Ethiopia Crop Planting Down 50% in Some Areas After Late Rains

A later-than-usual Ethiopian rainy season has reduced crop-planting areas by more than half in some parts of the country, increasing the risk of food shortages, according to a report by U.S. aid agency FEWS NET.

East and central Oromia, Tigray and parts of Amhara state were drier than usual from February to April, delaying the first harvest of the year to as late as August, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network said in a report dated May. Areas that depend heavily on the so-called belg rains will move from “stressed” to “crisis” levels of food insecurity from July as a result, the agency said.

“Production is expected to be far below average,” FEWS NET said. “Accordingly, household incomes have not increased as they typically would after the rains started.”

Agriculture including maize production accounted for 42 percent of Ethiopia’s gross domestic product in the year to July 7 2014, while the economy will probably expand about 10 percent this year and next, Moody’s Investors Service said May 29. Ethiopia is Africa’s largest coffee producer and the continent’s second-most populous nation after Nigeria with about 97 million people.

The government estimated in January that $386 million was needed to provide emergency food aid for 2.9 million Ethiopians in 2015. “Additionally, an estimated 381,000 people may be in need of food assistance in the coming belg season,” it said.

Admissions of malnourished children to treatment centers increased by a third from February to March in the southern region, the report said. Most crop-growing areas of Ethiopia have a main rainy season from June to mid-September.