Over the past two decades, development experts have persuaded Congress to allow food to be delivered in new, more flexible, ways. The U.S. Agency for International Development has begun buying food in foreign markets, close to where it is needed. It also distributes aid in the form of cash and vouchers, which people can use to buy food in local markets.

These "market-based" pathways can deliver food more quickly and often more cheaply. About 60% of U.S. international food aid is now handled this way. Yet "non-emergency" aid, such as in Haiti, still has to be delivered in the form of commodities that are grown by American farmers. Much of it, by law, also has to be shipped on vessels that are registered in the U.S. and owned by U.S. companies. There's a limited supply of such ships, and a USAID official told Congress last year that this adds about 25% to the cost of shipping.


Is there any Western country that don't use market-based pathways to deliver food aid around the world? I am wondering if the U.S. is the only country that does it, I am assuming it's not, but I am wondering if there are countries that do not use any of these new flexible ways to give food aid.

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    The shipping thing is actually a US protectionist measure (and hence against the spirit of a competitive free enterprise market) - The Jones Act: How A 100-Year-Old Law Is Hurting Our Economy.
    – sfxedit
    Commented Jan 9 at 16:23
  • One thing that would clarify this question a bit is: what does it consider exceptional? The first part, using cash and vouchers to source locally? Or the second part, using only US shippers and farmers? Do you want examples of countries doing the first? Or doing the second? I wouldn't be surprised if you struggled to find too many examples of the first, while most countries would engage in watered down, but similar, versions of the second - privileging domestic (US in the example) suppliers above all. Commented Jan 9 at 17:20

1 Answer 1


Calling this "market-based" strikes me as vague and ideological, but I think the essence of the question can be understood to be about in-kind food aid versus cash assistance.

Also, we should mention that there is no other bilateral donor of international food aid on the same scale of the United States, unless you take EU institutions plus individual member countries together.

A 2013 report suggests that the EU was by that time putting greater emphasis on cash over in kind, at least for emergencies. I cannot find any specific numbers about the mix so far, but the relevant statements in that report suggest that it is indeed a mix which does include in-kind food donations produced in Europe.

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    Certainly in emergency situations, just giving money may not be much help without the provision of transport and food itself. Foreign armed forces, UN agencies, NGOs and charities with permanent staff, and volunteer organizations are often involved in delivering aid. It's not necessarily efficient to give someone in an isolated, war-torn, or disaster-stricken country money and tell them to organize food deliveries themselves on the open market.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jan 10 at 17:38

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