Iraq conflict could be devastating for rural economy
The US-led military attack on Iraq could be devastating for Iraq's rural economy with consequences on the country's capacity to produce food, warned the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
This information was released in the wake of the FAO’s recent launch of an $86 million appeal to help meet the emergency. Close to two-thirds 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.
FAO, responsible for the Oil-for-Food program's agricultural component, said Iraq's farmers will require seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, machinery, fuel, spare parts and other tools they need to plant, harvest and secure current and future crops. Animal feed, vaccines and medicines are needed for the farmers' livestock.
FAO's prime concern is the approaching harvest of the winter wheat and barley crop, expected to begin in late April and estimated at between 1.5 and 1.7 million tons of grain. As compelling is the need to ensure that planting for the irrigated spring crop of vegetable, maize and rice proceeds on schedule.
The vegetable crop, a source of much-needed cash as well as an essential supply of the vitamins, proteins and micronutrients missing from the food-aid baskets, should be underway now. FAO is appealing for more than $20 million for three emergency projects to secure the grain harvest and the spring and fall plantings.
There are six other projects in the $86 million appeal, all designed to protect harvest, increase food production, prevent outbreaks of animal diseases, ensure water supplies in rural areas and coordinate relief efforts.
Any disruption to the water supply, which provides both drinking water and irrigation, will damage crops and livestock production. Provision has also 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. — (menareport.com)
© 2003 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)