Saturday, August 18, 2007
US Food aid is wrecking Africa
Critics of US food aid subsidies say they help cause obesity among Americans and starvation among Africans.
Now Care, one of the world's biggest charities, has announced that it will boycott the controversial policy of selling tons of heavily subsidised US produced food in African countries. Care wants the US government to send money to buy food locally, rather than unwanted US produced food.
The US arm of the charity says America is causing rather than reducing hunger with a decree that US food aid must be sold rather than directly distributed to those facing starvation. In America, the subsidies for corn in particular, help underpin the junk food industry, which uses corn extracts as a sweetener, creating a home-grown a health crisis.
The farm lobby meanwhile has a stranglehold on Congress, which has balked at making any changes that would interfere with a system that promotes overproduction of commodities.
Critics of the policy say it also undermines African farmers' ability to produce food, making the most vulnerable countries of the world even more dependent on aid to avert famine.
Under the system Washington buys tens of millions of dollars of surplus corn and other products from agribusiness. The food, which can only be exported on US flagged ships, is then sold by charities to raise money to pay for emergencies.
Globally, about 800 million are chronically hungry and the number is rising every year. US farmers love the present system, but it is slow and unresponsive when there are food emergencies.
Care has caused a huge upset in the American charitable sector by deciding to phase out the practice. It has also upset US agribusiness and shipping interests, which benefit to the tune of some $180m a year from the practice.