Govt Prepares for Likely Food Crisis

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By Desie Heita

WIndhoek

The World Food Programme will conduct an extensive food security assessment countrywide as the Emergency Management Unit considers a food crisis for Namibia “very much likely” because of recent floods and global food shortages.

The assessment is to be conducted in conjunction with the Emergency Management Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister.

Gabriel Kangowa, the Director for the Emergency Management Unit, said the assessment would focus on households.

“We will be getting down to the people themselves, finding out their food needs and how they are coping,” said Kangowa.

A special United Nations meeting in Geneva last week warned of worldwide food shortages especially in least developed and developing nations.

The chief of the World Food Programme, Josette Sheeran, summed up the crisis as “a silent tsunami which knows no borders sweeping the world”.

Food prices have risen sharply in recent months, driven by increased demand and poor weather in some countries that has ruined crops and reduced production areas, as more agricultural land and crops are used for bio-fuel production instead.

Kangowa said the recent floods in the country have made food crisis for Namibia very much likely.

“We received good rains but which robbed the country of an otherwise precious harvest. Crop fields were totally submerged. This would much likely result in a kind of food insecurity,” said Kangowa.

Worldwide the prices of staple crops such as wheat, rice and corn have all risen, leading to an increase in overall food prices of 83 percent in the last three years, the World Bank said.

The international market price for rice rose from US$400 (about N$2,600 at current exchange rate) per ton two weeks ago to the current US$1,000 (about N$6,500) per ton.

Protests over high food prices, especially wheat and rice, have been reported in Egypt and this week in Kenya.

The Food Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) are requesting more money from donors for them to be able to feed more than 100 million people facing the immediate danger of hunger.

The WFP needs US$755 million, and the cost is expected to increase by next year, while the FAO needs US$1.7 billion to be able to provide low-income countries with seed, fertilizers and other agricultural inputs required to boost production.

The Namibian crop assessment would give the EMU and the WFP, as well as government, a good picture of where Namibia stands in food security. A training workshop for field numerators will precede the actual assessment.

Officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry are also in the field for the entire month of May for the last crop assessment report.

“This report will give us a clear picture of what is on the ground,” said Kangowa.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the world has long known that “this crisis would come”.

“I am sorry that the international community had not listened more attentively.??????’??

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