The Government has put strong emphasis on ensuring food security for its citizens so that nobody dies from hunger. This has been reflected in a strong emphasis on food production as well as through the food transfer programmes under the SPPs. It is therefore not surprising that the food transfer programmes in total have received the largest amount of funding (excluding the government service pension programme) and also account for the most number of beneficiaries. In this regard, this component of the SPP has been the mainstay of the current SPP system and in a life cycle framework can be regarded as addressing covariate risks emerging from shocks such as Global Food Price Crisis, climate change and natural disasters. The Government, however, is aware that in view of the changing nature of the economy and demography the importance of this component of the SPP programme is declining. There has been a substantial reduction in food poverty. Also, it is evident from international experience that cash transfers have significant advantages over food transfers in supporting food security through conventional social protection schemes.
The various food security programmes can be listed under four groups: those that provide food as a benefit transfer (i.e. VGD); those that provide food as compensation for work (i.e. Food for Work); those that provide food as a disaster relief (i.e. VGF); and those that are aimed at stabilizing food prices (i.e. Open Market Sales). The Government will convert all food-based transfer programmes that are a part of the NSPS into cash transfers (although there will be obvious exceptions such as school feeding and therapeutic feeding for children suffering from extreme nutrition). Regarding workfare based food programmes, as was mentioned in Section 4.3.2 above, the Government will consolidate all workfare programme (cash or food-based) into one programme under EGPP.
The transfer of food during disaster will continue as a disaster management response as necessary under the management of the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief. The only Food Programme that will continue under the NSPS as a food security programme is the Open Market Sales (OMS) managed by the Ministry of Food. The scope of the OMS will be expanded as necessary to tackle hunger and food affordability issues as appropriate. The OMS will remain self-targeted as presently.
The reform of the food transfer programmes will be implemented in an orderly manner by the Ministry of Food in consultation with the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief. Food distribution through OMS and as disaster relief will be coordinated with the Government’s Food Stock Policy as appropriate. It is expected that this reform will be completed by July 2018.