Food security: food-aid policy and food-aid management

Table of Contents:

Food security: food-aid policy and food-aid management

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Food security: food-aid policy and food-aid management


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.


Food security: food-aid policy and food-aid management

This Regulation establishes the framework for the European Community’s food-aid policy and management and food-aid operations. As of 1 January 2007 these rules have been replaced by the Regulation establishing a financing instrument for development cooperation.

Document or Iniciative

Council Regulation (EC) No 1292/96 of 27 June 1996 on food-aid policy and food-aid management and special operations in support of food security [Official Journal L 166 of 05.07.1996]. [See amending acts]



Food aid and special operations in support of food security are an important instrument of the Community’s development aid policy. This Regulation sets out the general framework for the policy and Community operations in these areas. It replaces Regulations (EEC) Nos 3972/86, 1755/84, 2507/88, 2508/88 and 1420/87 laying down the old framework in this area. However, food-aid operations of a humanitarian nature do not fall within the scope of this Regulation.

Objectives and general guidelines

The policy set out in this Regulation conforms to the objectives and the major guidelines of the Community’s development policy. It must be fully integrated into all the aspects of this policy, in particular by adopting a cross-sector approach. In this respect, it aims, in particular, to combat poverty and ensure close coordination between the Member States and the Community as well as with other international organisations (for example, the World Health Organisation – WHO) and civil society (for example, non-governmental organisations (NGOs)), etc.

It is also essential for food aid to enhance the partnership with the beneficiary country by fitting in with the policy of the developing country itself, respecting the specific situation of the country and working to strengthen the existing policy.

With regard to the more specific objectives, operations must aim, inter alia, to promote food security, to raise the standard of nutrition of the recipient population, and to contribute towards balanced economic and social development.

The Regulation is valid in the short term as well as the long term, the ultimate goal being to make food aid superfluous. To this end, the strategy’s guidelines aim to establish long-term projects.

Areas of action

The Regulation identifies three main types of aid: firstly, food aid, where operations are mainly short-term; secondly, operations in support of food security, which include long-term operations designed to ensure sustainable food security; and thirdly, operations to improve early warning systems and storage programmes.

Foodaid operations

Aid is allocated on the basis of an assessment of the needs of the country and must take account of the characteristics of the country and the society. The aid criteria include:

  • food shortages;
  • per capita income and the existence of particularly poor population groups;
  • the existence in the recipient country of a long-term policy on food security.

The granting of food aid may, where necessary, be conditional on the implementation of short or long-term programmes to improve food security.

Operations in support of food security

Food aid has diversified and this is reflected, in particular, in the operations in support of food security. Given the long-term objectives of these operations, financial or technical assistance is granted and the operations must be integrated into a multiannual programme. This category of aid requires the greatest financial resources.

The main operations financed are technical in nature and aim to improve the capacities of the recipient countries, including:

  • the supply of seeds, tools and other inputs essential to the production of food crops;
  • schemes to supply the population with drinking water;
  • storage schemes at the appropriate level;
  • measures in support of the private sector for commercial development at national, regional and international level;
  • schemes to support local food-aid structures, training, etc.

Early warning systems and storage programmes

This involves improving the food security of the recipient countries by strengthening or, in exceptional cases, establishing national and international early warning systems and improving storage systems. Aid may only be granted to countries receiving food aid from the European Community and its Member States or other international or regional organisations, including NGOs. The measures financed may include studies, the establishment of infrastructures, etc.
This type of aid only accounts for a small proportion of the allocated budget (less than 5%).

Implementing procedures for financial aid

The Community’s contribution takes the form of grants. In practice, the aid is provided via two forms of financial aid:

  • direct aid integrated in the broader budget of the recipient country. It is administered by the government of the recipient country within the framework of a pre-established national support strategy. The government may conclude partnership agreements with other local bodies (including NGOs). Direct aid financing has become the most common method used in recent years.
  • indirect aid provided within the framework of a contract between the EC and implementing organisations, including UN agencies and NGOs.

Aid is implemented via:

  • programme aid, covering financial assistance from the government budget;
  • project aid, relating in particular to the implementation of indirect aid;
  • food aid in kind, meaning short-term aid, for example, in the transition between relief, rehabilitation and long-term development.

The projects must respect the economic and social conditions in the recipient country. This is of particular importance when it comes to buying the necessary materials in the country.

Implementation within the Community

The Commission, assisted by a food security and food aid committee composed of the representatives of the Member States and chaired by a representative of the Commission, is responsible for the day-to-day implementation of the Regulation. With regard to food aid in particular, the Council determines the overall amount of cereals aid laid down in the Food Aid Convention. This Convention forms part of an international agreement, of which the Community is a member, which aims to contribute to food security and improve the capacities of the international community in relation to food security.

Implementation by the Community in the recipient countries

The food security technical assistants who support the identification, follow-up, implementation and evaluation of the programmes are present in the recipient countries. To this end, the Commission has delegations in many of the countries concerned.

Until 2000, implementation also involved the RESAL programme (European Food Security Network) which was supported by the Commission. However, following the 2000 evaluation report, this was replaced by more decentralised implementation in the recipient countries.

Eligible countries

The annex to the Regulation provides a list of eligible countries which is regularly updated. In line with the aim of poverty reduction, priority is given to the poorest sections of the population and to low-income countries with serious food shortages.

Particular attention is also paid to countries in post-crisis situations where food aid is required but where the situation does not allow the development of a food-aid strategy.

