Soaring food costs prompt aid adjustments in US, UK



The dramatic spike in food prices is pushing the U.S. and Britain to make major revisions in their food aid for the world’s poorest countries. With the cost of wheat, rice, corn, and other important grains rising to 41 percent in six months, the U.S. Agency for International Development has already announced a USD120 million deficit, one that’s expected to shoot up to USD200 million towards the end of the fiscal year. “We’re in the process now of going country by country and analyzing the commodity price increase on each country,” said USAID Food for Peace program director Jeff Borns. “Then we’re going to have to prioritize.” The U.S. Congress is also thinking of revamping certain food aid policies, and some lawmakers are considering the possibility of digging into funds for developmental aid to make up for emergency food aid money lost to rising costs. “I’m not backing off on my belief in developmental aid, but I do recognize that this dramatic increase in commodity prices in a very short time suggests that we’ve got to find a solution to the immediate crisis,” said Rep. Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican.

In the U.K., major aid agencies are clamoring for significant adjustments to emergency food programs in response to the unprecedented increase in grain prices. Oxfam said that leading international food aid programs should enlarge its concentration beyond buying and shipping U.S.-produced goods to divert more money to countries that need it most. “A key assumption of U.S. trade policy is that its farmers can sell any excess production abroad,” said Oxfam trade spokesperson Amy Barry. “But food aid can have a negative impact. Food ends up being shipped much too late and it can end up displacing local agricultural production. Often it’s not necessarily a shortage of food that causes the crisis; it’s whether people can afford the food that’s there.”

Sources:
High food prices mean U.S. aid cuts (UPI)
Crop boom may prompt food aid rethink in US Congress (Reuters)
Food aid to poorest countries slashed as price of grain soars (The Guardian)

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