Ministry to boost national food reserves


The Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) will soon built silos in 11 drought prone areas around the country to expand its national food reserves, Capital learnt.
When the 11 silos are completed, MoA will operate a total of 18 reserves including the current seven wearhouses across the country. The ministry has completed the feasibility study to facilitate the construction of the warehouses. Soil study and site identification has already been concluded, according to the information obtained from the ministry.
The government wants to boost food reserves from the current 400,000 metric tons to 3 million metric tons when the five year Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) ends in 2015. If the target is met, experts say, it means that the government can feed more than 40 million people for six months in case of crop failure induced by natural disasters including drought that often hit the country. Ethiopia has more than 410,000 metric tons of reserve food in its seven warehouses currently operating.
Out of the total 410,000 metric tons of reserved food 184,573 metric tons is stock at hand, 188,614 tons is outstanding and 38,396 tons is under withdrawal according to Gizaw Abute, Acting Public Relation Head of Emergency Food Security Administration (EFSA).
EFSA is expecting to collect from June to August 2012, more than 226,010 metric ton it has made available to the European Union (24,950 metric ton), World Food program (11,317 metric ton), Ethiopian Grain Trade Enterprise (92,453 metric ton) and Ministry of Finance and Economic development (97,289 metric ton).     
EFSA has also hired a consultancy firm based in England to aide its ambition of creating a disaster resilient Ethiopia.
Meanwhile the government plans to spend over 13 billion birr for the construction and food reserve requirement during the GTP period.
As opposed to its prior goal of providing food crops during disaster period by importing, EFSA is transforming its purpose into filling the market gap whenever there is shortage and exporting grains whenever there is surplus. 
The planned investment by MoA is also expected to digitalize the manual system of storing grains. 
According to the Ethiopian Economics Association (EEA), the agricultural Gross Domestic Product stood at 59.3 billion birr in 2009/10. It represented 42 percent of the national GDP which was estimated at 142.8 billion birr at the time. 
Statistics show farming’s share of the GDP has been declining by around three percent every year over the last three years. Livestock and fishing are waning at similar rates, according to the report.
This season, Ethiopia harvested more than 215 million quintals of crops. The production increased by around 18 million tons last season. Since 2005 it has been rising by 50 percent.
The World Bank estimates that grain production is at 2.17 quintals per capita for Ethiopia’s 83 million people which is close to the minimum requirement.
In the 2010 fiscal year Ethiopia grew nearly 23 million tons of crops, mostly consisting of cereals at 68 percent. Pulses, root crops and enset (false banana) are the next three major crops.
Coffee and chat represent the smallest share of crop production at one percent each, according to EEA. Cereal, pulses and oil also take up the largest share of land, with cereal taking up 72 percent.
Currently, 11.5 million hectares of land is under cultivation. Verity soil accounts for around a million hectares which can produce eight to ten quintals per year per hectares.
In a bid to revolutionize Ethiopian agriculture, the government introduced extension services throughout the country. Currently 9,265 farmer training centers are in operation, most equipped with three mid level professionals including specialists in crops, natural resources and livestock. Each agricultural development agent has one hectare of land under his disposal for practical demonstrations. Training is being given at around 6,500 centers, a majority of which is considered to be at an intermediate level, according to MoA.