Europe's food mountains cannot solve problem

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The Independent Online
AID AGENCIES say that the problems in Somalia could not be relieved in the short term by unlocking the food mountains built up under the EC's interventionist Common Agricultural Policy.

Although food stocks in the EC continue to grow, the famine in Somalia has been exacerbated by the inability to deliver food aid.

This year, 1.4 million tons (1,442m kg) of cereal equivalent were pledged to Africa as part of the EC's standard food aid package; a further 800,000 tons of famine relief were released in May; 185,000 tons of the total were destined for Somalia.

In the long-term, however, the role of interventionism is being challenged. In the United Kingdom, it has resulted in enormous stocks of wheat, barley, rye, butter, skimmed milk powder and beef.

The latest figures available from the Intervention Board, the body that administers the storage of EC surpluses in the UK, show that 144,179 tons of beef and 16,009 tons of butter are held at 95 cold-storage facilities all over the country.

More than 695,000 tons of barley, 1,510 tons of premium wheat, 11,364 tons of feed wheat and 324 tons of rye are held at 24 grain stores. A further 2,145 tons of skimmed milk are in warehouse storage.

It is estimated that the UK's stocks of grain alone would be enough to feed Somalia for a year. The cost of intervention, a process by which minimum prices are guaranteed to producers, is enormous.

The board's annual report shows that the value of all stocks at April 1991 amounted to pounds 423,155,000. The total cost of storage was pounds 58,870,000.

In the EC as a whole, 25,460,000 tons of cereal were being stored at the end of July.

(Photograph omitted)