food-aidThe US provides substantial food aid at times of crisis to many countries around the world. According to current policy, the food is purchased from US farmers. This has the advantage of helping the US farmers, many of whom are struggling to make a decent living, like farmers in many other developed countries. However, it also has significant disadvantages, including the logistical challenge of transporting the food aid and the adverse effects of imported food aid on local markets in recipient countries.

Unfortunately, when food aid is imported into a recipient country and distributed free of charge, local farmers are no longer able to sell their crops, because they are unable to compete with free. If the food aid continues for long enough, there will be a disincentive for local farmers to plant the next crop because they know or suspect that they will be unable to sell it, and accordingly the delivery of food aid can actually cause long-term food insecurity, as has happened in Ethiopia.

According to a recent New York Times article, the Obama Administration is seeking to change the food aid policy to give preference to buying food in developing countries, rather than buying it from US farmers and shipping it to the recipients. The change should enable the US to provide significantly more food aid at lower cost. The change in policy is being opposed by organisations with US farming and shipping interests, who stand to lose hundreds of jobs.

Leave a Reply