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Food production in Asia hit hard by weather extremes, UN agency reports

Food production in Asia hit hard by weather extremes, UN agency reports

Heavy and extensive monsoon rains and floods have affected millions of people in east Asia, while three consecutive years of drought on the opposite end of the continent threaten the region's food production, according to the latest United Nations survey of the world's crop and food situation.

The September issue of "Food Crops and Shortages," released today by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), says the worst affected countries include China, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea was hit by a severe drought during the Spring, which seriously affected the Winter-Spring and the main maize crops.

With the near east having suffered through three consecutive years of drought, the report warns that food production in Afghanistan, Jordan, Iran, Iraq and Syria has been severely affected. In addition to the food supply difficulties cited in the report, FAO Assistant Director General Hartwig de Haen, warns of implications for the Middle East, saying, "the food supply situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip gives rise for serious concern."

The drought and persistent civil strife in Afghanistan have resulted in a very serious food crisis, according to FAO, with over 7 million people expected to be dependent on international food assistance. "The already grave food supply situation in the country is set to deteriorate should the threat of military action materialize," the report warns, adding that fresh waves of population displacements are currently underway, exposing the increasing number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees to extreme hardship.

"Only timely and substantial international assistance will avert the looming humanitarian catastrophe" in the country, said Abdur Rashid, head of FAO's global information and early warning system. "Famine indicators - such as substantially reduced food intakes, collapse of the purchasing power, decimating livestock, large-scale depletion of personal assets, soaring food grain prices, rapidly increasing number of destitute people, and ever swelling ranks of IDPs and refugees - are widely observed."

The FAO report lists 34 countries as facing food emergencies, 17 located in Africa, 12 in Asia, three in Latin America and two in Europe.