Ethiopia : Drought and high prices skyrocket food crisis

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Food prices in Ethiopia have continued to soar with reports of an alarming hike of the cost of the cheapest grain, maize, in some markets of the drought-hit Somali Region reaching 700 birr (about US$70) per 100-kg bag, up from about 350 birr (US$35).

Meanwhile, poor performance of the short rains (belg) season in the first half of the year has forced farmers to switch to planting early maturing crops, according to reports by the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

In a weekly update on the food situation in the east African country, the two agencies Tuesday said that the impact of the rains had been limited in Somali, Oromiya, Amhara, Tigray and Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples (SNNP) regions.

Approximately 80 percent of farmers were switching to plantation of early maturing crops after missing the chance to plant long cycle crops due to the delay and poor performance of the ‘belg’ rains, the UN agencies reported.

There was also concern among farmers that the soaring price of fertilizer, from 400 birr to 800 birr per 50-kg bag in SNNP regions, would further affect production.

Already, Ethiopia’s Disaster Preparedness and Prevention Agency (DPPA) has allocated one-month emergency food for 1.06 million beneficiaries in the region.

According to the report, the food situation in SNNP regions was becoming critical, as disease has affected the only root crop available for consumption (enset).

Cases of severe malnutrition have been reported in Siraro district of West Arsi zone of neighbouring Oromiya Region, where therapeutic feeding centres have provided treatment for 1,800 severely malnourished children.

Severe water and pasture shortages persist in Warder and Korahe zones of Somali Region, where a recent assessment by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) indicated increased livestock mortality among goats, camels and cattle.

High concentration of livestock was also reported in areas that received some rain, contributing to over-grazing of the limited browse and pasture.

High cost of living  In the past year alone, food prices have shot through the roof while other household essentials have undergone unprecedented price hikes. Coupled with a global financial meltdown, this situation has been mostly harsh on the poor. The Haiti food riots which began in April, 2008, quickly spread like wild fire to Egypt, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Madagascar, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Cameroon... According to experts, this situation was in part created by careless government policies, the rising popularity of bio-fuels as well as the global financial crisis, among other factors...
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