Ottawa to give an extra $50 million for food aid
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Wednesday, April 30, 2008 6:18PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, May 18, 2012 8:09PM EDT
Canada announced that it would be contributing an additional $50 million for food aid, hot on the heels of the World Food Program's request for $755 million in extra aid in response to rising food prices.
The extra $50 million represents a 28 per cent increase over the previous year's food aid contribution, Bev Oda, the minister for the Canadian International Development Agency said at a news conference Wednesday.
Of that cash, $45 million will go to the World Food Program, of which $10 million will specifically go to Haiti. The other $5 million will go to Canadian Foodgrains Bank.
"The rising cost of food has created a global crisis that is impacting the poorest and most vulnerable," Oda said.
"Josette Sheeran, head of the World Food Program, describes the situation as 'a silent tsunami, which knows no borders, sweeping the world.'"
The UN-imposed deadline for emergency funding is Thursday. Germany and Switzerland have both said they will contribute extra funds.
With the extra $50 million, Canada's total food aid contribution for this year will be $231 million.
Oda said $160 million would go towards Africa, as part of the Canada's G8 commitment to double aid to the continent.
Canada is the second largest donor to the World Food Program after the United States. Last year, Ottawa provided $161 million for food aid.
Oda also announced that Ottawa would be untying its traditional food aid procurement policy, in which donors would require aid recipients to purchase a certain amount of goods from the donor country.
But Darrin Qualman, of the National Farmers Union, said Canadian farmers want assurances that local farmers in the affected country would benefit, not large international corporations.
"We are willing to relinquish that market, but only if we're relinquishing it to the farmers in the region or in another part of that country," he told CTV's Mike Duffy Live. "The government hasn't been able to give us any sort of assurance that they'll make sure the food is then bought from local farmers. It could actually be bought from large grain traders or trans-nationals in the area."
He also said there was no end in sight to the world's food shortage program, and criticized the United Nations for not taking action earlier.
"We are in the fastest food-supply drawdown in a century, outside of wartime and the Depression," he said. "In seven of the last eight years, the world consumed more food than farmers produced. Over that period, the global food supply is down by half. We are in a terrible food crises."
The Food Program's Terri Toyota told Canada AM that the group "is tremendously thankful and appreciative" for Canada's contribution.
"This was a significant announcement," she said.
Toyota said investments in agricultural development in countries affected by rising food costs is a key priority for the UN.
In an earlier appearance on Canada AM, she said more needs to be done to determine the real reasons food is not getting from farmers to the poor, such as weak distribution systems and lack of access to markets.
Help arrives in Afghanistan
After being one of the first countries to alert the UN to its skyrocketing food prices, Afghanistan has started to receive additional bags of grain. Reporting from Kandahar on Wednesday, CTV's Paul Workman said the Food Program has already set aside an additional $77 million for Afghanistan food aid.
"The officials from the (World Food Program) said 'we wouldn't be able to give this extra food if it weren't for the money Canada has given us," he said, noting the price of wheat there has tripled in recent weeks. "(Canada is) a very important donor."
He said the food is mainly going to people in cities, where demand is the highest. UN officials are now looking for solutions that go beyond providing emergency supplies.
"The World Food Program says giving out extra grain and extra wheat is not going to solve the problem," Workman said. "There needs to be more production.
"The UN says these kinds of high prices are going to be here for quite some time."
Food prices all over the world have spiked in the past month, with citizens of many countries taking to the streets to protest rising costs.