ROME (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Violence in the Central African Republic has taken a heavy toll on farming, a U.N. agency said in a new assessment, a particularly worrying development for a country where 75 percent of the population works in agriculture.
Livestock numbers have fallen by as much as 77 percent as a result of cattle raids and rustling since the political crisis erupted two years ago and violence followed, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported.
Food reserves in rural areas are down by more than 40 percent from normal levels due to raiding and violence. Markets have shut down because traders fear for their safety.
"The economy has been completely broken," FAO representative Pierre Vauthier said in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Without oxen to do the planting, too few seeds are being sown and he fears there could be a "total collapse of production" after the next harvest.
In Bangui, the capital, prices of staple foods increased by 30-70 percent from March to August 2014.
Thousands have died and around one million people have been displaced since the mainly Muslim Seleka rebel coalition seized power in the majority Christian country in March 2013.
The rebels later withdrew from Bangui and ceded power to a transitional government. But their abuses prompted a backlash by mainly Christian militias that has plunged the country into a deadly series of inter-communal clashes.
The religious violence has links to "a lack of resource management, poverty and unemployment", Vauthier said.
The level of violence has declined, though killings of several people at a time still happen. "The population is afraid, there is insecurity in the streets and markets as armed groups are trying to make the law," he said.
More than 2 million CAR residents need immediate humanitarian assistance, while 1.7 million face food insecurity, the FAO reported.
(Editing by Tim Pearce)