Banaban Voice

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ONE News - New Zealand
Sunday January 25, 2009

WATCH the video (2:39) The central Pacific islands of Kiribati face a looming food crisis, as basic food items soar out of reach of the people there.

In one of the poorest countries of the Pacific, Kiribati families are struggling to fill their stomachs.

World prices and the cost of fuel have meant rice prices in Kiribati have more than doubled in six months.

Last year it cost $18 to buy a sack of rice - that is about to go up to $41.

One of the problems is Kiribati's isolation. Its 33 islands straddle the equator and stretch across 3.5 million square kilometres of ocean. That is why getting imported goods there is so expensive.

The high cost of basic food items is a disaster for the coral islands of Kiribati where very little can grow.

Bus driver Amanu Toromon earns an average wage of $53 a week and a third of his pay is used to buy rice.

"Our family is small, but others are unemployed with big families - it's really tough," Toroman says.

The problem is so severe, the Kiribati government asked Taiwan for help. Around 200 tonnes of rice has since arrived. It is likely to be distributed to hospitals and boarding schools.

However the government knows it is a short term fix. They are now planning for the outer islands to supply the main centre with food.

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