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Thursday, 26 August 2010

TPLF rejects food insecurity report

William Davison

Aug. 20 (Bloomberg) — The Ethiopian government rejected a report that the country is at “extreme risk” of food shortages this year.

The Horn of Africa nation is sixth in a ranking of countries facing food shortages, according to report published yesterday on the website of Bath, U.K.-based risk consultant Maplecroft.

Ethiopian Communications Minister Bereket Simon said in a telephone interview from Addis Ababa today that Maplecroft’s Food Security Risk Index 2010 was “devoid of any understanding of the Ethiopian reality” and there “was no reason why we should worry.”

Ethiopia, Africa’s largest coffee producer, has suffered food shortages in the past and about a sixth of its population required food aid last year. The United Nations World Food Program in Ethiopia said today the outlook for the rest of the year was “rather good compared to the last two years.”

Bereket said rains this year have been good and Ethiopia is expecting a “bumper harvest” and will be seeking to export a surplus of cereals.

“We have not come out of the woods with regards to food insecurity, but it’s improving by the day,” the minister said, describing Maplecroft’s analysis as “hypothetical and wrong-footed.”

Bereket said he expects the number of Ethiopians needing food aid this year to go down from last year’s figure of 13.7 million given by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

‘Strong Indicators’

“Because of the good harvest here, we have to import less,” Judith Schuler, the WFP’s public information officer in Ethiopia, said in a phone interview from Addis Ababa. That meant there were “strong indicators” the number of people depending on food assistance would go down “a lot,” she said.

Maplecroft analyst Fiona Place said in a telephone interview today that Ethiopia faced a high chance of rising prices due to production shortages in heat-affected major cereal producers like Russia and Ukraine.

Transport infrastructure was still insufficient, though improving, she said, while “recurrent drought and inadequate environmental management” had led to a “continual cycle of degradation of natural resources.”