Over $2.6 million of Northwest-grown wheat (17,000 metric tons) leaves Portland this week, headed for a 40-day journey to the drought-stricken nation of Eritrea where it will help feed more than 157,000 people as part of the agency’s Northern Red Sea Food, Nutrition, and Community Water Program.
In addition to providing life-saving rations in East Africa, this shipment directly assists the local grain industry by easing a surplus of the local wheat. This shipment follows another one Mercy Corps sent to Mongolia in December 2003, and according to the NW Grain and Feed Association, humanitarian shipments currently account for 25% of the volume of wheat going out of Portland.
“The bounty of the U.S. has exceeded our domestic need for this type of wheat. Any time we are able to reduce our inventories and help feed a hungry country around the world, that helps to keep domestic prices up for the producers in our country,” says Jonathan Schlueter, an international grain consultant working with Mercy Corps on the shipment.
In addition to providing economic boosts to the grain industry, these type of shipments also benefit workers involved in the logistics of sending such a large shipment, which can include: trucking, rail, storage, bagging, stacking and port handling.
Severe famine and drought have devastated Eritrea and neighboring countries of East Africa. Eritrea is a nation of 3.3 million people, of whom more than 2.3 million are in immediate risk of malnutrition or starvation. Mercy Corps has worked in Eritrea since 2000. The Northwest wheat will assist families through the “hungry season,” which lasts until fall harvests.