KABUL – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) will be able to stave off a potentially critical shortage of wheat by buying wheat locally in Afghanistan in the largest quantity ever, the organisation announced.
In a groundbreaking agreement, WFP will purchase 13,000 metric tons of wheat – enough to feed more than 500,000 people for three months – from Afghanistan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL), with funds provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
In addition, WFP is buying wheat directly from small-scale farmers and farmers’ organizations through the pilot Purchase for Progress (P4P) initiative, which aims to use WFP’s purchasing power to help develop agricultural markets and is supported in Afghanistan by the government of Canada.
“We are relieved and excited that these landmark purchases will let us continue providing food assistance to Afghanistan’s neediest families, and do so with food produced here in the country,” said Louis Imbleau, WFP’s Representative in Afghanistan.
The purchase from MAIL also supports the development of Afghanistan’s Strategic Grain Reserve, which is being established to reduce the country’s vulnerability to drought or other emergencies that might affect harvests, prices and food availability.
Buying the wheat locally means WFP can distribute it to beneficiaries more swiftly than usual, reducing the impact of the shortage that threatened winter assistance to a million Afghans following flooding in neighbouring Pakistan earlier this year.
The food pipeline for WFP’s Afghanistan operation was disrupted when supplies of wheat were lost to floodwaters while in transit through Pakistan to landlocked Afghanistan.
The local purchases will address the immediate shortfall. In addition, support from other donors including Japan will allow WFP to buy another 24,000 metric tons of wheat from Pakistan, which should ensure that WFP is able to continue feeding millions of needy Afghans for the next several months.
WFP still faces significant funding shortages in 2011, however, and is urging donors to provide the US$132 million required to continue its lifesaving food assistance through to the end of July.
WFP plans to feed roughly 7.3 million needy Afghans in 2011.