The United Nations food agency is appealing for 100 million dollars to buy surplus grain in Ethiopia to feed some seven million people there facing a food shortage.

The World Food Program says international donors could help both Ethiopian farmers and needy people in drought-stricken regions by giving cash instead of food this year.

A spokesman for W-F-P in Addis Ababa, Wagdi Othman, explained the objectives in an interview with V-O-A.

"If we have the money to buy that food, we will be able to help the seven million people that are in need of food aid this year and also help farmers that are producing that food. Otherwise we will see the prices of food produced in Ethiopia drop and farmers will be penalized and they won't be able to sell what they produce this year."

He says if farmers' incomes fall, they will not be able to afford the seeds and fertilizers they need for this year's planting, thus jeopardizing the year-end harvest.

The W-F-P says 100 million dollars in foreign donations could purchase about 300-thousand tons of cereals now on the market in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is plagued by frequent droughts and chronic food shortages. It needed one-and-a-half million tons of food last year to feed about 13 million people. The situation is less critical this year because the 2003 harvest benefited from better-than-average rainfall and produced 40 percent more grain than in 2002.