Wheat loan to ease food shortage
KABUL, 4 September 2008 (IRIN) – The UN World Food Programme (WFP) and government of Pakistan are finalising an agreement involving the loan of 50,000 tonnes of wheat for pre-winter food aid operations in Afghanistan.
Once the agreement is signed, WFP will begin importing the wheat over two months, Susana Rico, WFP’s country representative, said. It will be pre-positioned in vulnerable areas where access is difficult in winter.
The loan will help WFP to remedy immediate funding delays in emergency food aid for about five million Afghans hit by high food prices and drought.
Upon receiving funds from donors WFP will pay the loan back.
UN agencies and the Afghan government jointly appealed on 9 July for US$404 million to deal with the food crisis resulting from high prices and drought.
The joint appeal included WFP’s request for $185 million, which it will use to procure 230,000 tonnes of food to be distributed until August 2009.
The UN has reiterated calls for “vital funding” to avert a possible crisis this winter amid donors’ “slow and insufficient response” to the joint appeal.
WFP said it had received up to 25 percent by 3 September.
Meanwhile, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has pledged 50,000 tonnes of wheat, WFP said.
The American donation “is expected to arrive at port [Pakistan] six to eight weeks from now and a further two to three weeks to arrive at regional hubs in Afghanistan”, Rico said.
WFP said the 100,000 tonnes of wheat would be sufficient for its “winter pre-positioning programme”.
Government wheat procurement
The hike in food prices has prompted Pakistan to impose a ban on food exports to neighbouring Afghanistan, which relies particularly on Pakistani wheat flour.
Earlier this year Pakistan agreed to sell 50,000 tonnes of wheat to the Afghan government to ease its domestic food shortages.
“Over 12,000 tonnes of the wheat procured from Pakistan have been imported to the country and the process is ongoing,” according to a government statement on 2 September.
The imported wheat will be offered at a subsidised price, the government said.
The statement also said separate agreements signed with the Russian Federation and Ukraine would allow the country to import about 80,000 tonnes of wheat.
According to the country’s National Risk and Vulnerability Assessments, 42 percent of the Afghan population (approximately 12 million people) live below the poverty line, on 45 US cents per day or less.