Record food purchases by WFP in developing countries

Published on 23 January 2008

A record 80 percent of the food purchased for cash last year by the world’s largest humanitarian organisation – a total of 2.1 million metric tons valued at more than US$760 million – was bought in developing countries from Afghanistan to Zambia.

A record 80 percent of the food purchased for cash last year by the world’s largest humanitarian organisation – a total of 2.1 million metric tons valued at more than US$760 million – was bought in developing countries from Afghanistan to Zambia.

Buying 'local' helps provide more income for small-scale farmers, while saving money for WFP.

WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced today that it had bought food in 69 developing countries, with the largest supplier being Uganda, where WFP procured 210,000 tons, enough to provide food to some 3.4 million people for one year.

Win-win solutions

"Local purchases create win-win solutions to hunger. In an era of soaring food prices - which hit hardest those already hungry - such solutions are more critical than ever," said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran, who will speak on local procurement, rising food prices and other issues at this week’s meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

"We are now not only feeding hungry people, but helping to develop sustainable solutions to hunger.”

Soaring prices

Heads of state, government and leading members of the international business community are gathering in Davos against a background of soaring commodity and fuel prices, which have a major impact on WFP’s ability to deliver food to the hungry.

One way that WFP is able to offset some of these price rises is to buy food on local markets in developing countries, where prices are sometimes lower and which are located closer to areas where WFP distributes food.

Local support

As food prices rise, helping to support local markets and to keep food affordable to the most vulnerable becomes ever more important.

Much of the food that WFP buys in developing countries is distributed either locally – in the same country where it was purchased – or regionally, thus keeping transport costs to a minimum.

The policy is to buy locally when and where there is an abundance and avoid local markets at times of scarcity, so as not to distort markets.

Expand

The Ugandan 2007 food purchase was valued at US$55 million, out of a total of more than US$1 billion WFP spent on food in domestic markets in Africa between 2001 and 2007.

WFP is currently planning to expand its food procurement activities so they better support sustainable crop production and help address the root causes of hunger.

Reduce risks

WFP will purchase more food directly from low income farmers and farmers’ groups, as a partner in agriculture and market development in countries where WFP has operations.

This will help reduce the risks farmers face from uncertain markets, boost incomes and encourage investment in technologies and practices which increase and improve food production.

Out of poverty

The aim is for agricultural markets in Africa to develop in such a way that by 2015, more of Africa's low-income farmers – the majority of whom are women – will produce large surpluses of food, sell them at a fair price and earn sufficient incomes to help them pull themselves and their dependants out of poverty.

“Buying 'local' helps provide more income for small-scale farmers, while saving money for WFP,” Sheeran said.

Top 10: where WFP bought food locally in 2007

1. Uganda US$ 54,769,771

2. Ecuador US$ 51,137,045

3. Turkey US$ 44,515,965

4. Pakistan US$ 36,399,122

5. Indonesia US$ 29,452,050

6. India US$ 28,188,917

7. Sudan US$ 24,771,678

8. Kenya US$ 24,404,307

9. Zambia US$ 21,412,392

10. Malawi US$ 20,619,635