ROME, ITALY — The impact of the current crisis in Libya on food security is a cause for serious concern both in Libya and surrounding countries due to the region’s dependency on cereal imports, possible disruptions to the flow of goods and services and population displacements, the United Nation’s (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on March 11.

“The ongoing crisis will likely have a significant impact on food security in Libya and in nearby crisis-affected areas. In Libya, the situation may lead to a sudden disruption of imports and the collapse of the internal distribution system. Depletion of food stocks and loss of rural manpower are all factors that in the longer-term could seriously affect food security,” said Daniele Donati, chief of FAO's Emergency Operations Service.

Disruption to markets from which farmers secure seeds and fertilizers also threatens agricultural production, food security and income-generation in the short and medium term. In Libya, domestic arable production is concentrated primarily near Benghazi and near Tripoli.

As part of the UN Flash Appeal for the Libyan Crisis issued on March 7, FAO is planning to supply vegetable seeds in peri-urban and coastal areas with vegetable seeds in order to boost the consumption of fresh food and micronutrient intake.

FAO has applied for funds to establish an immediate capacity for effective, up-to-date information gathering, analysis and dissemination on food security needs and gaps to guide food security response options.

Furthermore FAO has also asked for support to ensure effective animal disease surveillance and safeguard livestock assets and productivity.

The food security component of the appeal is worth $47.92 million, of which FAO funding requirements amount to $2.65 million.

In neighboring Egypt, the sharp rise in international wheat prices will add substantially to the cost of wheat imports in 2010-11 and to the government’s bread subsidy program which helps cushion the consumer from the effects of rising prices.

Up-to-date information and baseline data on food security from Libya remains patchy and unconfirmed and a close monitoring of the overall food security situation and trade conditions is required.

Food stocks and rising food costs need to be closely monitored. Given the heavy reliance on imports, further price hikes in the international market would have a devastating impact on the ability of vulnerable people to cover their basic needs.

Inflation rate rose 10.4% in Libya during the 2008 food price crisis. FAO is currently monitoring the Libya situation from its regional offices in Cairo and Tunis.