Friday, 5 November 2010

A different kind of food crisis

2010 has been a bumper year for production of maize - a regional staple food - in South Africa, as the country sees its biggest maize crop in 29 years. There are now fears that farmers will plant less because prices are lower as a result of surplus production. There are even moves to try and include maize in biofuel plans. Across the border, in the tiny country of Swaziland, people are starving.

Swaziland is a poor country where many people are dependent on government and NGO support. 75% of Swaziland's budget comes from Southern African Customs Union revenue. This year, SACU revenue dropped from $713 million to $143 million. At the same time, the WFP's attempts to assist are limited by funding constraints: "WFP global media coordinator Gregory Barrow told journalists that through the first three quarters of 2010, WFP received less than half of the funding it needs for its operations worldwide". The WFP meets on 8 November to consider changes to their funding systems that will, hopefully improve financial risk management. 

Swaziland has been able to buy some maize from South Africa but this is complicated by new national regulations on GMOs. Even without this complication, the country is not in a financial position to purchase sufficient food to feed everyone. Sometimes food shortages have absolutely nothing to do with producing enough.

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