October 15, 2011

Washington to review food aid policies

The US Agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, has said the United States was going to change the way it distributes food aid to foreign countries, but gave no details on the planned changes. The secretary made the comments during a roundtable discussion with ministers of agriculture from Tanzania, Ghana, and Mozambique and the director general of the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation.

According to the US Agency for International Development, the United States spent $2.5 billion on food assistance in 2009. That was lower than the $2.7 billion spent in 2008, but higher than the $1.8 billion spent in 2007.Mr Vilsack's comment came during a question-and-answer session following the roundtable, which primarily focused on efforts being taken by the countries to secure their agricultural futures. He said there were 295 million undernourished people worldwide, adding that sharing technology with developing nations to help them secure their own food supplies and better manage their natural resources will be a key challenge in the years to come. The ministers said their countries were introducing modern farming techniques in what is generally an agricultural industry made up of family and peasant farmers.Agriculture minister Prof Jumanne Maghembe said the government subsidised commercial fertilizer and seeds so that farmers could get higher yields. He said the government price supports are being used as incentives so farmers can boost crop output. The plan is to decrease the subsidies over time as farmers become more comfortable with modern techniques. (The Citizen)

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