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 $66 million.
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 pipeline.
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
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 months.
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
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, he said.
US assistance personnel are coordinating closely with United Nations
relief agencies and international NGOs, Natsios stressed.
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.