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China emerges as world's third largest food aid donor

In the same year it stopped receiving food aid from WFP, China emerged as the world’s third largest food aid donor in 2005, according to the latest annual Food Aid Monitor from INTERFAIS, the International Food Aid Information System.

Global food aid grew by 10 percent to 8.2 million metric tons in 2005, a slight upturn in an overall declining trend, according to the INTERFAIS database, which is hosted by WFP to track all donations of food aid, not just those handled by the agency.

Donations of food made the difference between life and death after the tsunami, the Pakistan earthquake and in Sudan.
James T. Morris, WFP Executive Director
China accounted for more than half of the rise in overall food aid donations in 2005, with a 260 percent increase compared to the previous year.

Donations from China totalled 577,000 metric tons and were mostly directed to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, with small quantities donated to Liberia, Guinea Bissau, Sri Lanka and a dozen other countries.

Canada increased its donations by 42 percent, to 275,000 tons. Other relatively new donors, such as the Czech Republic, Greece, Poland, doubled or even tripled their support from 2004 to 2005.

Donations from non-governmental organizations, such as the American Red Cross, increased by 64 percent.

Most generous donor

The United States remained the world’s most generous food aid donor, providing 4 million tons, or 49 percent of all donations. Overall donations from the European Union totalled 1.5 million tons, with the European Commission, Austria, Denmark, Netherlands and Sweden significantly increasing their support.

“Donations of food made the difference between life and death after the tsunami, the Pakistan earthquake and in Sudan, so we are extraordinarily grateful to all who gave last year,” said James T. Morris, Executive Director of WFP, which delivered 54 percent of the world’s food aid in 2005, reaching some 97 million people.

“Sadly, there is still not enough to meet the most basic needs of millions of individuals. When Official Development Assistance (ODA) is at its highest level in history, it is hard to understand why there still is not enough food aid to feed everyone who needs it. The number of hungry is rising by more than 4 million people a year in the developing world, even though poverty is declining. We need a food first policy,” added Morris.

First time

For the first time on record, more than half of all food aid was sent to sub-Saharan Africa, which received 4.6 million tons of food aid. Ethiopia again topped the list of countries receiving food aid, with 1.1 million tons of food aid, or 13 percent of all food aid delivered in 2005. Other major recipients in Africa included Sudan, Uganda, Eritrea and Kenya.

Food aid to Asia increased by 14 percent, and the Democratic Republic of Korea received the second-highest amount of food aid worldwide, with 1.1 million tons – most of it bilateral aid donated from China and the Republic of Korea. Bangladesh, Indonesia and Sri Lanka were also among the principal recipients.

Food aid destined for Latin America and the Caribbean increased 8 percent against 2004, while deliveries to the Middle East and North Africa dropped 53 percent and to Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States fell by 30 percent.


The nature of food aid is also changing. Food aid for emergencies increased by almost 1 million tons, and accounted for 64 percent of all food aid deliveries.

Project food aid, which directly targets poor and hungry people, increased slightly to 2.1 million tons, however most of the increase was intended to be sold, and the income used to fund other activities rather than given directly to beneficiaries.

‘Programme food aid’ – given mostly from one government to another for sale on the market – continued a long decline and dipped to just 11 percent of overall food aid deliveries.


More than two thirds of all food aid originated in the donor country, with just 15 percent of donations purchased in the country for whom the food was intended. The remainder – 16 percent – was purchased in a third country.

Wheat and wheat flour were the main commodities donated, followed by coarse grains (mostly maize and maize meal) and rice.