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We asked Pieter Dijkhuizen to respond to the 'tinned beef letter' and our editorial comment

We asked Pieter Dijkhuizen to respond to the 'tinned beef letter' and our editorial comment

Dear Field Exchange,

In your Editorial comment to the tinned beef letter, you describe correctly the budgetary problem of 'expensive' commodities like canned meat (fish or cheese) and how these replace much larger quantities of basic commodities available for food assistance.

From a nutritional point of view these 'expensive' products are excellent. The beneficiaries like them mainly because of taste, status and the variety they add to their monotonous diet. You will see in the newly proposed WFP/UNHCR ration guidelines, that canned fish/meat is still included as an option. Also in the school feeding manual canned fish/meat/cheese is proposed to enliven the. food regime as an alternative for a few days a week, budget permitting.

These 'expensive' commodities, added in small amount to a food basket of basic commodities, could do much to improve the 'quality of life' for food aid recipients. The problem is the high price. A metric ton of an 'expensive' commodity like canned meat contains 2 million kcal and costs around US$ 2000; the same nutritional value can be obtained from a basket of basic commodities (grain, pulse, oil, blended food; cost below US$ 400/MT) for almost a tenth of the cost. A meat ration of 25g/person/day, which provides 2.5% of the caloric value of a full ration, will account for 20% of the total cost of the ration.

In present times when food aid budgets are stretched beyond their limits (many food assistance activities, particularly in the development sector, have been closed or reduced due to lack of funds) and donors require maximal cost-effectiveness, our priority is clearly for low-cost basic commodities.

However, several options are conceivable to make these expensive' commodities more attractive for food assistance. One option, obviously preferred by the food aid agencies, is that the commodity is made available as an additional contribution to the regular food aid budget. In the case of the EC meat the agricultural budget should shoulder the expense. The argument to do this is, that future storage expenses, chargeable to this budget line, can be avoided. Another option is, that the food aid budget would be charged a 'shadow price' for the 'expensive' commodity, related to the cost of a nutritionally similar basic food basket. The agricultural budget should shoulder the difference between the true cost and the 'shadow price'. At the 'shadow price' (which could be a bit higher than the substitute cost), the 'expensive' commodities will be much more competitive, and therefore much more attractive for food aid.

Finally there is another major problem with the present EC meat: it is linked with BSE. Many recipient countries are very reluctant to receive meat products from European countries at present. Extensive documentation is requested to make absolutely certain that the meat products come from BSE free herds.

Yours etc.,
Pieter Dykhuizen
WFP

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Reference this page

Pieter Dykhuizen (1998). We asked Pieter Dijkhuizen to respond to the 'tinned beef letter' and our editorial comment. Field Exchange 3, January 1998. p20. www.ennonline.net/fex/3/asked