USDA said it is further responding to the emergency food situation in drought-ravaged southern Africa by utilizing the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust to provide for an exchange of wheat for other commodities of equal value.

USDA officials said the United States will release up to 300,000 metric tons of wheat from the Emerson Trust, and, like the previous release of 275,000 tons announced in June, the wheat will be exchanged for an equal value of other commodities to relieve suffering and avert famine in southern Africa.

Drought continues to aggravate the complex food security crisis now facing half a dozen countries in southern Africa (Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe).

The United States is the largest donor responding to the deteriorating food situation, said an official. Since the beginning of 2002, the United States has provided $144 million in emergency humanitarian assistance, including more than 290,000 tons in food commodities. An estimated 13 million people in the region are expected to need food assistance between now and next year's harvest.

The Emerson Trust was established as an emergency reserve to allow the United States to respond to unanticipated food crises, such as the current situation in southern Africa. It is named for the late Rep. Bill Emerson, a Republican from Missouri, who served on the House Agriculture Committee for a number of years.

The reserve is being tapped because U.S. food aid programs this fiscal year are fully allocated to meet critical needs in other parts of the world.

Use of the reserve will help insure that sufficient commodities can be provided quickly to respond to the crisis in southern Africa without undercutting U.S. food aid commitments elsewhere.

The wheat will be sold in exchange for an equivalent value of U.S. corn, dry beans and soybean oil — commodities that are more typically consumed by the poor in southern Africa.

These commodities will be shipped as emergency food relief under PL 480, Title II, a program administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

USDA's Farm Service Agency will sell wheat in such a manner to minimize adverse impacts on the wheat market. Wheat and flour continue to be the leading commodities exported under U.S. food aid programs, typically accounting for more than half of the total tonnage. Large USDA wheat purchases are planned in coming months to meet prior food aid commitments to a number of countries, including Jordan, Ethiopia, Peru, El Salvador, North Korea and Afghanistan.

On June 10, USDA announced the release of 275,000 tons of wheat from the Emerson Trust. The wheat was exchanged for corn, dry beans, and vegetable oil. This food will arrive in southern Africa through December.

The Emerson Trust is an emergency food reserve available for humanitarian relief in developing countries and administered under the authority of the secretary of agriculture. The reserve was reauthorized through 2007 by the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002. Prior to the recent releases, the reserve held 2.5 million tons of wheat. Up to 4 million tons in any combination of wheat, rice, corn or sorghum can be held in the reserve.


e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com.