The Financial Times reports that the G8 countries will announce a “food security initiative” at a summit this week that will commit “more than $12bn (£7.3bn) for agricultural development over the next three years, in a move that signals a further shift from food aid to long-term investments in farming in the developing world.” The change in tactics comes at a time when increased commodity prices and stagnant agricultural investment have led to an increase in the number of people worldwide who are hungry to over one billion.
For the past two decades, the U.S. has provided mostly food aid. The Obama administration is shifting to a policy that encourages increased agricultural productivity in poorer nations. “For too long, our primary response [to fight hunger] has been to send emergency [food] aid when the crisis is at its worst,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last month. “This saves lives, but it doesn’t address hunger’s root causes. It is, at best, a short-term fix.”
The change in policy could cause some conflict in U.S. farm communities. The U.S. spent over $2 billion last year on American-grown crops shipped overseas. A shift to local production in poorer countries could diminish U.S. exports. The U.S. spends 20 times more on food aid in Africa than on efforts to boost food production, however. According to the FT, “annual spending on African farming projects topped $400m in the 1980s, but by 2006 had dwindled to $60m….”