Chron editorial raises an interesting question

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Several days ago, a reader called our attention to the latest foray by the Chronicle Editorial LiveJournalists into international politics. In particular, this excerpt caught our reader’s eye:

Zambia’s 11-million population has been decimated in recent years by AIDS and drought. More than 1 million children have been orphaned, largely by AIDS; many adults are too sick to work and feed their families; and life expectancy has plummeted to 38 years, The New York Times reports. The United Nations World Food Program, which struggles to feed about half a million Zambians, is at risk of running out of food in a matter of weeks if steps are not taken to hasten delivery of rations.

Racing against time, the World Food Program appealed in February for cash donations to enable it to buy corn from Zambia itself, which had a bumper corn harvest last season, and has more than adequate supplies warehoused in Lusaka, the capital.

That would seem like a reasonable stopgap measure, but American law dictates that food donated by the United States must, with few exceptions, be grown in America and shipped to its destination, a process that can take up to six months and which adds up to one-third more to the cost. To its credit, the Bush administration has tried for three years to get the law changed, so that in emergencies up to 25 percent of the budget of its main aid program can be used to buy food in developing countries.

Our reader wondered — and we’re inclined to wonder as well — why international donors need to buy food raised by Zambians and being warehoused by Zambians to feed Zambians. A record harvest nonetheless!

If there’s a good answer that we’re just missing, please feel free to comment.

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