
adopted unanimously by the UN Security Council on March
28 that gives Secretary-General Kofi Annan temporary
authority to facilitate the delivery and receipt of
goods contracted by the government of Iraq for the humanitarian
needs of its people.
The resolution is aimed at prioritizing and speeding
the delivery of humanitarian goods and supplies already
in the Oil for Food pipeline for Iraqis inside and outside
the country, over the next 45 days.
Almost $27 billion worth of humanitarian supplies and
equipment have been delivered to Iraq under the Oil
for Food Program. An additional $10.1 billion worth
of supplies are currently in the production and delivery
The FAO, which is responsible for the agricultural
component of the UN brokered oil for food exchange,
said Iraq's farmers will need seeds, fertilizers, pesticides,
machinery, fuel, spare parts and other tools to plant,
harvest and secure current and future crops.
Animal feed, vaccines and medicines are needed for
the farmers' livestock. The lack of veterinary services,
vaccines, drugs and quarantine controls could result
in the spread of animal diseases with serious economic
impact in Iraq and possibly with impact on the whole
region, the FAO says.
Veterinary checks on the border of neighboring countries
and vaccination campaigns will be required to prevent
outbreaks of animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth
disease among the country's 1.5 million head of cattle
and 18 million sheep and goats.
"These animals are the wealth of a large part
of Iraq's rural population," said Thomas. "So
if people move, they are going to take their animals
with them, increasing the risk of animal diseases spreading
within the country and possibly across borders."
Any disruption to the water supply, which provides
both drinking water and irrigation, will damage crops
and livestock production.
Provision has been made in the FAO appeal for pipes,
pumps, drills and technical expertise required to set
up emergency water supplies and repair damaged irrigation
networks, if needed.
A $9.8 million project is designed to support the country's
4,000 poultry farms, another essential source of the
animal proteins missing from the food basket.
Prior to the outbreak of the current conflict, Iraq
was producing up to 155,000 metric tons of poultry meat
and two billion eggs annually.
The war may displace people and cause loss of assets,
damage to infrastructure, breakdown of communication
networks and trade, as well as disruption of food production
activities, the FAO warned.
Today UN Deputy Secretary-General, Louise Frchette
and UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Ramiro da
Silva, told the Security Council that the United Nations
flash appeal launched on March 28, with a total requirement
of $2.2 billion, already has pledges for $1.2 billion.
The flash appeal is for funds to cover the next six
Members of the Security Council expressed concern regarding
access of relief assistance to the Iraqi population.
Frchette said that there are still 3,000 United Nations
staff members on the ground and that deliveries are
being carried out on a "pragmatic basis."
The US Agency for International Development (USAID)
announced Wednesday that it is donating an additional
$200 million to the United Nations World Food Program
(WFP) to purchase regional food aid for Iraq.
The cash contribution for 324,000 tons of regional
food purchases will allow the aid to be positioned for
distribution approximately two months sooner than if
it were purchased in and shipped from the United States,
USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios told reporters in
The food will be enough to feed 23 million people for
one month, the time it is expected the United Nations
will need to get the Oil for Food Program operational
again in Iraq, Natsios said.
The new contribution is in addition to 200,000 tons
of wheat that are being released from the Emerson Fund
of donated food, including 28,000 tons that is scheduled
to leave from Galveston, Texas today.
Natsios also announced $20 million in grants to nongovernmental
organizations for humanitarian efforts in Iraq.
The United States is seeing "pockets of humanitarian
need" but not "a massive humanitarian crisis"
in Iraq, Natsios said. Nearly all US Disaster Assistance
Response Team members are in place in the region - in
Jordan, Cyprus, Qatar and Kuwait City - ready to enter
Iraq to do needs assessments and planning as soon as
it is safe to do so, he said. Some members were in the
British controlled port city of Umm Qasr on April 1,
US assistance personnel are coordinating closely with
United Nations relief agencies and international NGOs,
Food for Peace has made available 610,000 metric tons
of commodities valued at $300 million to ensure the
that nutritional needs of the Iraqi people are satisfied.
The US Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
has contributed $36.6 million to the UN High Commissioner
for Refugees, the International Committee of the Red
Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and
Red Crescent Societies, and the International Organization
for Migration for pre-positioning emergency relief supplies
and staff and early humanitarian response.(Copyright
Environment News Service (ENS) 2003. All Rights Reserved.
Editor's Note: On April 28, the FAO
announced that based on preliminary reports it had determined
at least one-third of Iraq's spring grain crop has emerged
from the US-Iraq conflict unscathed. No conclusion has
yet been reached on the remaining 1.2 million tons of
wheat and barley. Reports were based on information
received from national staff in Iraq.