UN supplies seeds for typhoon-hit Philippine farmers

The UN food agency on Tuesday said it had begun supplying farmers in the Philippines with emergency seed supplies after a devastating typhoon that struck just at the beginning of the planting season.

The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said it was delivering rice and corn seed to rural communities in the Visayan island group that will allow farmers to collect a harvest in March and April.

FAO's representative in the Philippines, Rodrigue Vinet, said that without the harvest, vulnerable farmers would not have been able to harvest rice for almost a year -- until October or November 2014.

"Seed distributions have come at a critical moment," he said in a statement.

FAO said more than 1,000 farmers from the hardest-hit Eastern and Western Visayas, the central part of the Philippines archipelago, will each receive a 40-kilogramme (88-pound) bag of seeds.

It said it was also delivering bags of fertilizer as well as tools and small irrigation water pumps.

Humanitarian organisations said that 74 percent of farmers in two regions of the Visayas had reported that their crops and seed were lost in the typhoon.

Typhoon Haiyan killed 6,069 people when it struck the country last month, while also destroying more than a million homes, displacing four million people.

A total of 1,779 other people are still missing.