January 15, 2003
By Amy Philpott
National Dry Bean Council (NDBC) representatives visited prospective food aid clients in Kenya and Southern Africa in late August last year. The purpose of the trip was to consult with food aid sponsors and U.S. government officials to promote the use of dry beans in food aid programs. Highlights from the groups meetings are:
Feed the Children program
Feed the Children (FTC) operates a direct feeding program for orphans, abandoned babies and slum dwellers. Feed the Children is interested in a bean/rice combination product that can be distributed in their direct feeding programs. The NDBC is partnering with the USA Rice to develop with USDA a co-pack of beans and rice.
By delivering a 50-kilo bag with individual packs of beans and rice included, the U.S. Private Voluntary Agencies (PVOs) can ensure that a nutritious ration is available on site. This co-pack also reduces losses due to repackaging and avoids logistical problems.
Cooking research project
NDBC is conducting a research project with FTC to utilize the Vitacow cooker/processor to develop quick cooking methods, preparation and recipes. The goal of the research is to demonstrate to PVOs and WFP that dry beans can be cooked in about 20 minutes and without soaking through the utilization of steam under pressure rather than soaking and cooking for a lengthy period of time.
Massive feeding program
While South Africa is not a recipient of food aid, Johannesburg is the regional headquarters for major food aid agencies such as the World Food Programme, World Vision, Catholic Relief Service and Jesus Alive Ministries.
Since there is a very severe drought in nearby southern Africa countries, the headquarters was very active in the programming of large quantities of U.S. food aid. The original estimate was a requirement of 1.2 million tons of food aid for the region to be delivered over the next six months. The U.S. is the single largest donor and is expected to meet 50% of the total emergency requirement. Only a portion (about 23%) of this requirement has been committed and purchased.
Most of the U.S. commitment has been bulk yellow corn and small quantities of dry beans. There have been acceptability problems with the yellow corn due to GMO issues in addition to the fact that the locally grown corn is white corn and the yellow corn is not known by many of the recipients. Several countries have rejected the corn and required that WFP mill the corn or swap it for locally grown white corn.
We had meetings with the World Food Program (WFP), World Vision (WV) and Jesus Alive Ministries (JAM) to discuss the current situation and to explore the utilization of beans (and possible, a bean and rice combo pack) in this massive feeding operation.
Opportunity for bean/rice co-pack
The WFP -- currently in charge of all donor coordination in the six southern African countries most affected by the crisis -- spent a considerable amount of time briefing us on the emergency situation, the nutritional needs of the affected population and the logistical problems related to this massive relief operation.
We discussed two opportunities using dry beans. The first opportunity is to include dry beans for direct distribution. WFP agreed that this was necessary and the nutritionist was concerned that the donor contribution of beans was lower than requested. Since our return to U.S., USDA has tendered for an additional 13,500 MT of pinto/large red kidney beans. WFP was concerned that they might receive yellow peas, which are not culturally acceptable, rather than dry beans.
The second opportunity could be with the bean and rice co-pack for targeted feeding activities such as emergency school feeding and the feeding of vulnerable groups. These groups usually receive a a blend of cornmeal, soy flour and vitamins. The GMO issue has caused acceptability problems in some countries so this may be an opportunity for the bean/rice co-pack.
More product potential
A South African PVO, Jesus Alive Ministries (JAM), is also distributing food aid in the region with particular emphasis on Angola and Mozambique. We met with the CEO of JAM and his staff to discuss the utilization of the bean and rice co-pack as well as the inclusion of bean in a powdered mix used for making gruel and nutritious biscuits for school feeding programs. JAM has a factory in Angola and will soon have a second operation in Mozambique. The current product includes corn, soy flour, sugar and oil. JAM would like to develop a rice and bean blend.
One of the project coordinators for JAMs relief efforts in the region commented that in order to get food quickly, they were buying beans on the commercial market, but that South Africas supply is very low so they have had to buy beans on the Angolan market in order to meet demand. -- Philpott is a NDBC international trade analyst.