China became the world's third-largest food aid donor last year, the same year it stopped receiving assistance from the World Food Program (WFP), while the US and the EU remained the top two contributors, the UN agency said yesterday.
Donations from China almost tripled to 577,000 tonnes and accounted for more than half of the rise in overall food aid donations last year, the World Food Program said in its annual report.
Most of China's aid went to hunger-stricken North Korea, its longtime communist ally, with the rest going to Liberia, Guinea Bissau, Sri Lanka and a dozen other countries, according to the report.
The report was based on figures from the database of the International Food Aid Information System, which was developed by the WFP to help manage donations from around the world.
According to the WFP, global food aid grew by 10 percent to 8.2 million tonnes last year, with the US providing 4 million tonnes, or 49 percent of the donations.
The EU totaled 1.5 million tonnes, the report said. Japan, the third-largest donor in 2004, was fourth last year, donating more than 400,000 tonnes.
Wheat and wheat flour were the main commodities donated, followed by coarse grains like maize and maize meal, and rice.
"Donations of food made the difference between life and death after the tsunami, the Pakistan earthquake and in Sudan, so we are extraordinarily grateful to all who gave last year," James Morris, the program's executive director, said in a statement.
Morris warned that there was still not enough "to meet the most basic needs of millions of individuals."
The WFP began providing food aid to China in 1979, meeting the immediate food needs of more than 30 million poor Chinese and helping build infrastructure in their communities through programs exchanging food for work and training.
It made its final food donation to China in April last year, a move that heralded the country's gradual emergence from decades of dire poverty and hunger.
Incomes and living conditions in much of China, however, remain far behind those of the wealthy coastal cities. The leadership has promised to spend heavily on easing politically volatile poverty in the countryside, where nearly two-thirds of the country's 1.3 billion people live.
The WFP's report said sub-Saharan Africa for the first time received more than half of all the food aid, with Ethiopia receiving the most. Other major recipients included Sudan, Uganda, Eritrea and Kenya.
The amount given to Asia increased 14 percent, the report said, with North Korea receiving the second-largest amount of aid worldwide, mostly from China and South Korea. Bangladesh, Indonesia and Sri Lanka were the other Asian beneficiaries.