Floods damaged 3.6m hectares of standing crops: FAO

Pakistan's worst floods in decades have damaged 3.6 million hectares of standing maize, rice, cotton and sugar cane.

Reuters September 01, 2010

MILAN: Pakistan's next wheat harvest is at risk after floods destroyed more than 0.5 million tonnes of seed stocks in Asia's third-largest wheat producer, the United Nations' food agency said on Wednesday.

Pakistan's worst floods in decades have damaged 3.6 million hectares of standing maize, rice, cotton and sugar cane, the Food and Agriculture Organisation said in a statement, citing early estimates.

"Unless people get seeds over the next few weeks they will not be able to plant wheat for a year," Daniele Donati, chief of FAO's Emergency Operations, Asia, Near East, Europe and Special Emergencies, said.

Wheat, the staple food of the rural poor in Pakistan, is due to be planted in September through to November, and wheat farmers were in the process of preparing land for planting when the floods began, the Rome-based FAO said.

In some areas, the fertile top layer of soil has been washed away, making planting impossible, while in some other areas, the land is still waterlogged or covered in silt and needs to be cleared, the FAO said.

In the flood-hit areas people have also started using wheat seed stocks that have not been damaged to feed their families and the displaced people they are sheltering, it said. It is still possible to plant in many areas as soon as the water recedes, the FAO said, calling for urgent funds to provide seeds to farmers.

The FAO said it had completed procurement for the provision of seeds to 200,000 farming families and needed additional funding to be able to provide seeds for twice that number. "Food aid alone will not be enough. If the next wheat crop is not salvaged, the food security of millions will be at risk," FAO's Donati said.

An estimated 1.2 million livestock and 6 million poultry were lost in the flooding and over one million buffalo, cattle, sheep and goats owned by households in the flooded areas would starve if animal feed is not provided urgently, the FAO said.

Animals need immediate vaccination for diseases, including foot-and-mouth disease, and with people and herds on the move as they flee the flooded areas, the risk of animal diseases spreading is great, the agency said. FAO and its partners are providing animal feed and vaccines to more than 40,000 livestock-owning households and they need additional funding to reach another 85,000 households, it said.


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