Rene — US Food Aid is `Wrecking' Africa, Claims Charity

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US Food Aid is `Wrecking’ Africa, Claims Charity
Published on Friday, August 17, 2007 by the Independent/UK
by Leonard Doyle
WASHINGTON – 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.
Attempts to get Congress to end the policy, as it debates a new farm
bill that will last for the next five years, have failed.
Alina Labrada, a spokeswoman for Care said: `I don’t think that
Americans who generously donate want people to go hungry at their
Care’s decision has led to a rift with some of the biggest US
charities, including World Vision, Feed the Children and Africare, who
rely on the system to fund a large part of their budgets. They argue
that it keeps hard currency in impoverished countries and stops food
prices rising.
The US claims to be the world’s most generous provider of food aid,
giving $2bn annually. Much of that aid lost in the overheads of
shipping it to Africa.
Not only does subsidised US food hurt African farmers, but food
purchased in the US regularly takes four months to reach the
destination where there is an emergency. In contrast food bought
locally takes only days to arrive.