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Rice farmers race to get planting done in Philippines

Victims queue for food and water in the aftermath of super typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban city, central Philippines November 14, 2013.


The humanitarian crisis in the Philippines could be exacerbated if farmers are unable to plant their fields within the next few weeks, the World Food Program is warning.

Elisabeth Rasmusson, assistant executive director with the global aid organization, said the current challenge is to get rice seeds to as many farmers as possible before the planting season is over. The Philippines is struggling to recover after a massive typhoon struck the island nation, ripping through cities and villages on several islands. The official death toll exceeds 5,200, the government said Friday.

The storm also damaged large swaths of agricultural land, creating additional challenges for longer-term recovery efforts.

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"This is something which is very urgent to address because planting season is in December," Ms. Rasmusson told The Globe and Mail in an interview Friday. "If farmers are not getting the rice seeds before mid-December, they will lose out on the harvesting in March [and] April, and the needs for food assistance will just continue into next year."

Ms. Rasmusson said humanitarian agencies know of the need to get seeds to farmers as soon as possible, but she said some areas are still hard for aid workers to reach.

The typhoon has triggered a giant, international relief effort, with dozens of countries and relief organizations rushing to deliver food, water and health services to isolated communities. The World Bank on Friday added $480-million (U.S.) in emergency aid to the Philippines, taking its support to nearly $1-billion.

At the same time, massive needs in war-torn Syria continue to sap global resources. The WFP has cut food rations by 20 per cent at Kenyan refugee camps for November and December because of a lack of funding, Ms. Rasmusson said.

With a report from Agence-France Presse

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Parliamentary reporter

Kim Mackrael has been a reporter for The Globe and Mail since 2011. She joined the Ottawa bureau Sept. 2012. More


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