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The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAP) of Timor-Leste, Pedro dos Reis, said a report analysing acute food security during the year of 2022, shows that 300,000 Timorese or 22% of the total population face acute food insecurity.

The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAP) of Timor-Leste, Pedro dos Reis, said a report analysing acute food security during the year of 2022, shows that 300,000 Timorese or 22% of the total population face acute food insecurity.

He added the report highlights the population in 11 of the 14 municipalities of the country are experiencing a food insecurity crisis in the short and medium to long term and that 3 of the municipalities have been categorised as being under enormous pressure and are projected to face imminent food insecurity. He warned that up to 262,000 Timorese may face food insecurity from May to September 2023.

“Strong cooperation between the agricultural sector and other key sectors on climate change will be critical to address food insecurity. This is a key challenge for the nation. Via the use of the acute IPC tool, a multi-sectoral and global tool, we will be able to analyse food insecurity trends in the country.

“We can utilise the data already available to identify vulnerable populations and it will allow us to advise decision makers with accurate and real data,” Minister Reis said during the launch of the IPC report recently in Dili.

He also acknowledged domestic food production is not yet able to respond to the nation's needs, but the efforts of recent past years were nonetheless able to increase national production from 76,000 tons in 2021, to 86,000 tons in 2022. He said more investments are needed to improve infrastructure and policies are needed to be introduced to encourage farmers to increase their food production.

Minister Reis informed participants there are key factors contributing to food insecurity in Timor-Leste, including the lack of capacity of the population to purchase products due to poverty, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the war between Russia and Ukraine that has pushed up the prices of products including oil. Timor-Leste also faced several natural disasters in 2021 and 2022 and all these factors are contributing to long term food insecurity across the country.

Meanwhile, the President of Asosisasaun TANE Konsumidór (consumer’s association), António Ramos da Silva said Timor-Leste is a consuming nation and this means most of the products consumed domestically come from other nations, and that a global pandemic like COVID-19 and the war between Russia and Ukraine pushing the prices up across the global market making it more difficult for people who do not have a steady income to be able to afford certain products.

“Purchasing power is a determining factor because you need to have a wage. Without access to secure employment, we will not have much purchasing power, worse still when prices keep going up,” he said.

He urges the inspection authorities to undertake regular inspections across the business sector to ensure operators are not taking advantage of the current situation and that the government also needs to introduce taxes selectively, for example increase taxes on two items like sugar and sugary drinks and not across the board to all products.

He added according to decree law no. 29/2022, on fair prices, it is stipulated that economic or business operators cannot increase prices above 20% the price of the purchase, and that distributors cannot increase sales above 15%, and that any breaches of this regulation will constitute a crime prosecutable by law.