See also:
» 16.06.2005 - Donors shy away Eritrea despite famine
» 18.01.2005 - 2.3 million Eritreans need food aid
» 06.12.2004 - "Eritrea will need food aid well into 2005"
» 13.10.2004 - Growing concerns over Eritrea drought, famine
» 31.08.2004 - No end in sight for Eritrea's food crisis
» 18.06.2004 - Drought continues in Eritrea, Somaliland
» 10.09.2003 - Eritrean rains give hope
» 22.05.2003 - Eritrean hunger worsens despite aid

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Agriculture - Nutrition

Eritrean food crisis "critical but stable"

afrol News, 19 July - The food security situation in Eritrea today is reported to remain "critical but stable." The price of cereals has stabilised, and the terms of trade for livestock keepers are improving. Food supplies however only will last till August.

According to the newest Eritrea report by the US agency Famine Early Warning System (FEWS), the current food pipeline into Eritrea is assured into August. "However, given the critical need to protect food aid deliveries in the 'hungry period' before the next harvest in November, it is critical to obtain new commitments from donors."

The overall food insecurity situation in Eritrea remained serious, FEWS reported. According to the latest nutritional surveys, several areas at Southern and Northern Red Sea reported continued high malnutrition rates. Food stocks were only adequate to support deliveries into August.

The azmera rains this year had been patchy and generally below average. Consequently, the planting and germination of long-cycle crops during April and May had been negatively affected. As the azmera season further was not adequate enough to enrich ground water tables and improving the pasture.

The future recovery of the agricultural sector will however depend on the kremti rains between June and August. However, other factors, such as agricultural input availability and use, and the timing of planting, would also play an important role in how well the season progresses, FEWS reported.

The Eritrean Ministry of Agriculture, in collaboration with UN agencies, humanitarian organisations and other donors, is now supporting the distribution of seeds to farmers.

Based on the FEWS representative's field observations in parts of the country, the body condition of livestock is mixed. Most animals are in poor condition, and milking cows are especially weak. The limited milk production is being saved for the calves.

At the moment the country was also facing a huge water shortage. Reservoirs have not recharged, shallow wells have dried up and the water table has fallen so that borehole yields have declined. In addition to increasing the burden on women, who must travel long distances to fetch water, the water shortage is seriously affecting irrigated agriculture, which is commonly practiced.

The price of staple foods was reported to have stabilised in May. This stabilisation was most likely the result of Eritrean Grain Board (EGB) distribution of imported food items in local markets via its distribution centres.

Livestock prices on the other hand were still increasing, most likely as a result of the expectations of a good season and improved watering and pasture conditions. This was leaving impoverished livestock holders with improved terms of trade.

It was now "crucial that the donor community take measures to ensure the continued supply of relief food now in order to address the coming food gap during the August to November period," FEWS warned, recalling the Eritrean food crisis was by no means over yet.

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