The Crops Don't Exist for Emergency Food Aid for 30 Million Hungry in Northern Africa
April 25, 2012 • 5:33AM

Emergency food aid is required for 30 million people across northern Africa — 16 million in the 7 western Sahel nations now in dire conditions (out of 65 million); 13 million — as a going figure, in the Horn of Africa (out of 200 million in the region); and hundreds of thousands in the littoral Mediterranean nations in turmoil.

To fully mobilize to acquire, process, and ship needed amounts of food relief, calls the question on the inadequacy of world grain production at present, which is way below requirements for nutrition, reserves, and emergencies. Consider this in one simple way: Look at the tonnage of grain for aid requirements for 30 million people, as compared with the volume of grain stocks (called end-of-season "carryover," or reserves) currently extant in possible source countries, from which to provide the food relief. The food isn't there!

For 30 million people, a volume of 15 million metric tons (mmt) of grains needs to be milled for emergency food product right away, figuring a half ton a year per person (see note below). Add to this another 10 million tons overall, for processing for relief foods for stand-by for the near future, until local agriculture can be built up.

If you make the 25 mmt of fortified food aid product out of corn and soy, for example, as is commonly done, then the corn required comes to 15-20 mmt, depending on the volume of soy incorporated. But at present in the United States, where much of the world's food relief products are made, only 20 mmt of corn will be on hand as ending stocks (until the next corn harvest starts in the Fall)! Or maybe not even that. "The bins are empty," as a Cornbelt state leader of the National Farmers Union reports.

Year-to-year ending stocks corn in the U.S. went from 44 mmt in 2010, to 29 mmt in 2011, and now are forecast for 20 mmt this year. This corresponds to the U.S. corn harvest declining in the corresponding years, while at the same time, under the Obama/London famine policy, corn-for-ethanol use soared. Total U.S. production went from 333 mmt, down to 316 mmt, and is closing out this crop marketing year at 314 mmt. But U.S. corn-for-ethanol use is at the level of 129 mmt, which is now 40 percent of the harvest.

[Note: The rough calculation for minimal subsistence grain rations for a person for a year, is about a third to a half a metric ton, or 1,100 pounds of cereals (for direct utilization, and very little indirect utilization, through the animal protein chain — literally, chicken feed). Think of this as the way some oldsters in the U.S. will recount how they lived through the 1930s Depression years on corn meal, three times a day. The preferred emergency aid product today is fortified with vitamins, minerals, and oils, and requires minimal cooking, since fuel is presumed scarce].