October 24, 2003

Food security situation "worrying" in central plateau

Food prices in Angola remain high as a result of poor harvests and the low value of the local currency against the US dollar. As the latest report by Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) has reported, food prices in the Planalto (Angola's central plateau) were beginning to rise sharply. The 2002/03 crop harvest had not been sufficient to depress prices to below normal levels. Compounding that, poor market systems had resulted in high domestic prices, even in areas that experienced relatively high cereal production.

The report further noted that food prices remained high throughout the country, despite an artificial appreciation of the local currency, relative to the US dollar, following intervention by the Central Bank of Angola. In the central plateau, where the majority of war-displaced people were returning, the food security situation was "worrying", FEWS NET said.

"In Bie the provincial Rapid Food Needs Assessment Group (RFNA) reported that the food stocks of 15,000 recently arrived returnees and 3,000 residents in Belo-Horizon commune, Kunhinga municipality, are nearly exhausted. In addition, their access to markets is increasingly limited." The report recommended an "urgent distribution of seeds and tools, so as to ensure active participation of farmers in the current agricultural season and improve food availability in the coming months." The RFNA group in Bie also noted "critical food access problems among the returnee population in Caiei Commune, Nharea municipality".

"In Huila, the food security situation of the returnee population is also deteriorating. There are indications that a substantial portion of their diet now consists of wild fruits, banana roots and sweet potatoes," FEWS NET said. The distribution of agricultural inputs to enable the returnee population to establish subsistence food production capacity within a short period of time was crucial, the organisation added. (IRIN)

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