WFP WELCOMES INDONESIA'S MOVE TO LIFT BAN ON HUMANITARIAN RICE IMPORTS
JAKARTA - The United Nations World Food Programme has warmly welcomed the decision by the Government of Indonesia to exempt humanitarian agencies from its ban on rice imports, saying that millions of poor Indonesians are now guaranteed the delivery of food assistance they so urgently need.
WFP Representative Mohamed Saleheen said WFP can resume its normal operations in feeding 1.7 million people in the vast Southeast Asian country, the majority of them malnourished mothers and their infants. WFP and major donors cooperated closely in their work with the Indonesian Government on this issue.
"We are very pleased that the Government of Indonesia is closely collaborating with us to allow the smooth flow of food aid to the vulnerable people whom we assist," said Saleheen. "As they are among the poorest and most fragile people in Indonesia, they cannot afford the risk of an interruption in their food aid support."
The exemption of the rice ban for humanitarian purposes, which has taken immediate effect, comes six months after the Government stopped all rice imports in an effort to protect local farmers. Nearly 12,000 metric tons of rice destined for WFP beneficiaries was held in warehouses and ports while additional aid shipments of rice en route to Indonesia had to be diverted to other destinations during the time the ban was in place.
Most of the rice granted the exemption is destined for a subsidy programme for 1.7 million Indonesians who live in desperately poor urban slum conditions. WFP had drawn on its existing in country stocks for them until the end of June; when those stocks ran out, the food aid agency borrowed rice from the Indonesian Government.
"These are people who live below the poverty line, people who get fewer than 2,100 calories a day," Saleheen said. "That's why we're so happy that this issue has been resolved in their best interests."
Saleheen pointed out that WFP was not contributing to any upset in the domestic markets because the annual humanitarian food aid from all sources to Indonesia makes up only 0.11 per cent of the total of Indonesia's rice consumption and is not meant for the commercial market.
He added that WFP had confirmed its commitment to the Government of Indonesia to pursue the procurement of rice inside the country for its activities.
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency. In 2003 WFP fed nearly 110 million people in 82 countries including most of the world's refugees and internally displaced people.
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