US Food Aid: Time to Get It Right - Institute for Agriculture and Trade ...

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US Food Aid: Time to Get It Right - Institute for Agriculture and Trade ...

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M U L T I L A T E R A L C H A N N E L S

A N D A G R E E M E N T S

About half of all food aid was managed by multilateral agencies in 2004. The multilateral

share of the total has been growing steadily over the past two decades. The dominant

global food agency is the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), established in

1962, which handles about 98 percent of multilateral food aid. Other multilateral and international

organizations involved in food aid include the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC),

the International Office for Migration (IOM), UNICEF and the UN office of the High Commissioner

for Refugees (UNHCR).

In 2004, the WFP handled about 3.7 million metric tons of food aid. 27 The WFP is asking for 5.7 million

metric tons for its operations in 2005, in part because of enormous need in the wake of the December 26,

2004 tsunami disaster. 28

The U.S. is the largest donor by far to the WFP. Nearly all the U.S. contribution is in the form of food

rather than cash. The WFP prefers to receive cash to have some flexibility to source food aid supplies where

it makes most sense as needs evolve. Canada and some European countries provide their WFP contributions

as cash.

More than a quarter of the food distributed by the WFP since 2000 has been purchased from a food-surplus

region in the recipient country or from a country other than the aid donor. In 2003, WFP deliveries

accounted for 89 percent of all triangular food-aid purchases and 70 percent of all local food-aid food

purchases. 29 NGOs are important partners of WFP, in some cases providing food and cash donations, and

in others serving as implementing agencies for WFP projects.

In addition to the WFP, there are several multilateral agreements and institutions that guide, monitor and

track food aid, notably the FAO Consultative Sub-Committee on Surplus Disposals (CSSD) and the Food

Aid Convention (FAC).

The FAO Consultative Sub-Committee on Surplus Disposals (CSSD)

In 1954, under the auspices of the FAO, but in Washington D.C. rather than Rome, the CSSD was established

to monitor the disposal of agricultural surpluses as food aid. The choice of D.C. reflected the interest

of food aid donors in the committee’s creation, although both donors and food aid recipients make up its 41

members. The CSSD assesses food aid contributions against recipient countries’ “usual marketing requirement”,

or UMR. This is measured by using an average of the past five years’ commercial imports of the

commodity in question. Food aid is supposed to be additional to the UMR, responding to an unexpected

need for additional imports. By proxy, the UMR measure is also supposed to help monitor impact on local

production. Understandably, and importantly, the CSSD food aid rules seek to avoid possible damage to

the long-term food self-reliance of the recipient country.

14 iatp.org

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