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Food for Peace: Noble efforts, disastrous results

By Luke Kim
web posted October 15, 2018

For decades, the United States has been sending the excess of its crop production to impoverished nations. Through various programs, the United States has appeared to play an important role in assisting nations in need. One notable U.S. food aid program is Food for Peace, a program that focuses on directing surplus crops to third-world countries. While the program’s efforts are noteworthy, the negative effects that derive from it seem to exacerbate third-world nation’s struggles rather than alleviate them. Food for Peace not only creates dependencies on foreign aid, but it also plays a role in ruining the livelihoods of many struggling farmers.

One of the negative effects derived from Food for Peace’s aid is the creation of a dangerous dependency. As the United States’ surplus of produced crops grows, the amount of food aid conjunctively grows; consequently, as impoverished countries are receiving more foreign assistance, they are becoming increasingly dependent. A 1983 Inspector General report revealed that free food sent to Tanzania and other African countries had “little potential or benefit; rather, it [tended] to make communities dependent on donated food.” Another report shows that food aid temporarily feeds an “unlimited demand.” Supply of food aid serves as a crutch for third-world countries; consequently, if that supply were to dramatically decrease or disappear, impoverished nations would lose their sole economic support. The growing supply of food aid has caused nations to lose the ability to independently meet their national needs.

Another negative effect of the Food for Peace program is its ability to ruin the livelihoods of farmers. In 1984, Jamaica was suffering from a shortage of rice. To make up for this shortage, Jamaican producers focused on the production of rice substitutes. Later in the year, the Food for Peace program sent 4,890 metric tons of rice to Jamaica, completely disregarding Jamaican farmers’ efforts to produce rice substitutes. Because Jamaican consumers were receiving rice for free, Jamaican farmers were unable to sell their substitute crops. As a result, many Jamaican farmers lost the ability to make a profit. Another example can be seen in 1986.

During this year, the U.S. dumped more than $200 million of sugar in the Philippines along with several other Caribbean countries. This influx of sugar flooded local markets and thus, removed any competitiveness the farmers’ crops had. Because of food donations, struggling farmers had lost a tremendous amount of profit. Because of this, impoverished farmers, knowing that food aid will supply consumers, lost incentivization to continue production. Food for Peace’s large donations, although seeming to alleviate poverty, disrupt the economic relationship between farmers’ production and consumers’ demands.

The United States has long believed that the best way to handle crop surpluses is by giving the excess to impoverished nations. As seen through the Food for Peace program, these donations unintendedly create consequences. Not only does is it create a third-world country dependence on foreign aid, but it also devastates the livelihoods of farmers, who are struggling to feed their families. ESR

Luke Kim is a high school student studying AP Macroeconomics. © 2018 Luke Kim.

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