- Re-injecting new life in rural economic activities and agriculture sector, could save Mauritania extended shocks brought about by a global record hike in fuel and food prices. This is one major observation made by the World Bank during its recent visit in the country.
Mauritania, a net importer of food products, most important of which are rice, accounting for about two-thirds of its consumption and wheat, totaling about 300,000 metric tons annually, has for years been a country with a structural food deficit, due to its difficult natural conditions.
During his visit to Mauritania earlier this year, World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick, had already then underlined urgency for a new push in the country's rural sector, including development of a new agricultural policy that can ensure the country's food self-sufficiency.
In June 2008, a World Bank mission visited the country, once more, with the aim of energising agriculture and livestock activities, two sectors that will be called upon to provide impetus in view of Mauritania's declining oil production.
The impact of the food crisis has been so powerful that government officials have dubbed 2008 the "Year of Agriculture", World Bank mission noted.
According to most recent figures published by Mauritania's National Statistics Office (ONS), rate of inflation was more than seven percent in May this year, with the price-salary gap steadily increasing, to the detriment of household shopping basket.
Because of large national deficit in grain production, with production covering only 24 percent of grain needed in the country, government has had to resort to emergency measures to avoid a deeper food crisis.
Government has developed a special intervention program (SIP) aimed at resolving two main issues, being an emergency response by supplying food, price controls and food security in most vulnerable areas, while at the same time strengthening efforts to get agricultural sector deeply reformed so that it can play a relevant role in securing the country from a recurrent food crisis.
Mauritania has also taken some steps designed to alleviate panic, such as a tax exemption for imported rice and a subsidy granted to three large public enterprises involved in such vital sectors as water, power, gas, and import/export, while also trying to round off packages for civil servants with a 10 percent increase expected to be effective on 01 July, 2008.
In fast-tracking Mauritania's response to the looming food crisis, World Bank has already committed about US$ 80 million for rural agriculture and development through two major projects that will improve amongst others, increased irrigated crop production.
"In addition to their original objectives, and in light of current food price crisis, both projects will soon provide emergency support to the Mauritanian authorities," World Bank has said.
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