Libya crisis to hurt regional food security
Rome, March 12, 2011
The United Nations has expressed serious concern about the impact of the Libyan uprising on food security across North Africa because of the region's dependency on cereal imports.
'The ongoing crisis will likely have a significant impact on food security in Libya and in nearby crisis-affected areas,' the UN Food and Agriculture Organization said in a statement.
It added that possible disruptions to the flow of goods and services and population displacements were also of concern.
An uprising against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has sparked escalating violence between rebels and security forces, rising casualties, threats of hunger and a refugee crisis as thousands of people flee the country.
'In Libya, the situation may lead to a sudden disruption of imports and the collapse of the internal distribution system,' said Daniele Donati, chief of FAO's Emergency Operations Service.
Disruption to markets from which farmers secure seeds and fertilisers also threatened agricultural production and food security, the FAO said.
It did not give specific data on how much imports could be affected and the number of people at risk. It also did not comment on the potential impact on cereals markets.
Libya, which relies on imports for more than 90 percent of its food, is believed to have about four months of food supplies in the country, the U.N.'s World Food Programme said.
The estimate was based on information from Libyan authorities, WFP spokeswoman Emilia Casella said.
'As a net food importer, Libya does need to be able to bring food into the country and given the current security situation those food imports are not able to get in the way they would normally be flowing,' Casella told reporters in Geneva.
In Egypt, FAO said, the sharp rise in international wheat prices would also add substantially to the cost of imports in 2010/11 and to the government's bread subsidy programme, which helps cushion the consumer from rising prices.-Reuters