WFP Buys Record Amounts Of Food In Southern Africa

Published on 23 January 2009

A WFP warehouse in Zambia. (Copyright: Shadley Lombard)

 JOHANNESBURG – WFP bought a record 552,000 metric tons of food in southern Africa in 2008 – the equivalent of providing nearly 2.75 million hungry people with a full food basket for an entire year.

“These record purchases played a huge part in ensuring that WFP was able to provide timely and sufficient food assistance to millions of hungry people across Africa,” said Mustapha Darboe, WFP Regional Director for Southern, Eastern and Central Africa.

The food agency announced today that it spent US$190 million last year buying cereals, pulses, vegetable oil, corn-soya blend, salt and sugar in seven countries across the region. 

The bulk of the food was bought in South Africa, where WFP purchased 430,000 metric tons at a cost of US$141 million. WFP also bought over 30,000 metric tons each in Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia.

Large surpluses in South Africa helped to make the southern Africa region a cost effective market for the purchase of food commodities for use in humanitarian operations across the continent. While most of the food was distributed to vulnerable people in southern Africa, WFP used substantial quantities to assist hungry people in emergency situations, including Somalia, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad and Senegal.

The record purchases in southern Africa amounted to one fifth of WFP’s total food purchases in 2008. The previous record was set in 2005, when WFP bought just over 500,000 metric tons in southern Africa for US$100 million, which when compared with the US$190 million bought in 2008, illustrates the massive increase in the price of staple foods.

“At a time of high food prices, buying in southern Africa has still proven to be both cost efficient as well as extremely effective in supporting small farmers and traders and stimulating local agricultural economies,” said Darboe, adding that WFP was hoping to buy even more food directly from small-scale farmers in the coming years.

In 2008, WFP bought food in South Africa (430,000 metric tons; US$141 million), Mozambique (35,000 metric tons; US$13.9 million), Malawi (32,200 metric tons; US$15.6 million), Zambia (31,700 metric tons; US$10.8 million), Lesotho (12,100 metric tons; US$3.8 million), Zimbabwe (6,200 metric tons; US$3.7 million) and Namibia (4,700 metric tons; US$1.1 million).