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Global Food Crisis: Seeds Distributed, Mauritania

UN distributes seeds in Mauritania as part of initiative on global food crisis

13 June 2008 - Trucks loaded with more than 500 tons of seed left the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott today for six regional capitals, marking the beginning of emergency measures under an initiative by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) introduced to deal with the global food crisis.

About 20 trucks full of sorghum, millet, maize and cowpea seeds, are on their way to the country's south and south east through the FAO's Initiative on Soaring Food Prices.

Distribution in other regions will be managed by the Mauritanian Government. Most of the crops need to be planted immediately to coincide with the rainy season, which normally arrives in June.

"Due to dry spells and then floods last year, what farmers would have produced was largely wiped out in the flood-affected areas," Luca Fornasari, the FAO emergency coordinator in Mauritania, said. "In addition, imported food is skyrocketing and farmers had to sell their seed stocks to be able to buy food, or had to use them as food. Seed delivery will help farmers get back on their feet now," he added.

In December, the price of millet was 50 per cent higher than a year before, sorghum had doubled, and maize was up 60 per cent. Prices have continued to increase steadily since then. Imported wheat and rice have seen even sharper increases, pricing out large swathes of the country's poorest people.

The FAO says Mauritanians are reportedly coping by eating less or eating one meal per day. Others are selling their livestock. Already high levels of malnutrition are on the rise.

Currently Mauritania does not produce enough food to meet 30 per cent of its food needs, even in a best-case scenario, although the Government aims to double agricultural output to cover 60 per cent of its food needs with the next harvests. Agriculture is still the source of income for over 70 per cent of the country's poorest people.

The FAO Initiative is also active in Senegal, Burkina Faso and Haiti this season, and activities will soon begin in Timor-Leste and Mozambique. FAO is currently providing the funding for the Initiative, drawing US$17 million from its own resources to kick-start activities in the countries most affected by the crisis while planting is still possible.

More than 70 countries are seeking FAO assistance in the upcoming planting seasons in October and November as well as for next spring.

FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf has said that $US1.7 billion will be needed to fully support the Initiative.


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