Better harvest but Iraqis still in need of aid

by Suzi Fraser Dominy
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ROME, ITALY — Despite a better cereal harvest and the lifting of economic sanctions, nearly half of the 26.3 million Iraqi population is estimated to be poor and in need of food assistance.

A new report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Program, says the effects of war, economic sanctions and years of severe drought from 1999 to 2001, have seriously eroded the livelihood base of Iraqis.

Chronic malnutrition persists among several million vulnerable people. The situation of mothers and children in central and southern Iraq is of particular concern. To the greatest extent possible, any additional food aid needs should be procured locally to support farmers’ incomes and local prices, FAO/WFP said.

This year’s cereal production in Iraq is forecast at 4.12 million tonnes, 22% higher than estimated in 2002. Production increased mainly due to favorable rains in the North, increased irrigation and timely distribution of agricultural inputs in the main producing areas.

Cereal imports for 2003-04 (June/July) are estimated at 3.44 million tonnes, of which 3.2 million tonnes are likely to be purchased commercially and 244,000 tonnes are food-aid pledges.

Recent military and political incidents have had a limited impact on winter cereal crops, the report said, but have affected sowing of summer cereal and industrial crops.

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