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Timor-Leste Faces 14,000-Ton Food Deficit

Timor-Leste Faces 14,000-Ton Food Deficit, UN Agencies Report

Timor-Leste faces a 14,000-ton food deficit - a result of dropping harvests and below normal rainfall - leaving some 150,000 people in possible need of aid, according to a joint report released today by two United Nations relief agencies.

The World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) undertook a mission in April and May to Timor-Leste to analyze the food supply and demand situation there in order to forecast import requirements for 2003-2004, paying particular attention to the needs of the most vulnerable groups.

The two agencies said further close monitoring of key food security indicators - agricultural, health and nutrition - will be necessary to ascertain if emergency food assistance is warranted.

According to the report, cereal import requirements are estimated at 62,000 tons, while commercial imports of rice are anticipated at 48,000 tons, leaving an uncovered national food deficit of 14,000 tons.

Cereal production in 2003, including cassava in cereal equivalent, is forecast at 123,000 tons, 21 per cent lower than last year. Meanwhile, production of maize, the most important crop in Timor-Leste, is estimated to decline by about 34 percent to 70,000 tons, down from 106,000 tons last year.

The report states that the delayed onset of rains, below normal rainfall and reduced maize area due to shortages of seeds are the main factors responsible for the decline. Part of the shortfall in maize production will be offset by a forecast 12 per cent increase in rice production, primarily due to an increase in the area under irrigation in 2003.

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