Rains improve prospects for 2005 harvest

Recent rains have improved prospects for the 2005 agricultural season in Eritrea, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in its monthly global report on crops and food shortages for June.

Eritrea, which has suffered from persistent drought in recent years, is currently one of the most food-aid-dependent countries in the world, with two-thirds of its 3.6 million population requiring food assistance.

Food-security experts say the situation is compounded by Eritrea’s tensions with both Sudan and Ethiopia, which have caused the government to divert the available agricultural labour force to the military sector and limited access to nearby markets.

Last year’s harvest was estimated at just 85,000 tonnes, less than half the average of the past twelve years. This season may have better yields.

"In Eritrea, prospects for the 2005 agricultural season, which has just started, improved with recent good rains," the FAO noted.

Eritrea has three climatic zones, including the western lowlands, the highlands and the eastern escarpment along the Red Sea coast.

Earlier this month, the US government announced that it would cover 100 percent of Eritrea’s cereal needs, using cash from the US $674 million African-aid package pledged by President George Bush.