The director general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations asked the G7 countries this Friday that, due to the reduction in supplies and the increase in prices that the war in Ukraine is causing, they help prevent a future food shortages that threaten vulnerable countries in Africa and Asia.
“We need to carefully identify ways to offset possible future shortcomings in world marketsworking together with the aim of promoting sustainable productivity growth wherever possible,” Qu Dongyu told the G7 agriculture ministers meeting in the German city of Stuttgart.
The German presidency of the G7 invited Qu to analyze the consequences on world food security that the conflict in Eastern Europe is causing.
Food insecurity is a problem that continues to grow. In 2021 about 193 million people suffered from lack of food and needed urgent help, a figure that represents an increase of almost 40 million people compared to 2020.
High impact on sub-Saharan African nations
The uncertainty surrounding the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, major players in global commodity markets, has caused prices to rise, especially for wheat, corn and oilseeds, as well as fertilizers.
To these rises due to the conflict, we must add the high prices caused by the strong demand and the high costs of supplies as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Organization itself warned last March that its food price index had reached its highest level (160 points) since its creation in 1990. A figure that only fell slightly in April.
Since the start of the war wheat export forecasts for both Russia and Ukraine have been revised down. Although other operators have increased their supply, such as India and the European Union, supply remains tight and, according to Qu, prices are likely to remain high for the next few months.
Some of the countries that rely heavily on wheat imports include Egypt and Turkey, but also several sub-Saharan nations such as the Congo, Eritrea, Madagascar, Namibia, Somalia and Tanzania.
Among the countries that are highly dependent on fertilizers imported from Russia are the main exporting countries of cereals and high-value basic products, such as Argentina, Bangladesh and Brazil.
Two solutions to the problem of food shortages and rising prices
In this scenario, the UN body considers the “visibility” of the markets to be crucial. It therefore welcomes all efforts to strengthen and expand the Agricultural Market Information System, a platform launched in 2011 by the G20 Agriculture Ministers following the global food price spikes of 2000, 2008 and 2010. and designed to improve the transparency of the food market.
The organization also recently proposed a Global Food Import Financing Mechanism to help countries cope with rising food prices.
This instrument would be based exclusively on food needs and would be limited to low- and lower-middle income countries, direct food importers and recipients of the International Development Association, benefiting about 1.8 billion people in the 61 most vulnerable countries. of the world.
Qu also called on governments to “refrain from imposing export restrictions, which could exacerbate rising food prices and undermine confidence in world markets.”
Instead, he stressed that it is necessary to “ensure that any of the measures taken to face the crisis do not aggravate food insecurity and, instead, increase the capacity for recovery”.