UN, partners explore ways that food relief can boost development

UN, partners explore ways that food relief can boost development

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Grain market experts, economists and policy makers from around the world are meeting in Rome today with United Nations food agencies to explore the best ways to benefit farmers in developing countries through local food procurement.

Grain market experts, economists and policy makers from around the world are meeting in Rome today with United Nations food agencies to explore the best ways to benefit farmers in developing countries through local food procurement.

“There is no doubt that the power of local purchase can benefit not only the hungry, but also the farmers producing the food,” said Josette Sheeran Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), which is hosting the meeting.

“We all know that food security requires both access to food and sustainable production. Procurement can provide a vital link between the two at local, regional or international level,” she added.

Ms. Sheeran, who held talks last month during a field trip to Ethiopia about local food assistance procurement and its potential for making a positive impact on human development, noted that WFP had a “huge market presence” with its cash-based purchases across the developing world.

Last year, 77 per cent of WFP’s food purchases were from developing countries – a total of 1.6 million metric tons at a value of more than $460 million. This shows an increase from 74 per cent in 2005.

WFP priority is to ensure that food is available to beneficiaries in the most timely and cost-efficient manner, but when conditions are equal, it gives preference to procurement from developing countries, the agency said.

When possible, WFP purchases food locally from parts of a country where there is a surplus, for distribution in other parts of that same country where there are shortages.

The agency also purchases food from developing countries with a national surplus for distribution in other countries where there is need, both in the same region and in other parts of the world.

Today’s Rome meeting, the first of its kind, is funded by the Belgian and Swedish Governments and will bring together the three UN food agencies – WFP, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) – with non-governmental organizations, donor and recipient countries and the private sector.