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World Bank Extends Food Crisis Response Fund For Countries Experiencing High Food Prices

“The World Bank on Monday cited growing instability in food prices” before announcing that it would extends its Global Food Crisis Response Program (GFRP) through June 2011, Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C reports (10/18).

“The move will allow the financial institution to respond swiftly to calls for assistance by countries hit hardest by high food prices, by fast-tracking the processing and disbursement of up to $760 million to countries in need,” Xinhua/East African writes (10/19).

GFRP has “a wide array of options for food crisis response,” according to Inter Press Service. “The ways in which countries may choose to deploy funds include support for local food production such as supplying seeds and fertiliser or improving irrigation, social safety net programmes, or budget support to offset tariff reductions,” IPS writes.

“We do expect high volatility in food prices to continue until at least 2015, so reactivating the Bank’s food crisis fund means we’re ready to help countries calling for assistance,” said World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, IPS reports. Mark Cackler, manager of the World Bank’s Agriculture and Rural Development Department, said 5.9 million households had already received support through the program’s agricultural component and more than 5.6 million people have been reached through social protection programs. “In the last two years the GFRP has been effective at catalyzing and targeting funding for food security and agriculture at a critical time,” Cackler said (Berger/Boaz, 10/20).

“In a statement, the World Bank Group President, Robert Zoellick, said there was growing concern among countries about continuing volatility and uncertainty in food markets, which needed to be urgently addressed,” Xinhua/East African reports. Zoellick said, “These concerns have been compounded by recent increases in grain prices. World food price volatility remains significant and in some countries, the volatility is adding to already higher local food prices due to other factors such as adverse weather. High volatility negatively impacts both consumers and farmers” (10/19).

According to the bank, the GFRP was launched in May 2008 and has distributed $1.2 billion dollars worth of assistance operations in 35 countries, IPS writes. “The programme is not an extra fund that would provide funding on top of that to which countries are already entitled. Rather, the 760 million dollars will come from money already destined for countries through the Bank’s low-income country lending programme, the International Development Association (IDA), or its middle-income programme, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD).”

The fund enables the bank to distribute money more quickly than if it accessed the IDA or IBRD. The bank’s authority to “‘fast-track’ funds under the GFRP had expired on Jun. 30” (10/20).

Four Countries Call On G20 To Increase Contributions To Global Food Security Fund

In a letter to G20 members, Canada, Spain, South Korea and the U.S. “have called on G20 governments sharply to increase contributions” to a World Bank-administered food security fund that was set up after the 2009 G8 meeting in L’Aquila, Italy, the Financial Times reports. The four countries donated to the fund back in April.

The letter “said that nearly $1bn in requests from developing countries had been made to the fund, and, having already disbursed $224m, it had only $130m left,” according to the newspaper.

“Today we are deeply concerned by the lack of new pledges and faltering momentum,” the letter said. “We need new donors to come forward to ensure that these developing countries are not turned away.”

The article includes reaction from Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and Meredith Alexander, head of food aid policy at Action Aid (Beattie, 10/20).

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