100m people in 88 countries receive assistance from WFP-

By Sharon Atieno

About 80 World Trade Organization (WTO) members including  major economies -the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States, Brazil and Japan- have agreed not to impose export restrictions on foodstuffs purchased by the United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) for humanitarian aid.

We recognize the critical humanitarian support provided by the WFP, made more urgent in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and other crises. We therefore commit to not impose export prohibitions or restrictions on foodstuffs purchased for non-commercial humanitarian purposes for WFP, the group said in a statement.

The proposal was first brought before the General Council in December, 2020; sponsored by Singapore and co-sponsored by the EU, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam and the United Arab Emirates.

During the presentation of the proposal, Singapore noted that the initiative is specifically targeting WFP purchases, and does not impact export restrictions as a general policy tool or the food security of net-food-import developing countries (NFIDCs).

About 100 million people in 88 countries receive assistance from WFP through food or cash distributions in emergencies, nutrition support programmes and participation in activities to build resilience in climate and other shocks.

WFP provides17.3 million children in 59 countries receive nutritious meals which allows them to concentrate on their learning and develop their full potential.

Export restrictions put in place by some countries affected WFP’s work leading to delays and, in some cases, cancellation of procurement contracts to support vulnerable people; increased risk of food waste and losses due to longer transportation times and changes to the supply chain; delays in the delivery of life saving food to beneficiaries; and higher procurement, transportation and distribution costs.

WFP’s Executive Director, David Beasley while urging all governments to support the exemption remarked: “If this is passed, it will help us save both time and money in reaching the most destitute people.”

“We believe the Proposal on Agriculture Export Prohibitions or Restrictions Relating to the WFP will help support up to 690 million hungry people in the world today to achieve SDG2 on zero hunger by boosting WFP’s capacity to deliver humanitarian assistance and allow more lives to be saved, while in no circumstances jeopardize the food security of the country where food commodities are sourced. We understand that the proposal is not the panacea for eradicating hunger, but it is an important step forward,” the WFP said in a statement to the WTO’s General Council Committee on Agriculture.