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US mulling an addition of USD 200 mn in emergency food aid

business Updated: Apr 29, 2008 10:38 IST

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In a bid to address the current global food crisis, top Democrats in the US Senate are mulling an addition of USD 200 millions in emergency food aid as part of the Iraq war budget.

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin has said Democrats in the Senate are weighing the idea of tagging USD 200 millions to the war supplemental of USD 108 billions; and the new requisition is on top of the USD 350 millions the Bush administration has alloted in the short term to manage the crisis.

Calling for an "honest" scrutiny of the role of bio-fuels on the worldwide crisis, Durbin said, "We need to take a look at the biofuel situation and the global food crisis, and determine exactly what the impact is on any given place. I can't imagine that using corn for ethanol in Illinois is going to raise the price of rice, which has happened, dramatically, around the world."

The ongoing crisis has affected many nations including the United States where large retail outlets have started rationing the issue of rice bags.

"..Let's take a look at this thing and make sure that we play it out in an honest fashion," Durbin said.

"Most of us have said from the beginning that we understand the feedstock for ethanol is likely to change once we develop cellulosic sources. And some of these sources will not be at the expense of the food supply. We may use a lot of things that are being cast away now as worthless that could turn out to be good feedstock for ethanol," he added.

He argued that the World Food Programme has estimated that it would require about USD 755 millions -- up from an earlier estimate of USD 500 millions -- to tide over the current crisis and hoped that other nations would make up the shortfall.

"I've spoken to both Speaker Pelosi and Leader Reid. I'm sure just instinctively they would want to help. Their problem is what would the White House accept; if this is going to face a veto. And that's why I went directly to Secretary of State Rice. I think that's where we need to initiate this. Actually, I hope we can initiate it," Durbin said.

In his formal remarks he pointed to photographs as a way of highlighting the impact and implications of the crisis.

"In Haiti, Prime Minister lost control of his government over food riots. In Egypt they had to use the troops, as you can see them lined up on the right side of the picture, to hold off people who were coming and protesting food prices and begging for help," he said.

"And here you see in India, where they're reaching out for rice that's being distributed under circumstances which are some of the worst people have ever seen," he said.

Referring to the grim situation back in the home, Durbin added "It has reached the point in the United States where they're rationing the amount of rice that can be purchased at some of the larger warehouse stores. It's an indication of shortages around the world," he added.