|Food aid can meet immediate needs and contribute to development.|
Almost all the food reaching the poorest nations from abroad does so through trade rather than aid. Nearly 90 percent of the cereals imported by the 88 low-income food-deficit countries (LIFDCs) in the developing world and in Central and Eastern Europe in 1993 were bought on the open market.
Food aid accounts for some 5 percent of the total aid of US$ 2 600 million given by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 1993. Minimum food aid commitments have been established and monitored by the International Wheat Council through a series of Food Aid Conventions since 1967. Food aid may be given in kind, as a grant or on concessional terms, or in cash, to fund food imports. Triangular transactions, where the donor buys food from one developing country to give to another, help both producing and consuming nations, but only account for a small proportion of the total.
The Committee on Food Aid Policies and Programmes, elected by FAO Council and the UN's Economic and Social Council, coordinates food aid within the UN system. It is also the governing body of the World Food Programme (WFP), which is responsible for about a quarter of all food aid given every year (the rest coming directly from governments and aid agencies). Standby food aid pledges are managed by the International Emergency Food Reserve (IEFR), set up by a special session of the UN General Assembly.
Food aid may be given in response to crises caused by bad harvests, war or natural disasters (emergency food aid) or to boost development (programme or project food aid), for example, by providing food for work in support of projects for reforestation or soil conservation.
If poorly designed, food aid can create dependence in recipient countries, undercut domestic food production and nurture tastes for imported foods. But well-designed programmes and infrastructural improvements - which reach those most in need, take local eating habits into account and promote local agricultural production - can be an important tool in development.
Food aid recipients
Cereal commodities as food aid
Cereal imports of low-income food-deficit countries
World food programme emergency operations