Tinned surplus beef for DPRK?
Tinned surplus beef for DPRK?
As a representative of the Federation of Danish Pig
Producers and Slaughterhouses in Brussels, I have recently been involved in discussions about the possible use of tinned meat for food aid. It seems that the media, especially in Denmark, have focussed a great deal on this. Without wishing to add to the confusion and misunderstandings about this topic I would like to give my comments and impressions form the commercial angle but also hopefully to get some feed-back on the nutritional aspects of this proposition.
Last year when the BSE-crisis (mad cow disease) made the head-lines in the U.K., consumption of beef decreased dramatically in the whole European Community, and as a result of this the European Commission introduced buying up schemes for beef in order to support the market price. This beef, which was bought up in all member states, amounted to a total quantity of around 600.000 tonnes mostly located in Germany and France.
Last year when these intervention stocks started to grow, CLITRAVI (The European Meat Processors Organisation) wrote to the Commission, suggesting that a small proportion of the beef, which was earmarked for purchase, should be stored in the form of tinned beef. One of the reasons for this was that tinned meat would be more suitable for food/emergency aid than frozen beef which for many reasons (i.e. logistics, lack of cold storage, infrastructure) is less suitable as part of an emergency food aid package.
A second reason for this proposal is that is that the current stocks of frozen beef have been particularly difficult to get rid of since GATT/WTO-rules implemented on the 1st of July 1995 do not allow cheap sales
to third country destinations, i.e. Russia, as it would be considered as a hidden subsidy. Thus in practice it is very difficult for the Commission to use this beef, unless the market situation improves a lot.
The third reason is that making small stocks of tinned beef available would not involve extra expenditure by the Commission. For example, based on the actual request from the DPRK for 10,000 tonnes of beef to the European Commission, the Commission
calculated that the costs of de-freezing, transforming into tins and shipping to the DPRK would be approximately 200 - 400 ECU/t (Source: Danchurchaid).
This figure immediately drew comment about comparative costs with other basic food commodities. However, we have argued that a more useful comparison would be to consider the existing yearly costs for the European
Community of having this beef as frozen stocks. The yearly figure is around
660 ECU/t. Since much of the beef already has been in stocks for more than one year, we and many in the Commission believed it was a good idea. Tinned beef could then be added to the existing intervention system just like other foodstuff, e.g. cereal products. It appears to us that this would be a cost-cutting measure for the European agricultural budget while making available FREE of charge tinned beef for food aid programmes.
This type of economic consideration, rather than nutritional ones, have always formed the basis of our proposal for the DPRK. It has never been anyone's intention - including the European Commission- to ship only tinned meat as food aid, but rather to use it on a limited scale to supplement already existing food aid programmes.
The quantity which - we know for certain -have been requested directly from DPRK is 10,000 tons of canned beef. This quantity is not, from a market point of view of any significance, but it has caused a lot of media attention. Some NGO's supported the application, others believe it would be against the so-called "Code of Conduct". Some nutritionist support the idea of using tinned meat as a supplement to existing programmes, saying that it would improve the donated ration which is unvaried. Others believe that the provision of tinned meat could have negative consequences. Therefore I sincerely believe that it would be interesting to have expert comments on this type of product from a nutritional point of view, without focusing on economic aspects. Informed views would be of great interest not only for the industry but also for decision makers at donor level as the meat currently placed on European stocks will probably not disappear the immediate future. A typical nutrient analysis if the tinned beef contains 80-90% pure beef (pre-cooked) is as follows:
- Protein: 18,0%
- Fat: 14,5%
- kcal.: 2030 per kg
- K.J.: 8430 per kg
It has been brought to our attention that 'Free tinned beef' may not mean completely free of cost. Spoke persons from WFP explain that any commodity provided as food aid from intervention stocks has a cost to the donor providing the food aid (in this case the EU) in the sense that the value of the commodity is deducted from the overall budget allocated by the particular donor for food aid. Although these budgets are never set in stone donors attempt to adhere to overall budget targets. Furthermore, there are associated costs in terms of tinning, and transport which donors must now provide as part of the full cost recovery policy stipulated by the World Food Programme. It may be true that the amount of money paid out for storage of fresh beef is less than the amount it would take to de-freeze and tin this beef, however these monies are paid out from entirely different budgets. The EU Agricultural budget covers the cost of storage for intervention stock. The EU departments responsible for provision of food aid would pay for costs incurred in preparations such as tinning. While this may be a saving for the EU agricultural budget it has cost implications in terms of resources available to the EU department responsible for food aid provision. This may not be the most cost effective or appropriate response for this department. The comparison above assumes that EU agricultural and EU food aid budgets are freely inter-changeable, this may not be the case. It appears that mechanisms involved in donor provision of food aid are not clear for so many of us - particularly in the nutrition field.
See also further comments by Pieter Dykhuizen
Taken from Field Exchange Issue 3, January 1998