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July 16, 2008

Poor 2008 cereals harvest feared in East Africa

An expected poor 2008 cereal crop yield in several East African countries is set to exacerbate food insecurity for millions of people affected by high food prices, a UN agency warned July 15.

With harvesting underway or due soon to start, the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda and Kenya all faced low crop production for the 2008 main season.

While the important March-May rains improved towards the end of the period, cumulative totals remain below normal in large areas of Ethiopia, Somalia, parts of western Kenya and in the Karamoja region of Uganda, FAO said.

The situation is particularly dire in Somalia, where the main cereal crop, due for harvest from August, is largely anticipated to be a failure as a result of a late start and poor performance of the rains in most parts of the country.

Crops in many southern areas had already wilted and dried by the end of May and although light rains in early June led to a replenishment of water resources, they arrived too late to benefit the crop, FAO said.

The failure of the 2008 main crop, which follows two below-average seasons, has resulted in a 'critical food supply position,' FAO said.

'The humanitarian situation is rapidly deteriorating due to a combination of increasing food prices, a significant devaluation of the Somali shilling, disruption of internal markets and internal trade, and mounting civil insecurity,' the UN agency said.

FAO estimates that currently 2.6 million people are in need of assistance, or about one-third of Somalia's total population - an increase of more than 40 per cent since January 2008.

M & C

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