A group of Irish aid agencies is warning that parts of South Sudan could suffer serious famine early next year if a nine-month long conflict there escalates as expected.

The world's newest country is already in the grip of the world's worst food crisis.

The agencies, which include Concern, Goal, Oxfam and Trócaire, fear efforts this year to prevent the crisis from deteriorating will falter as rival sides are regrouping to resume violence.

The number of people facing dangerous levels of hunger is expected to increase by one million between January and March next year.

Stop-start talks between South Sudan’s warring factions, which have borne little fruit since they began almost ten months ago, were once again put on hold yesterday.

"The talks have been adjourned," said a source from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development.

The East African regional group has been mediating the talks in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

Michael Makuei, chief negotiator for the South Sudan government, said the negotiations had been called off by IGAD but would resume on 16 October.

"It will give them time to consult on some of the outstanding issues and sticking points in the talks, especially the powers of the prime minister and whether the president will be head of state and government," he said.

The talks, which have been repeatedly interrupted since they began in January, aim to find a lasting solution to the conflict.

It broke out last December between factions loyal to President Salva Kiir and his former vice-president Riek Machar.