Actors other than the Community and the recipient countries

Implementation of Community aid in this field involves many actors other than the Community and the recipient countries. The two main actors in this sense are:

  • non-profit-making non-governmental organisations
    The participation of NGOs is an important aspect of the implementation of development aid. These organisations must meet certain criteria relating to their capacities and experience in this field. In general, they must also be European. These criteria are similar to those set out in the Regulation on NGO financing;
  • international, regional, and local organisations, etc.
    The Community may cofinance initiatives undertaken by other actors with the same objectives. It is essential to ensure close coordination between all the actors. The international actors include, in particular, the WHO and the UN, with whom the Community has close relations.


The Commission must carry out regular evaluations of the food-aid operations and forward these to the committee. It must also submit an annual report to the European Parliament and the Council on the implementation of the Regulation. The report should include, inter alia, information on the projects and their financing and the relevant statistics concerning the countries in question.


Act Entry into force – Date of expiry Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Regulation (EC) No 1292/96 8.7.1996 – 31.12.2006 OJ L 166 of 5.7.1996
Amending act(s) Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Regulation (EC) No 1726/2001 2.9.2001 OJ L 234 of 1.9.2001

Related Acts

Regulation (EC) No 1905/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 establishing a financing instrument for development cooperation [Official Journal L 378 of 27.12.2006]

This Regulation repeals Regulation (EC) No 1292/96.

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council – Evaluation and future orientation of Council Regulation (EC) No 1292/96 on foodaid policy and foodaid management and special operations in support of food security [COM(2001)473 final. Not published in the Official Journal].
The Commission has concluded that there is no need to modify the content of the Regulation. However, there is a need to clarify the role of the Regulation in the context of the Community’s priorities in relation to the development policy and the progress achieved. This is particularly important as the Community carried out a significant reform of its development policy in 1998 and food security has become one of the Community’s six priorities in this area. As a result, the food-aid policy and food security policy must be integrated more successfully into the Community’s general development policy. It is important to note that the Commission considers that as many operations implemented under the Regulation are medium to long-term operations, it is too early to carry out a truly exhaustive evaluation of the implementation of the Regulation.

Role of the Regulation

With regard to the role of the Regulation, food security is part of the Community’s broader objectives in relation to development policy, in other words promoting sustainable development that leads to poverty reduction. The Commission should thus integrate the food security strategies and objectives into the national development strategies to ensure optimum consistency and efficiency. It is also essential to maintain a priority food security dimension in the Regulation. This is an important instrument for development which enables the Community to tackle problems such as structural food insecurity with a view to achieving long-term poverty reduction, lack of supply at national and regional level, as well as specific nutritional problems. It is also an important means of bridging the gap between relief, rehabilitation and development. Furthermore, it is necessary to clarify the division of responsibilities in relation to all development instruments. The role of food security interventions is different to that of other operations. Food security interventions aim to tackle the underlying structural causes of food insecurity at national level (inadequate supply), at household level (insufficient access) and at individual level (food use and nutritional adequacy).

Guiding principles

The report sets out new guiding principles for the implementation of the Regulation. Apart from the complete integration of interventions within country and regional strategies, the guiding principles include the following:

  • food security programmes should support changes in the policy and institutional environment necessary for achieving sustained economic growth and poverty reduction;
  • in post-crisis situations, support to food security will be focused on linking humanitarian and relief aid and long-term development;
  • interventions will be appraised in terms of their direct and indirect impact on the incomes of the poor;
  • interventions should be consistent with the Code of Conduct for Food Aid agreed between the Community and the Member States. This involves, in particular, giving priority to local and regional purchases and mobilising aid on the grounds of its efficiency as an instrument to address nutritional problems and increase access to food.

Implementing procedures for financial aid
The Commission will retain the indirect and direct instruments and, overall, the trend in favour of direct aid and structural aid should continue. This aid facilitates ownership by partner countries and encourages multilateral trading in foodstuffs. It also has a benign impact on local food markets, etc. Although direct aid has a more important role, it does not completely replace programme aid and food aid in kind. These types of aid are essential in certain circumstances (in the absence of effective government, for example).

One of the main constraints in the development and implementation of country strategies and programmes is the weakness of local administrative and technical capacity. Consequently, the Commission will attach greater importance to capacity building through technical assistance and training and administrative reform programmes.

Nongovernmental actors

The Commission considers that it is important to introduce greater flexibility in relation to the role of NGOs. The Commission intends to strengthen aid-in-cash, giving NGOs greater autonomy for implementation and extending the maximum duration of projects beyond the current limit of three years.

Programming and management of resources

This involves, in particular, updating the list of eligible countries, identifying priority countries according to criteria such as the countries with a high incidence of poverty with a food security dimension, the countries with a long-term food security policy and conditions in place for effective utilisation, etc.
Interventions must be integrated within the country strategy papers and be managed according to the principles of project cycle management applicable to all Community programmes.

The European Food Security Network (RESAL) was an important instrument for the implementation of the Regulation which aimed to enhance the capacity for dialogue and proposals on food security and to help draw up viable and efficient long-term food security policies. With the expiration of these contracts, the Commission is studying possibilities for the future. Decentralised cooperation will be established with the aim, inter alia, of integrating key RESAL staff into the Commission’s EuropeAid service (service responsible for the practical implementation of the policy at Community level), mobilising high-level expertise through regional hubs, and transferring and integrating local food security units into national institutions. It is also important to speed up the programme approval process and establish systematic programme monitoring.

A second evaluation of the implementation of this Regulation took place 2003-2004.

Communication from the Commission relating to the characteristics of products to be supplied as Community food aid [Official Journal C 312, 31.10.2000].

The Communication sets out the characteristics of the products to be mobilised as aid from the Commission.

Commission Regulation (EC) No 2519/97 of 16 December 1997 laying down general rules for the mobilisation of products to be supplied under Council Regulation (EC) No 1292/96 as Community food aid [Official Journal L 346, 17.12.1997].
The Regulation lays down specific rules for the implementation of the Regulation, for example conditions for invitations to tender for the supply of aid, etc.

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