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Special> Earthquake in Haiti> Latest News
UPDATED: January 22, 2010
FAO Chief Urges Immediate Support for Haitian Farmers

Haitian farmers must be given immediate support in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake, before the spring planting season begins in March, Jacques Diouf, director-general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), urged on Thursday.

According to Diouf, Haiti's ongoing rescue and aid effort "should move simultaneously with urgent support for food production, agricultural rehabilitation and reconstruction." For the Rome- based agency, maintaining the agricultural sector is essential for the island country's initial recovery.

"The priority is to supply farmers with seeds, fertilizers, livestock feed and animal vaccines as well as agricultural tools," explained Diouf.

The FAO director-general called for urgent action "in the light of thousands of people fleeing the capital for rural areas and rising food prices," adding that "they will need to be provided with the necessary means to survive and an income generating activity."

Food prices are rising in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere because of food and fuel shortages, damage to the supply chain, warehouses and the port, threatening survival of the poor all over Haiti.

Haiti's three-month spring planting season accounts for 60 percent of the country's national agricultural production. According to FAO experts, with the vital agricultural infrastructure damaged, including storage facilities and irrigation canals, farmers will need to be supported.

"To prevent this urban disaster from becoming a rural tragedy as well, it is crucial that we save the upcoming planting season," Diouf concluded.

The FAO has 73 experts and employees on the ground in Haiti and the number is set to increase over the coming days in order to support the Haitian government, which suffered damage in the quake and lost personnel.

The UN food agency is deploying experts for an assessment of the impact on the agricultural sector and damage to infrastructure in the earthquake-hit areas.

(Xinhua News Agency January 21, 2010)

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