South Sudan President Plans Farming Boost to Replace War-Hit Oil

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir said the government will boost agriculture to help stem an economic crisis following a decline in oil production during a 15-month conflict and a plunge in world prices.

Kiir will instruct Finance Minister David Deng Athorbei to “double efforts on all non-oil revenue,” especially investment in agriculture, he told a rally Wednesday in the capital, Juba.

“Even if we sign peace today, the economic situation will not improve because it will take some time to maximize production in oil and this leaves us with few options,” Kiir said. “Let us use our land.”

South Sudan’s oil output, which provides almost all the government’s revenue, has fallen by a third to about 160,000 barrels per day since war erupted, authorities said in December. Plunging oil prices, which fell about 60 percent since June, have also undermined the economy.

The fighting, sparked when a power struggle within the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement turned violent, has spread over at least three of the country’s 10 states and displaced farmers who missed a planting season for crops such as corn and sorghum. Of South Sudan’s two oil-producing states, only Upper Nile is currently pumping crude.

About five million people, or just less than half South Sudan’s population, suffered from food insecurity before the conflict, even as the country had “potential to become a major grain exporter,” according to a 2013 report from the International Fertilizer Development Center.

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