16 April 1999
War cripples farming in Kosovo

By FWi staff

THE United Nations has warned that the war over Kosovo has crippled farming in the region, seriously reducing food supplies, output and availability.

Thousands of farms in Kosovo have been destroyed or abandoned, claims a Special Alert issued by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Efforts to distribute limited food supplies have been hampered by constrained movement within the country, compounding the already grave food situation, it says.

Prospects for the current 1998/99 cropping season are “grim”, the Alert warns.

Wheat planting in Kosovo last autumn was largely missed as a result of insecurity and the basic lack of equipment and seeds.

And it is unlikely that the normal spring planting of grains and vegetable crops was carried out at all.

Violence, disease and abandonment are also reported to have caused huge losses of livestock, compounding food supply problems for the remaining population.

The food supply situation is expected to deteriorate sharply for those who have remained in Kosovo since the onset of NATO bombing three weeks ago.

Staple food supplies are thought to be near exhaustion because many fields of wheat, the provinces staple cereal, were burned or left unharvested last year.

“The eruption of civil strife in Kosovo in early 1998 had a devastating effect on the 1998 harvest,” says the Alert.

Much of the crop that was collected was destroyed when houses, stores and granaries – especially targeted – were burnt to the ground.

“It is likely that supplies were sharply reduced and will by now be virtually exhausted,” says the Alert.

The food supply situation for those displaced within the region and the remainder of the population is expected to deteriorate sharply.

The United Nations expects the crisis to have profound long-term food security implications.

It forecasts that large-scale international assistance will be needed to re-establish future agricultural production, probably for more than one season.