Canada boosts food aid, lifts limit on sourcing

Canada has untied its remaining limits on where federally-funded food aid can be sourced, and has pledged to spend 28 per cent more on such aid this year.

Food aid programming will get $230 million this fiscal year, up $50 million, International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda said in a release Wednesday.

Canada will also open up its food aid procurement policy to allow up to 100 per cent of its food aid to be procured internationally, compared to a previous requirement for 50 per cent of aid to be sourced domestically.

Purchases from developed countries will be limited to countries with similar policies on untying food aid, Ottawa noted in a release.

“By untying restrictions on where food is purchased, Canada is promoting the development of local and regional markets and more importantly, increasing the speed, effectiveness and efficiency of Canadian food aid,” the government said.

The budget increase and the move to untie aid from the food source both come in response to a recent plea from the United Nations’ (UN) World Food Programme (WFP). Rising fuel and food prices alone have increased WFP’s 2008 budget for food aid by an extra $770 million, WFP executive director Josette Sheeran said in Oda’s press release.

“This generous contribution by Canada will help protect millions of children from severe malnutrition and hunger,” Sheeran said.

Sheeran also noted Canada’s untied cash contributions will allow for flexibility to buy the right food at the best price in areas closest to the hungry.

Haiti

Canada’s aid package this year also includes a “special contribution” of $10 million to Haiti through the WFP, which the government said will provide food to over 350,000 Haitians, primarily vulnerable groups such as pregnant women and children under five years old.

Out of its $10 million contribution, Ottawa said it will be “accelerating” $5 million toward the World Food Programme’s school-feeding initiative in Haiti.

Ottawa also pledged a separate $5.3 million contribution to a food security initiative in Haiti, working with the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture.

Haiti has faced rioting in recent weeks, reportedly spurred by rapidly rising prices for rice and other food staples. The riots led to the ouster of Haitian Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis by that country’s senate on April 12.

Foodgrains Bank

The government also announced an extra $5 million contribution to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, bringing CFGB funding to $25 million for this fiscal year, the government said. The CFGB is a partnership of 15 Canadian church-based agencies collecting grain and cash donations, distributing food and providing funding and expert advice for food project around the world.

The removal of the 50 per cent limit on international sourcing will also allow the CFGB the flexibility to procure food commodities from all countries, including developing countries, Ottawa noted.

Canada’s food aid for 2008-09 will be distributed throughout the year based on needs assessments by the WFP and the CFGB. Of that, about 75 per cent will be directed to Africa and will contribute to Canada’s pledge to double its aid to Africa in 2008-09.

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