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Ebola puts harvests at risk in Africa

Agriculture in Ebola affected countries in Africa under significant strain, says new Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) special alert.
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Disruptions in food trade and marketing in the three West African countries’ most affected by Ebola have made food increasingly expensive and hard to come by, while labour shortages are putting the upcoming harvest season at serious risk, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warned.

India is one of the largest exporters of rice to African countries which is already reeling under low rainfall. Thus, the export of rice from India is also expected to fall. It may add further woes to the Ebola hit African countries.
In Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, quarantine zones and restrictions on people's movement, aimed at combating the spread of the virus, have seriously curtailed the movement and marketing of food. This has led to panic buying, food shortages and significant food price hikes on some commodities, according to a special alert issued by FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS).

At the same time, the main harvest season for two key crops - rice and maize - is just weeks away. Labour shortages on farms due to movement restrictions and migration to other areas will seriously impact farm production, jeopardising the food security of large numbers of people, the alert states.

Generally adequate rains during the 2014 cropping season had previously pointed to likely favourable harvests in the main Ebola-affected countries. But now food production has scaled back.

Likewise, production of cash crops like palm oil, cocoa and rubber - on which the livelihoods and food purchasing power of many families depend - is expected to be seriously affected.

"Access to food has become a pressing concern for many people in the three affected countries and their neighbours," said Bukar Tijani, FAO Regional Representative to Africa. "With the main harvest now at risk and trade and movements of goods severely restricted, food insecurity is poised to intensify in the weeks and months to come. The situation will have long-lasting impacts on farmers' livelihoods and rural economies," he added.

(Photo: ©FAO/Salah Habibi)

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