ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (PANA) - The
Ethiopian government has authorised the local purchase of 100,000 tonnes
of food grain for immediate distribution to millions of needy people in
drought-affected areas of the country.
A total of 248 million birr has already been earmarked for the purchase and transportation of the grain to the needy (8.15 birr = 1 US dollar).
Two senior officials said the decision was taken earlier during the week by a national committee entrusted with task of assisting over eight million people in need of food aid, for which the government had issued international appeal earlier.
Over 7.5 million people have been affected by the recurrent drought in parts of the country where there was little or no rains during the last two harvest seasons.
The remaining 350,000 people were internally displaced on account of the current border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea that broke out in May 1998.
Simon Mechale, commissioner of the state relief agency, and Mengistu Huluka, the agriculture minister, told reporters Wednesday that the decision for the local purchase of the food grain was prompted by the delay in the arrival of food aid promised by donors in response to the government's appeal.
They said the country's grain production rose by 8 percent during the 1998-99 harvest season, compared to the previous year, and that there is sufficient grain in parts of the country that were not affected by drought to warrant the local purchase of 100,000 tonnes of food grain.
Simon also indicated that the country's stock of emergency grain reserve had dwindled by some 274,000 tons that were "lent" to donors previously to be used within the country.
"Shipments are on their way to replenish the stock of the national grain reserve to its normal level of 350,000 tons within a few weeks," he added.
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