September 14, 2012 / 7:13 PM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 1-Floods threaten Niger's main rice crop - minister

NIAMEY, Sept 14 (Reuters) - Floods could wipe out most of
Niger's main rice harvest this year as rain-swollen rivers rose
to 50-year highs across West Africa, spreading devastation, a
regional official said.
    At least 81 people have been killed in Niger since annual
rains caused flooding along the banks of the Niger River,
raising its waters to their highest levels since the 1920s.
    The country and surrounding region are still struggling to
overcome food shortages caused by poor rains last year.
    "In Niger ... most of the rainy season rice crop, estimated
at over 80,000 tonnes, risks being destroyed this year," Tiena
Coulibaly, a Malian government minister told Niger's state
    Coulibaly was speaking after chairing a meeting of ministers
in Niamey focused on tackling food shortages and increasing
production. The comments were broadcast on Friday after a
meeting on Thursday.
    The European Union, one of Niger's major donors said in a
statement later on Friday that it has disbursed 19,678 billion
CFA francs or 30 million euros ($39.44 billion) as part of a
budgetary assistance measure, to help the country guarantee food
security this year.
    EU's delegation in Niamey said in a statement that the
funding, following a earlier 10 million euros disbursed in June,
 will go towards buying cereals to be resold at affordable
prices, distributed freely or replenish the country's stocks.   
    Niger, a country with high population growth that lies just
south of the Sahara, produces about 130,000 tonnes of rice a
year, with a dry season crop harvest bringing in about 50,000
    Another 200,000-300,000 tonnes are imported to fill the gap
in rising demand.
    About 18 million people across an arid strip of nations
stretching from Senegal in the west to Chad in the east faced a
food and nutrition crisis after last year's poor rains, the
latest in a cycle of shortages to strike the zone.
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