Subject: abc: Looters destroy ET seed reserves- interview with Min Agric

Here is a summary of my interview today with East Timor's Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Estanislau Da Silva. This was broadcast locally on the "NT Country Hour" as below, and nationally on "Rural News". http://www.abc.net.au/rural/news/content/2006/s1658429.htm 

- There is also the new online rural feature based on earlier interviews, with photos from my recent trip to ET and other more recent images from the unrest at: http://www.abc.net.au/rural/nt/ and directly at: http://www.abc.net.au/rural/content/2006/s1655219.htm 

Please let me know if you have any suggestions on how I can continue exploring the rural and regional linkages.

From 8th June 06 (today's) NT Country Hour: http://www.abc.net.au/rural/nt/ 

Looters destroy ET seed reserves

Adrienne Francis

In events reminiscent of the 1999 up-heaval, looters have destroyed over 40 tonnes of rice and maize seed reserves in the East Timor capital of Dili. The reserve also included bean seeds (such as the French bean, mung beans and soybeans) and sorghum seeds. Some of the most recently acquired agricultural equipment, including coffee and rice processing machines have also been stolen. The seed reserves normally support thousands of subsistence farmers across five districts, in times of crop failure. East Timor experiences two rainy seasons and much of this seed was intended for the second crop this year. The treated agricultural seed was died bright red in colour to discourage people from eating it, because it was treated for pests and diseases and to encourage rapid early growth of the seedlings. However, Minister for Agriculture, Estanislau Da Silva says the government is warning people not to eat the seed or feed it to animals. "When the store was about to be looted we sent a message around to the Australian and Portuguese police forces to let them know that it was about to be looted by (the Timorese), but we didn't have any response, so the looters (took) everything, about 40,000 [kg? ie 40 tonnes] seeds mainly maize and rice, plus beans, sorghum for the second crop. But now it's too late, because of what has been happening in Dili, we couldn't distribute the seeds and now they have been taken away."

"If people do use this seed they could be effected because it is poisonous. So far we have not had any reports yet (of poisoning). I don't think that when they looted the store, it was for food. The intention was to find out what was inside. Because when they looted another store the day before they looted the main government store with $1.8 million worth of equipment inside. They thought we had something of high value in there. In fact, we did have, the seeds and imported machines for coffee, rice and wheat processing. In the highland areas we can grow some wheat in a very small region. We imported wheat milling machines for the farmers to produce flour. But all these machines have been taken away. We still have one store left that has not been looted. We have some extra security guards now. Fortunately some seeds stores in the districts have not been looted yet, and this will help."

"We are now planning to submit to the Council of Minister's the available funds, because now we are in June, it will take time to get seeds to Timor as quick as possible to begin planting by October or November. Several thousand atleast up to five to six districts, especially subsistence farmers they will suffer if we don't have those seeds readily available (by) I would say no later than September because then we will use October to distribute it. I would say no later than early September I would say. Subsistence farmers normally don't harvest enough food, so we normally supply them with seeds to cultivate and sell and use for their own consumption."

Estanislau Da Silva, Minister for Agriculture, East Timor

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Adrienne Francis Presenter - NT Country Hour M: 0417 208 793

Fax: 08 8943 3125 (label: 'COUNTRY HOUR') Email: francis.adrienne@abc.net.au Online: http://www.abc.net.au/rural/nt/


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