CAR

Central African Republic: Government urgently needs US $832,000 for farms

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BANGUI, 27 February (IRIN) - The Central African Republic (CAR) government has asked for some US $832,000 to purchase crop seeds, fertiliser and other agricultural materials for at least 40,000 farmers, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reported on Monday.

It said the money was needed to buy 450 mt of maize, 1,933 mt of groundnuts, 91 mt of rice, 69 mt of sorghum, 285 mt of squash, 10 mt of beans and 1.98 billion cassava cuttings before the start of the planting season in April-May. They would be planted on 31,000 ha of farmland previously held by the rebels loyal to the former army chief of staff, Francois Bozize.

Since 13 February, the government army has been engaged in a massive offensive to flush out the rebels from the north and centre of the country, which are areas of intensive agricultural activity.

The FAO said it would work with the UN World Food Programme in providing hungry farmers with food aid so that they would not eat the seed crops.

Food prices in the CAR capital, Bangui, have risen considerably because the farming areas had been cut off from it. Farming ground to a halt as residents fled the fighting between Bozize's men and government troops. Early in February, the FAO said it was concerned about farmers' ability to plant crops this season as they were reported to have eaten their seed crops.

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