Ethiopia: New food crisis ''in the making''

ADDIS ABABA, 24 March (IRIN) - The UN's Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia (EUE) has warned of a new food crisis "in the making" because of a lack of planting seeds for farmers.
The unit said hundreds of thousands of farmers are in urgent need of seeds so that they can plant crops to harvest after the current short rains in the country. Without the seeds, farmers will once again be forced to rely on international aid to survive.

"Major problems are posed by the supply of seeds," the EUE said in a report entitled 'Shortage of seeds leads to the next crisis'.

"The problem of seed shortage, if not immediately solved, will lead to marginal harvests in many places and to a certain prolonged dependency on food aid," it said.

It added that lack of comunication and misunderstandings among concerned agencies was reducing the prospect of a good harvest.

Requests for seeds for farmers had been made weeks ago, but none had yet been received and time was running out as the rains had started.

Farmers have been forced to eat the seeds they would normally plant because of the severe drought and they now have almost nothing to plant, the report stressed.

Farmers have also fallen foul of credit systems which mean that often they cannot borrow seeds or fertilisers unless they pay back loans already taken out. They are caught in a vicious cycle because continuously poor harvests mean they have been unable to pay back the loans.

"The only solution to the problem is the free handout to destitute farmers of improved seeds and or imported pure non-hybrid seeds, as well as the free handout of other necessary farming inputs," the EUE pointed out.


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