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close this bookTackling Hunger in a World Full of Food: Tasks Ahead for Food Aid (WFP)
close this folder5. The evolving nature of food aid and future needs
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentA focus on hungry people, especially in emergencies
View the documentA focus on food-deficit countries
View the documentMore targeted interventions
View the documentDeclining food aid supply
View the documentProjections of food aid requirements


Food aid is changing
5.1 Food aid is not what is was. Its characteristics have changed significantly since food aid became a major form of global resource transfers in the 1950s. For example, the food aid regime of the 1950s and 1960s was one that used surplus food in a few industrialized countries to promote broad economic and foreign policy interests. Some care was taken to avoid displacement by food aid of commercial exports. The Committee on Surplus Disposal was established in 1954 to ensure that food aid was given as a resource that was additional to the "usual marketing requirements" of recipient countries.
5.2 The world food crisis of the early 1970s led to a shift of food aid towards development objectives. Highlighting the food needs of many poorest nations, the 1974 World Food Conference raised awareness of the need for greater attention to food supply and stability. As a result, the 1970s and 1980s saw increasing support for project food aid; its share of total food aid increased from 17 percent in 1976/77 to 28 percent in 1983/84 (Table 2). There was also a shift towards grant and multilateral channels for food aid, with greater emphasis being placed on continuity of supply (Uvin 1994; Clay and Singer 1985). During the 1980s the Food Aid Convention fixed the level of multi-annual donor commitments at its highest level yet--7.5 million tons (Table 3).
5.3 The 1990s have so far seen several breaks with the past. Four major changes in the food aid world can be characterized as: a) an increasingly narrow targeting of people facing immediate food insecurity and hunger; b) an increasing focus of resources on countries needing support in the form of food; c) a decline in food aid used as untargeted programme assistance in favour of targeted interventions; and d) a decline in food aid supplies during the mid-1990s. Each of these points is examined in more detail below.