US president George w Bush has announced his country will no longer dump agricultural surpluses produced by highly subsided American farmers in Africa. Instead, money for food aid would be used to buy and distribute produce grown.
T he move probably has more to do with a growing local demand for food crops by the US biofuel industry than a genuine desire to stimulate agricultural markets in But it is likely to be welcomed by African governments, farmers’ unions and international aid agencies. “Today, more than half the world’s food assistance comes from America – we send emergency food stocks to starving people from camps in Sudan to slums around the world,”
Bush told the UN General Assembly. “I’ve proposed an innovative initiative to alleviate hunger under which would purchase the crops of local farmers in and elsewhere, rather than shipping in food from the developed world. This would help build up local agriculture and break the cycle of famine in the developing world, and I urge congress to support this initiative.”
Last year British-based charity Oxfam released a report entitled Causing hunger: an overview of the food crisis in Africa. It pointed out over 70% of food distributed by the UN was grown in the developed world. Food aid was a useful way for these countries to offload agricultural surpluses and provide commercial benefits to their own agricultural and shipping companies, it said. But aid often exacerbated food insecurity by distorting local markets and preventing long-term investment in agricultural research, development and infrastructure. – Stephan Hofstätter