To Give or Not to Give? How Do Other Donors React to European Food Aid Allocation?


Using a change in EU food aid policy in 1996 as an instrument for EU food aid allocation, I investigate how other donors react to the EU’s food aid allocation. At that time, the EU suddenly divided by two the number of its food aid recipients. On average, other donors imitate the EU at both extensive and intensive margins. Donors’ reactions are heterogeneous: European countries and Canada herd the EU, while the World Food Programme substitutes. The USA do not react. Those results can be explained by competition for relative impact and information effects. For a recipient country who constantly received food aid from the EU before 1996, the number of donors decreases by almost 0.5. This behavior reinforces the problem of orphan and darling recipients.


Cet article étudie comment les donneurs d’aide alimentaire réagissent à un changement d’allocation par l’Union Européenne. L’aide européenne est instrumentée à partir d’un changement de politique d’aide alimentaire introduit par une réforme en 1996. Celle-ci divise, en un an, par deux le nombre de pays bénéficiaires d’aide alimentaire européenne. En moyenne, les autres donneurs imitent les comportements de l’UE tant à la marge extensive qu’à la marge intensive. Néanmoins, on observe une forte hétérogénéité de comportement : les pays membres et le Canada suivent l’UE tandis que le PAM se substitute à celle-ci. Les Etats-Unis, quant à eux, ne réagissent pas. Ces résultats peuvent s’expliquer par des effets de concurrence quant à l’impact comparé de leurs programmes et par des effets d’information. Pour un pays qui a reçu toutes les années de l’aide de l’UE avant 1996, cela induit une baisse de 0.5 donneur. Ces comportements ont tendance à renforcer les problèmes de bénéficiaires choyés et négligés.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2


  1. 1.

    “Food is a weapon much more than other type of aid because you can starve people” (Butz (US Foreign Secretary), 1967).

  2. 2.

    Results are robust to the use of lagged EU food aid.

  3. 3.

    Data are provided by DAC-OECD. I exclude sector code 520.

  4. 4.

    I have not obtained a copy of this document.

  5. 5.

    Since the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty (2009), the Commission no longer needs approval from EU member states on the allocation of food and humanitarian aid.

  6. 6.

    For the USA and Japan, other explanation may explain an absence of significant reaction. Indeed their food aid policy is mostly driven by agricultural surplus and domestic political concerns (Barrett and Maxwell 2005).

  7. 7.

    The World Bank definition is countries that have a population of 1.5 million or less, or are members of the Small States Forum.


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Correspondence to Nathalie Ferrière.

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I thank the World Food Programme for sharing the data . The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme FP7/2007–2011 under Grant Agreement n290693 FOODSECURE. The author alone is responsible for any omissions or deficiencies. Neither the FOODSECURE project and any of its partner organizations nor any organizations of the European Union or European Commission are accountable for the content of this paper.


A Descriptive Statistics

Figure 3 provides the annual average quantities received by EU recipients. Table 8 provides descriptive statistics on control variables.

Fig. 3

Average quantity received from the EU by EU recipient countries (in metric tons)

Table 8 Descriptive statistics

B Additional Results

Table 9 gives pre-trend analysis for EU food aid allocation depending on the type of recipients.

Table 9 Pre-trend analysis

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Ferrière, N. To Give or Not to Give? How Do Other Donors React to European Food Aid Allocation?. Eur J Dev Res (2021).

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  • Food aid
  • European Union
  • Coordination
  • Interaction
  • Allocation