Ethiopia to buy more wheat to avert drought crisis – Reuters

* Ethiopia says has spent $280 mln to tackle crisis

* U.N. says 15 mln people may need food aid by early 2016

By Aaron Maasho

ADDIS ABABA, Nov 18 Ethiopia expects to open a
tender to buy additional wheat after purchasing one million
tonnes to tackle extreme food shortages due to drought, a senior
official said on Wednesday.

Failed rains during the spring and summer have sparked food
and water shortages in the Horn of Africa nation, which boasts
one of the continent’s highest growth rates but depends heavily
on rain-fed farming.

The United Nations says 8 million people in the country of
96 million will need food aid but the number could rise to 15
million by early 2016, owing to shortages exacerbated by the
effects of the El Nino weather pattern.

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“In total, nearly a million metric tonnes have been
purchased,” government spokesman Getachew Reda told a news
conference, adding around $280 million has so far been spent to
tackle the crisis.

“A significant part of it is going to be used to address
this challenge. An equally significant part will also be meant
to address inflationary pressures that could result from some
misguided moves in the market,” Getachew said.

El Nino, marked by warming sea-surface temperatures in the
Pacific Ocean, causes extremes such as scorching weather in some
regions of the globe and heavy rains and flooding in others.

Meteorologists expect El Nino to peak between October and
January.

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Humanitarian agencies say Ethiopia needs $600 million to
cope with the crisis. The United Nations says 350,000 children
are expected to require treatment for acute malnutrition in the
country by the end of 2015.

“We are going to be okay for the next three or four months,
at least from the reserves that we have,” Getachew said, adding
there had been no loss of life owing to the drought so far.

“We are ready for any eventuality. What that means … is we
will be out in a shopping spree (to buy wheat) once again.”

(Reporting by Aaron Maasho; editing by Drazen Jorgic and David
Evans)

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