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The Ethiopian Parliament has yet to endorse the establishment of 11 additional branches for the Emergency Food Security Administration
to enhance its capacity to store and effectively distribute food supplies to people during emergency situations, such as natural disasters.
The EFSA is responsible for bringing in much needed foreign currency for the country by exporting food supplies from its reserves. It plans to increase its reserves to three million metric tons by the end of the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP).
To do so, EFSA says it needs to build additional branches in Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa, Gode, Nekempt, Jimma, Hossana, Metema, Jijiga, Moyale, Bedele and Debre Markos.
The new branches have been planned for the last three years, but the study that recommended the go ahead has not been endorsed by the House of People’s Representatives, despite the fact that there are only two years remaining in the current GTP.
It currently has seven branches in Wolaita, Sinile, Sodo, Adama (Nazareth), Kombolcha, Mekele, and Woreta.
Increasing the EFSA’s reserves will give it the capacity to feed 20 million people for a year. It estimates the cost of building the new facilities and increasing its food supplies will be 13 billion birr, according to Gizaw Abute, head of PR at the EFSA.
He said EFSA has done much of the preparatory work necessary and has identified sites for the new facilities, so construction can start as soon as the budget is secured.
“We have been studying the areas where the branches should be constructed,” said Gizaw. “I believe this is the major thing as far as the work is concerned.”
He said EFSA expects construction to take six months to a year, once the budget is approved.
“It is all about giving the contract to an efficient and effective contractor,” he told Capital. He said the Metal and Engineering Corporation (MetEC) is looking into taking the contract. “They [at MetEC] might do the construction if they are efficient at the same time interested in the construction,” he said.
According to Gizaw, the government may secure finance from other countries. “France is already interested in providing Ethiopia with a soft loan. China and Japan have been funding food and food-related programmes since 2010,” he said
Gizaw went on to say EFSA supplied food to the World Food Programme during the recent Horn of Africa drought, which affected more than 10 million people in 2011.
The Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MoFED) and Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) have jointly drafted the budget, as it is a national issue, and passed it to the Council of Ministers. The Council will send it to the house for final endorsement.
Meanwhile, the Administration says its reserves have increased from more than 410,500 metric tons in 2011 to 460,000.
Gizaw said that 180,063.7 metric tons of the food reserve is already in its stock and the Administration has lent 212,495.9 metric tons of food to the Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Agency (DPPA), the World Food Program, and other local and international NGOs. Another 18,000 metric tons of food is in the process of being borrowed. The Administration received an additional 50,000 metric tons of food from the WFP last year.
Ethiopian food security policy has come in for criticism, with some experts saying it is an expensive policy, dependent to a large extent on foreign aid.
The Ethiopian Food Security report, published in June, classified 3.7 million people in the country as acutely food insecure. Nearly 70 percent of those people live in two regions – Somalia and Afar, according to the report.
The African Union joint conference of African Ministers of Agriculture and Ministers of Trade, held in Addis Ababa in November 2012, identified the need to boost intra-African trade and investment as keys to agricultural transformation and ensuring food and nutrition security.
The Ethiopian Food Security Reserve Authority was established in 1992 to provide a system of food reserve management that was acceptable to donors. This led to donor pledges to replenish reserves, although they remain below the target level.
The Administration currently has sorghum, maize and wheat in its reserves, but will ultimately add other types of food, including grains, oil and seeds, among others.