May 6, 2011 / 7:11 AM / in 7 years

Nearly 3 million face food shortages in Niger

NIAMEY (Reuters) - Nearly three million people face food shortages in Niger this year after insects and drought undermined the most promising crop in decades, the government said on Thursday.

Crop failure is common in the semi-arid West African state. Donors spent more than $250 million in aid in 2010 after poor rains left half the country in need of aid.

“Food insecurity could affect about 2,620,770 people in total this year, 17.3 percent of the population,” according to a government statement read on national television.

Hamani Harouna, spokesman for the country’s emergency alert system, said: “Added to the drought, there has been the devastating effects of predatory insects on millet and sorghum.”

Niger had said in January it was on track to record its best cereal crop in 20 years and projected a surplus of 1.5 million tonnes.

The U.N. humanitarian affairs office in Niger said on Wednesday the food situation was deteriorating and some households have had to cut back on meals.

According to the government statement, about 1.1 million people, or 7.8 per cent of the population, could face severe food shortages, while another 1.5 million could find themselves with more moderate shortages.

Niger is one of the world’s leading uranium producers but remains one of the poorest countries, with two-thirds of its nearly 17 million population living on less than $1 a day.

The country lifted a boycott on the port of Cotonou in neighbouring Benin that had been in place since 2009 in a row over trade barriers, which could boost Niger’s access to imported goods.

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