Obama tours food factory in Ethiopia
July 28, 2015
President Barack Obama today toured a food factory in Ethiopia supported by the U.S. Feed the Future program, but he declined to take a question on whether genetically modified ingredients were involved in the production.
Obama toured Faffa Foods, an Addis Ababa food plant that produces 25,000 tons per year of supplemental foods including fortified milk powders, enriched flour additives, fortified baby flood, and fortified flours and barley mixes.
Some of its products are sold to the United Nations World Food Program for distribution to vulnerable populations and refugees along the Somali and South Sudanese border. Faffa is also the primary supplier of baby food for Ethiopian children.
In addition to support from the U.S. Agency for International Development's Feed the Future program, Faffa has received investments and technology from DuPont Nutrition & Health and volunteer technical assistance from companies like General Mills, Cargill, DSM, and Bühler.
“The goal is to drastically increase the productivity of a small farmers all throughout Africa because what we know is that a huge percentage of Africans are still getting their incomes from agriculture and most of them are very small plots, and not a lot of technology.”President Barack Obama
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During the tour, Jeff Mason, the White House correspondent for Reuters, asked Obama if there is enough money in Feed the Future.
According to a White House transcript, Obama responded, "We always want more, and we budgeted more. But what we're able to do is to leverage the dollars that we've got alongside efforts from other countries and from the private sector."
"And so every taxpayer dollar — every U.S. taxpayer that we're putting in, we're leveraging a bunch of other money," Obama said. "Of course, the needs still outstrip what we're able to provide, and hopefully, by having built models that we know succeed, we can accelerate this even faster."
Obama added that the goal with Feed the Future and with Power Africa and other initiatives is "to make sure that we are not in the business of just donating, but we're in the business of creating entrepreneurs, opportunity, and capacity locally."
According to the White House, Faffa arranged for Obama to see how Feed the Future is working in Ethiopia.
At one station, Gifty Jemal Hussein, a smallholder farmer from the Gurege area of Ethiopia was scheduled to tell her story of how her adoption of high-yield corn through a USAID-DuPont partnership has enabled her to increase her household income.
And Melaku Admassu, Ethiopia country manager for DuPont-Pioneer, was to explain how these high-yield varieties of corn produce 300 percent more corn of better quality than traditional Ethiopian varieties grown across much of Ethiopia by the nation's more than 8 million farmers.
According to the pool report, Hussein displayed cobs she had produced before and after new processes were introduced, with visibly bigger and brighter cobs as an end result.
Obama said, "The goal is to drastically increase the productivity of a small farmers all throughout Africa because what we know is that a huge percentage of Africans are still getting their incomes from agriculture and most of them are very small plots, and not a lot of technology. But with just a few smart interventions, a little bit of help, they can make huge improvements in their overall yield."
At the second station, Iman Abdulwassi Abubaker, the senior production adviser for Faffa Foods, was set to explain how Feed the Future assistance through Partners in Food Solutions, General Mills and Cargill has enabled Faffa to reduce the cost of nutritious baby cereal by approximately 30 percent. Workers on the packing line were scheduled to continue sealing bags and packing them into boxes along a conveyor belt.
"Historically, part of the problem is that even if you have food that's grown here, the processing is then done someplace else, it's higher up on the value chain and you don't get the kind of integrated food industries locally that can be more affordable for people and can create jobs and industries here," Obama said, according to a White House transcript.
"And part of our goal is not just to provide food to countries that may have food scarcity, but to continually build up their capacity across the board. And so having strong corporate partners alongside local businesses can really make a big difference."
Obama also noted that the corn farmer had been able to get three times the yield and earn enough to build a house, get new clothes, buy a cow and send her children to school.
Through Feed the Future, Obama said, "what we're also able to do is to then connect the small farmer to factories like this one so that they have a market and they're able to sell their products for a fair price. In turn, this factory is taking corn, soy, and other foodstuffs and it can package them into nutritious, low-cost meals that are actually then supplemented with vitamins and are enhancing the nutrition of more people all across Ethiopia."
"So by some smart interventions, what we're able to do is not only increase the incomes of millions of people all across Africa, we're also able to create new markets and food-processing alongside the foodstuffs themselves. And that helps grow the economy as a whole," he concluded.
The White House noted that in Ethiopia, 85 percent of the labor force is engaged in agriculture and more than 30 percent of the population lived on less than $1.25 per day in 2011.
Approximately 40 percent of children under 5 were stunted in 2014 but over the last three years Ethiopia has seen stunting rates drop by 9 percent among children under the age of 5, the White House said.
The White House added that Feed the Future is targeting 16.8 million Ethiopians with programs to reduce hunger, poverty and malnutrition. Last year these interventions helped spur more than $44.5 million in new agricultural sales, it said, mainly of sesame seed, maize, livestock, dairy products, wheat, honey, coffee and chickpea, as well as more than $45 million worth of agricultural and rural loans.
Obama also spoke to the African Union today and is now en route back to Washington after a stop in Germany for refueling.
–The Hagstrom Report