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Food Aid’s Intended and Unintended Consequences

  • Christopher B. Barrett

    (Cornell University)

This paper surveys the existing empirical evidence on the unintended consequences of food aid. Micro-level evidence is presented on the impacts of food aid deliveries on household labour supply, production incentives, consumption patterns and natural resource use. At the meso-level, evidence on the impact of food aid on market development, market prices, informal insurance arrangements, and the behavior of implementing agencies is surveyed. Macro level evidence on the impact of food aid on balance of payments, economic growth, international trade, exchange rates and other factors is reviewed. Although food aid can have negative unintended consequences, the empirical evidence is thin and often contradictory. The available evidence suggests that harmful effects are most likely to occur when food aid arrives or is purchased at the wrong time, when food aid distribution is not well targeted to the most food insecure households, and when the local market is relatively poorly integrated with broader national, regional and global markets. These results imply the need for caution in basing food aid programming decisions on a relatively weak body of empirical evidence.

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Paper provided by Agricultural and Development Economics Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO - ESA) in its series Working Papers with number 06-05.

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Length: 27 pages
Date of creation: 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fao:wpaper:0605
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  1. Faminow, Merle D., 1995. "Issues in valuing food aid: The cash or in-kind controversy," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 3-10, February.
  2. Quisumbing, Agnes R., 2003. "Food Aid and Child Nutrition in Rural Ethiopia," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 31(7), pages 1309-1324, July.
  3. Barrett, Christopher B & Mohapatra, Sandeep & Snyder, Donald L, 1999. "The Dynamic Effects of U.S. Food Aid," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 37(4), pages 647-56, October.
  4. Martin Ravallion, 1997. "Famines and Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(3), pages 1205-1242, September.
  5. Barrett, Christopher B., 1999. "Does Food Aid Stabilize Food Availability?," Working Papers 14757, Cornell University, Department of Applied Economics and Management.
  6. Cox, Donald & Hansen, Bruce E. & Jimenez, Emmanuel, 2004. "How responsive are private transfers to income? Evidence from a laissez-faire economy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 2193-2219, August.
  7. Michael Carter & Christopher Barrett, 2006. "The economics of poverty traps and persistent poverty: An asset-based approach," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 42(2), pages 178-199.
  8. Dorosh, Paul A. & Shahabuddin, Quazi & Aziz, M. Abdul & Farid, Naser, 2002. "Bumper crops, producer incentives and persistent poverty," MSSD discussion papers 43, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  9. Barrett, Christopher B., 1997. "Liberalization and food price distributions: ARCH-M evidence from Madagascar," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 22(2), pages 155-173, April.
  10. Frances Stewart, 1998. "Food Aid During Conflict: Can One Reconcile Its Humanitarian, Economic, and Political Economy Effects?," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 80(3), pages 560-565.
  11. Susan Olivia & John Gibson & Trinh Le, 2004. "Private Transfers and the Crowding Out Hypothesis: Semiparametric and Threshold Regression Evidence from Four Developing Countries," Econometric Society 2004 Australasian Meetings 112, Econometric Society.
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