FAO GIEWS Country Brief on Ethiopia (09-March-2016)

Reference Date: 09-March-2016


  1. Planting of 2016 secondary “belg” season cereal crops underway

  2. March‑May “belg” rains expected to be favourable, especially in SNNPR and southern Oromia Region

  3. Cereal prices remain firm despite ongoing commercialization of 2015 main “meher” season harvest

  4. Number of people in need of food assistance estimated at high 10.2 million

Planting of 2016 secondary “belg” crops underway in most highland areas

Land preparation and planting of “belg” season crops are underway in main “belg”‑producing areas. The March‑May “belg” rainy season had an early start during the third dekad of February, with above average amounts. According to latest meteorological forecast, “belg rains” are expected at average to above-average levels in most cropping areas of SNNPR and southern Oromia Region, while lower rainfall amounts are forecast to be received in eastern Amhara woredas of North Wollo, South Wollo and North Shewa.

Declining output estimated from 2015 main “meher” season cereal harvest

Harvesting of the 2015 main “meher” season cereal crops was completed are the end of last year. Although official estimates are not yet available, overall crop production is likely to be well below the good output gathered during the last few years as the 2015 June to September “kiremt” rainy season has been erratic in several cropping areas. According to satellite-based remote sensing analysis, yields have been favourable in western Oromia, western Amhara and SNNPR, while production in eastern Amhara, eastern Oromia and eastern Tigray has been negatively affected by a prolonged dry spell in July as well as very poor rainfall amounts received thereafter. In addition, in some bi-modal rainfall lowlands of Tigray and Amhara regions, production of long‑cycle crops, including sorghum, has significantly declined as the poor performance of the 2015 secondary “belg” rainy season (March/July) prevented the timely preparation of land, inducing farmers to plant short‑cycle crops such as wheat, barley and teff.

Sharp increase in wheat imports

In response to the drought‑induced food shortages, the Government is planning to significantly increase the country’s commercial imports of wheat. At the end of October, one of the biggest import tenders in recent years has been launched seeking 1 million tonnes of wheat. This figure compares with an average of about 420 000 tonnes of commercially‑imported wheat during the last five years and well above the quantity of about 750 000 tonnes of wheat imported in 2011 during the latest drought in the Horn of Africa.

Cereal prices remain firm despite recent harvest

Prices of maize remained firm in recent months in the Bahirdar market, located in a key‑growing area, and in the capital, Addis Ababa, despite the commercialization of the 2015 “meher” crops. By contrast, in the Diredawa market, located in one of the drought‑affected “belg”‑dependent areas, maize prices increased by 14 percent between December 2015 and February 2016. Prices of maize in February were still around their levels of 12 months earlier, due to the large carryover stocks from the above‑average 2014 cereal production, but are expected to increase in the coming months.

Prices of livestock products are generally at high levels. In February 2016, the year‑on‑year rate of inflation was 11.5 percent for meat and 17 percent for milk, cheese and eggs. Countrywide, the year‑on‑year food inflation rate in February was 9.2 percent, slightly higher than the general inflation rate of 8.7 percent. At regional level, the highest rates of food inflation were recorded in drought‑affected regions of Afar (12.1 percent) and Tigray (14.6 percent).

Alarming food insecurity levels in most northeastern regions

As a result of the impact of drought on last year’s “belg” and “meher” crops production as well as on grazing resources in northern areas of the country, food security conditions have sharply deteriorated since mid‑2015, with the estimated number of food insecure people increasing from 4.5 million in August to 8.2 million by end‑October and to 10.2 million in December. Most food insecure people are concentrated in eastern areas of Oromia, Amhara and Tigray regions as well as in Afar and northern Somali regions. Wheat and maize from the Government’s food reserve as well as humanitarian agencies are being distributed in the worst affected areas. However, the country has received so far only about one‑quarter of the total resource requirements for the current year and there is a high risk of pipeline breaks of relief commodities by end‑April if the financial gap is not filled.

Ethiopia is the largest refugee‑hosting country in Africa, with over 740 000 refugees and asylum seekers, mainly from South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea and the Sudan. Financial constraints have seriously limited the level of humanitarian assistance and environmental degradation in camps, the fragile eco‑system and the scarcity of resources have led to tensions between host communities and refugees in some locations.

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