LONDON — Food aid shipments in 2008-09 covered by the Food Aid Convention of the International Grains Arrangement rose 10% over the prior year and were considerably larger than preliminary indications. Data presented at the 101st session of the Food Aid Committee in London placed the 2008-09 aid total at 7.8 million tonnes in wheat equivalent. That compared with 7.1 million of food aid shipped in the preceding year.

Besides rising 10% over the 2007-08 aid volume, the 2008-09 shipments were well above the preliminary indication of 6.6 million tonnes.

Food aid shipments covered by the convention reached a recent peak of 10.5 million tonnes in 2000-01. As the major provider of food aid, the United States accounted for shipments of 3.6 million tonnes in 2007-08, while its recent peak was 6.8 million in 2000-01. Under the Food Aid Convention, the U.S. government committed to providing at least 2.5 million tonnes of aid in wheat equivalent each crop year.

Committee members exchanged information on current and planned food assistance operations by donor countries. Major attention focused on sub-Sahara Africa as the overall global food security situation improved. In reviewing the global food outlook, committee members noted continuing volatility of prices and "very high" grain prices in food deficit developing countries. They also pointed to recent sharp upturns in rice prices in Asia.

The committee emphasized that considerable aid was needed from the international community to address the complex needs of 6 million people in Sudan and to provide essential support to 2.8 million beneficiaries in Somalia, including vulnerable children, pregnant and lactating women, HIV/AIDS-affected persons and school children.

Reports were heard on food security policies and strategies, including various initiatives undertaken by the United Nations and relief agencies. An observer from the World Trade Organization updated members on the state of play of Doha Round trade negotiations and their possible impact on international food aid. It was noted that draft modalities for food trade under the Doha Round would have an impact on food assistance.

Committee members reviewed in depth the effectiveness of the Food Aid Convention and the possible aims of a new convention.

It was agreed that these discussions had been extremely fruitful and that the process should be accelerated in the months prior to the next committee session in June 2010, when the committee is due to decide on further extension of the convention. This led to the planning of an informal meeting of member countries in February 2010.

Sharon Murphy, deputy head of division in the Irish Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, presided as committee chair.