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AGRICULTURE REPORT - Tsunami's Effect on Agriculture

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I'm Gwen Outen with the VOA Special English Agriculture Report. Officials are seeking to ease fears in southern Asia about the safety of eating fish from the countries hit by tsunami waves. On Friday the Food and Agriculture Organization reported no evidence of an increase in seafood-related diseases in the affected areas.

The F.A.O. advised against removing fish from the diet. Millions of people in those countries get most of their animal protein from fish.

But the United Nations agency did warn of concern that damaged wastewater systems might leak into fishing grounds or fish farms. This would create a risk of intestinal infections. The F.A.O. says the best advice is to eat only healthy looking fish or seafood that is fully cleaned and well cooked.

The agency also noted another risk from the huge undersea earthquake and waves on December twenty-sixth. Algae and heavy metals in the sea could increase to poisonous levels.

Red tides or large numbers of dead fish would signal extreme cases. The Food and Agriculture Organization says fishing areas would need to be closed. But it says current seasonal conditions make such events unlikely.

Boy tucks into tub of maize-based meal
(2003 © WFP/Graciela Damiano)
Boy tucks into tub of maize-based meal (2003 © WFP/Graciela Damiano)

The F.A.O. has estimated that two million people in twelve countries in southern Asia and eastern Africa will need food aid. Yet the extent of damage to food supplies may not be known for weeks.

Aceh and Northern Sumatra were the two Indonesian provinces most affected by the tsunami. They produce about ten percent of Indonesia's rice. The F.A.O. says the rice crop for harvest beginning in March had just been planted. It is not known how the crop will be affected.

Important rice growing areas of Sri Lanka were also hit hard by the waves. Planting for the main growing season had just been finished. The F.A.O. notes that Sri Lanka already had a limited food supply.

There was no serious damage to rice production in Thailand or India. Thailand exports more rice than any other nation.

In coastal areas of countries hit by the tsunami, many survivors are now out of work. The waves wrecked not only thousands of fishing boats, but also fish cages used in fish farming, a growing industry. In some places in Sri Lanka, eighty percent of the fishing boats were destroyed or damaged. The director general of fisheries development says the industry is back to the level of the nineteen fifties.

This VOA Special English Agriculture Report was written by Mario Ritter. I'm Gwen Outen.

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