the political economy of food aid

Aid Watch has a piece on this very important subject, check it out.

Other stories worth checking out this Friday include Jina Moore’s and the IRIN piece on the food situation in the Sahel.

the rising cost of food, can africa cope?

This week’s economist newspaper has a piece on the issue of “agflation” – the recent upsurge in global food prices. The rise in food prices should be a wake up call to least developed countries whose populations mostly depend on food aid to keep body and soul together.

The fact of the matter is that as food prices rise, the cost of sending food aid will go up and if the donors who distribute this food do not get additional funding they may have to cut their budgets – meaning more poor people in the world will have to die of undernutrition related deaths.

But can this be avoided? The answer to this question, I can dare say with “high confidence,” is a simple yes, and here is why.

Ideally, rising food prices should be good news for countries who still consider agriculture  to be the backbone of their economies. (mostly in Africa and the rest of the global south) What this means is that these countries will have a chance to earn more forex from their exports of wheat, maize and what not. But this is not the case. Most of these agri-economies are net food importers because their arable land potential is not being maximised. This is largely due to poor farming practices in the underdeveloped countries and food subsidies in the global north that make farming not so attractive to entrepreneurs.

The WTO, among other such international institutions, has failed to resolve this adverse state of affairs but it is my hope that may be now that prices have gone up Washington and Brussels will finally cut off their subsidy-addicted farmers and let Adam Smith’s invisible hand do its work in determining returns on agriculture and thus give global southerners a fairer chance. At the same time, governments of the underdeveloped agri-economies should strive to be food sufficient – like Malawi has recently done, without much help from outside.