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WFP buys over 2 million tons of food on local Southern Africa markets

WFP has bought more than two million tons of food on local markets in Southern Africa in the last five years – the equivalent of providing 12 million hungry people with a full food basket for an entire year.

The food agency has announced that it has spent almost US$430 million since Southern Africa was first hit by recurring food crises in 2002.

These purchases have provided WFP with the means to help millions of needy people
WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran
The funds were used to purchase 2,020,000 metric tons of cereals, pulses, vegetable oil, corn-soya blend, salt and sugar in eight countries across the region, mainly South Africa, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique.

“These purchases have provided WFP with the means to help millions of needy people,” said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran, speaking from the agency’s headquarters in Rome.

Efficient and effective

“At the same time, buying local has been both cost efficient as well as extremely effective in supporting small-scale farmers and stimulating local agricultural economies,” she said.

Sheeran said WFP has already bought more food in Malawi and Mozambique this year than ever before and, given additional cash contributions, purchases could also hit record levels in Zambia.

“It really is a win-win situation,” she added, “because local purchases benefit surplus-producing small farmers and traders, while ensuring that WFP can provide those in need in those countries and elsewhere in southern Africa with sufficient food in time,” she said.

Scaling up operations

With parts of southern Africa facing severe food shortages once again, WFP is aiming to assist over four million vulnerable people across the region before the next main harvest in April 2008.

WFP is currently scaling up its operations in the worst affected countries, particularly Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Swaziland.

While the bulk of the two million tons bought over the last five years in Southern Africa was distributed to people hit by a succession of crises in the region, WFP also used some of it to assist vulnerable people facing food shortages in other countries across the continent, including Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Niger and Somalia.

Local procurement

More than half the food was produced in or bought from South African companies. However, WFP is currently focusing its procurement on countries that enjoyed good harvests in 2007 such as Zambia, Mozambique and particularly Malawi, which has a cereal surplus of over one million tons this year.

Additional donations are urgently required to ensure that WFP reaches all of its targeted beneficiaries in southern Africa over the next seven months.

Whenever possible, future cash contributions will be used to purchase food either locally or regionally.