LONDON — At its 100th session held in early June in London, the Food Aid Committee noted that member nations once again in 2008-09 exceeded their minimum commitments. The committee also extended for one year to June 2010 the scheduled expiration of the Food Aid Convention, which is part of the International Grains Agreement, looking to a formal renegotiation in the wake of Doha Round negotiations under the World Trade Organization.
Noting that Doha negotiations promised new disciplines applicable to food aid transactions, the committee concluded it would not be possible to enter into formal renegotiations of the Food Aid Convention, 1999, without Doha’s outcome settled.
While formal negotiations thus were not started, members of the Food Aid Committee held informal sessions to focus on the strengths and weaknesses of the Convention, including operations of the Food Aid Committee itself and the Secretariat provided by the International Grains Council. In a communiqué issued following the 100th session, it was noted: "Good progress was made and several issues were identified for further examination, also with the aim to engage with other stakeholders before any renegotiation takes place."
One step taken, aimed at enhancing the effectiveness of food aid provided under the Convention, was "to further facilitate the provision of micronutrients in emergency or other food aid situations where there is food aid provided and there are known micronutrient deficiencies or there is documented malnutrition." This was done by amending the relevant Rule in the Convention’s Rules of Procedure.
Under the Convention’s Rules, donor countries pledge to provide annually specific minimum amounts or values of food aid to developing countries in the form of grains and other food products. The major donor pledges include: United States, 2,500,000 tonnes; European Union, 1,320,000; Canada, 420,000; Japan, 350,000, and Australia, 250,000.
The committee examined a report on fulfillment of 2007-08 obligations and reviewed preliminary data on food aid operations in 2008-09. The Secretariat forecast that about 6.6 million tonnes of food aid, as measured in terms of wheat, were distributed in 2008-09, "therefore exceeding members’ combined minimum obligations." The total of food aid distributed in 2007-08 was 7.1 million tonnes, to 60 recipient countries, while the 2006-07 total was 7.5 million tonnes.
In releasing these figures, the Secretariat emphasized their preliminary nature because of "the increased complexity of food aid operations, often involving local purchases and triangular transactions."
At the committee meeting, donor countries exchanged information on national food aid and related policy developments as well as on long-term food security concerns. In the past year, major aid operations were conducted in East Africa, mainly in Sudan and Ethiopia, and emergency food aid appeals came from people displaced by fighting in Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
The committee elected Ms. Sharon Murphy, deputy head of the Economic and Planning Division, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, of Ireland, as committee chair for 2009-10. Named as vice-chair was Ms. Leslie Norton, director general, International Humanitarian Assistance Directorate, CIDA, Canada. The retiring chair was Hiroshi Oka, minister (economic affairs), Embassy of Japan. The committee thanked Mr. Oka for his excellent leadership in the past year.