The Zero Hunger Program's food credit card is already a reality for 4 million people in 837 municipalities in the
semi-arid regions of the Northeast and northern Minas Gerais. More than 758,000 families are receiving the benefit of a R$
50 (US$ 17) monthly grant to purchase food. These new figures describing the scope of the program were announced by
the Minister of Food Security and Hunger Alleviation, José Graziano.
"We are ahead of schedule in terms of our goals, and we have covered practically all of the municipalities in the
semi-arid region," the Minister announced, emphasizing that completion of coverage prior to the beginning of the dry season
in the region is due to the accomplishments of the administrative commissions established in the small municipalities
throughout the region.
The Ministry of Food Security is now about to open a new work front just as important as the semi-arid region,
extending the food credit card to the Amazon and other Northeastern cities outside the semi-arid region, beginning in the states of
Maranhão and Bahia.
The Zero Hunger program now has a heavyweight partner who will guarantee income for small farmers and land
reform settlers. The Brazilian government will make direct purchases from farmers of food for its social programs and
The acquisition program will be operated by the National Supply Company (Conab) through 65 centers around the
country. This year the program will spend R$ 300 million (US$ 100 million) on food purchases and another R$ 100 million
(US$ 33 million) on milk purchases. The budget for next year will rise to R$1 billion (US$ 330 million).
To be eligible for the program, farmers must be enrolled in the Family Farming Strengthening Program (Pronaf)
and, preferably, a member of a cooperative or farm association. Purchases will be limited to R$ 2,500 (US$ 830) per farmer.
According to the president of Conab, Luis Carlos Guedes Pinto, the program will not only guarantee farmer's
income, but will also stimulate local production, consumption and the circulation of money. "This is the first step in setting up a
minimum income plan for family farming," explains Guedes Pinto.
Another result of direct purchases by the government will be the reduction of activity by middlemen in the family
farming sector where, because production is small, the farmers cannot negotiate attractive prices for their produce.
Guedes Pinto revealed that initially the program will purchase food for government social programs, that is,
immediate consumption through locally established food security councils. But the long-term goal is to replenish government
stockpiles of basic food items, such as corn, beans, cassava flour, rice and wheat.
Hunger Has to Go
"Until the problems of hunger and poverty are resolved, Brazil's growth will be difficult." This was the comment
made by the ex-Minister of Planning, João Paulo dos Reis Velloso, general coordinator of the National Forum, which will be
held on September 16 at the National Economic and Social Development Bank (BNDES), at a special seminar to deal with
According to Reis Velloso, from the social point of view, chronic hunger and severe poverty are the most urgent and
important questions the country has to resolve. Taking into account the priority that Lula's Administration is assigning these
questions, the National Forum decided to hold an ample debate, beginning with an address presented by the Minister of Food
Security and Hunger Alleviation, José Graziano da Silva, who will outline the basic idea of the Zero Hunger program, its action
fronts, and its dimensions from the point of view of the federal government.
The National Forum commissioned two studies on these questions. The first one was carried out by economists and
specialists in the social area, most of all on the question of poverty, Sônia Rocha and Roberto Cavalcanti de Albuquerque, dealing
with the matter of severe poverty and its implications for the fight against chronic hunger in Brazil. The second study was
done by Professor Carlos Augusto Monteiro, specialist in malnutrition at the University of São Paulo (US),, to present the
problem of hunger and malnutrition and government policies to eliminate them.
The material for this article was supplied by Agência Brasil (AB), the official press agency of the Brazilian
government. Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org