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Dry spell leaves more than 11 million Ethiopians facing severe food shortages – UN

Dry spell leaves more than 11 million Ethiopians facing severe food shortages – UN

A prolonged dry spell that led to a poor harvest in many parts of Ethiopia now threatens to leave more than 11 million people facing serious food shortages and possible starvation, according to a new report released today by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP).

"Late, poorly distributed and early cessation of the 2002 seasonal rains were the main cause of the decline of grain production," the report says, adding that crop yields also fell because farmers were reluctant to invest in improved seeds and fertilizer due to the uncertain crop prospects. Depressed grain prices in 2001 further contributed to this year's poor harvest, particularly in western Ethiopia where there were large surpluses.

Based on a four-week joint assessment mission of crop and food supply, the report indicates that sharp increases in grain prices occurred in the second half of 2002 with the prospect of a poor harvest. To manage the negative effects of such fluctuating grain prices for both farmers and consumers, the report calls for mechanisms to strengthen price stabilization, such as storage facilities and marketing.

The UN agencies estimate the 2002 cereal and pulse production at about 9.2 million tons, 25 percent below last year's harvest. As a result, Ethiopia will need to import 2.3 million tons of cereals next year. With commercial imports forecast at 328,000 tons, the 1.8 million ton deficit will have to be covered by a combination of emergency food aid and bilateral donations.