Buying food to boost development: WFP procurement meeting

Published on 29 May 2007

Grain market experts, economists and policy makers from around the world will gather in Rome tomorrow for a meeting hosted by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to explore the best ways to benefit farmers in developing countries through food procurement.

Grain market experts, economists and policy makers from around the world will gather in Rome tomorrow for a meeting hosted by WFP to explore the best ways to benefit farmers in

There is no doubt that the power of local purchase can benefit not only the hungry, but also the farmers producing the food
WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran

developing countries through food procurement.

The meeting, the first of its kind, is funded by the Belgian and Swedish Governments. It will bring together key players in the food assistance world to discuss how food procurement can contribute to the development of markets and thus improve livelihoods and help build the economies of poorer countries.

Vital link

“There is no doubt that the power of local purchase can benefit not only the hungry, but also the farmers producing the food,” said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran.

“We all know that food security requires both access to food and sustainable production. Procurement can provide a vital link between the two at local, regional or international level.”

Participants in tomorrow’s meeting, who include the three UN food agencies, as well as representatives of non-governmental organisations, donor and recipient countries and the private sector, will explore ways of working together to strengthen markets in developing countries, particularly in the least developed and low-income countries.

"Unparalleled opportunity"

“This meeting offers an unparalleled opportunity to explore how we might all best work together to connect local farmers to markets, particularly in the least developed and low income countries, and in so doing bring greater benefits to those at the very beginning of the supply chain, the farmers,” Sheeran said.

Sheeran, who had talks last month during a field trip to Ethiopia with economists, market experts and traders about local food assistance procurement and its potential for making a positive impact on human development, noted that WFP had a “huge market presence” with its cash-based purchases across the developing world.

Last year, 77 percent of WFP’s food purchases were from developing countries – a total of 1.6 million metric tons at a value of more than US$460 million. This shows an increase from 74 percent in 2005. More dramatically, food purchases from the least developed and low income countries rose from 36 percent in 2005 to 50 percent last year.

Policy

WFP policy on procurement is to ensure that food is available to beneficiaries in the most timely and cost efficient manner. At the same time, when conditions are equal, WFP gives preference to procurement from developing countries.

WFP country offices purchase food locally from parts of a country where there is a surplus for distribution in other parts of the country where there are shortages.

The agency also purchases food from developing countries with a national surplus for distribution in other countries where there is need, both in the same region and in other parts of the world.