Under the theme Ensuring global food security in times of crisisQU Dongyu, director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), told agriculture ministers from wealthy G7 countries meeting in Stuttgart, Germany that the biggest threats stem from conflict and the associated humanitarian impact, as well as multiple overlapping crises.
In my address at #G7 Ministers of Agriculture, I stressed the need to support the continuity of agricultural and agri-food chains in Ukraine. I commended the group for its coordinated and timely action. We must ensure that the measures taken to deal with the crisis do not aggravate food insecurity. https://t.co/JCPfv7LIzG
— FAO Director-General QU Dongyu (@FAODG) May 13, 2022
“The crisis represents a challenge for the food security of many countries, and in particular for low-income countries dependent on food imports and vulnerable population groups,” he said.
A dark glimpse
According to the Global Food Crises report released on May 4, last year, approximately 193 million people in 53 countries/territories were officially in crisis phase or worse (IPC/CH Phase 3 or above).
Further data from 2021 revealed that 570,000 people in four countries were in the Catastrophe phase category (IPC/CH Phase 5).
Just over 39 million in 36 countries faced emergency conditions (IPC/CH Phase 4); while just over 133 million in 41 countries were in IPC/CH Phase 3. A total of 236.2 million people in 41 countries were living in stage 2 conditions.
“Price increases always have food security implications, especially for the poorest,” Qu said.
Emergency and recovery
In addition to “already high prices driven by robust demand and high input costs” resulting from the COVID-19 recovery, the FAO chief noted that Ukraine and Russia were important players in global markets. commodities, explaining that the uncertainty surrounding the war had led to further price increases.
The prices of wheat, corn and oilseeds have particularly increased.
At 160 points, the FAO Food Price Index reached its highest level on record in March, averaged 158.2 points in April and remains at an all-time high today.
Mr Qu said the Food Import Financing Facility proposed by FAO would be an important tool to ease the burden of rising food import and input costs, potentially benefiting 1.8 billion people, in 61 of the world. most vulnerable countries.
Price hikes always have implications for food security – FAO chief
A balancing act
Since the start of the conflict in February, export forecasts from Ukraine and Russia have been revised downwards while other market players, notably India and the European Union, have increased their exports .
“This partly compensated for ‘lost’ exports from the Black Sea region, leaving a relatively modest gap of around three million tonnes,” the FAO chief said.
He observed that wheat export prices surged in March, continued to climb in April and “will likely remain high for the next few months.”
He also called on governments to “refrain from imposing export restrictions, which can exacerbate rising food prices and undermine confidence in global markets”.
Turkey, Egypt, Eritrea, Somalia, Madagascar, Tanzania, Congo, Namibia and other countries dependent on Ukraine and Russia for wheat have been heavily affected.
Qu said these states need to identify new suppliers, “which could pose a significant challenge, at least in the next six months.”
Dependent on fertilizers
At the same time – with levels ranging from 20% to over 70% – Brazil, Argentina, Bangladesh and other countries depend on Russian fertilizers for their crops.
While Africa globally accounts for only 3-4% of global fertilizer consumption, Cameroon, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire are among the most vulnerable countries, heavily dependent on Russian supplies.
“We must ensure that major food-exporting countries have access to the necessary fertilizers to ensure sufficient food availability for next year,” said the senior FAO official, encouraging all countries to improve the efficiency of fertilizer, including through soil maps and better application.
To support farmers’ access to crops and livestock in the immediate to medium term, FAO has developed a Rapid Response Plan for Ukraine, which outlines three key actions.
The first is to maintain food production through cash and inputs for cereal crops in October, vegetable and potato production in spring, and crop support in July and August, for the next harvest of winter.
Second, the plan calls for strengthening agrifood supply chains, value chains and markets through public-private partnerships that provide technical support to households and small-scale producers.
And finally, it stresses the importance of ensuring accurate analyzes of food security conditions and needs as they evolve.
“Coordinated action for Ukraine within this group is essential to facilitate the smooth functioning of world food markets and thus guarantee food supply for all,” said the Director-General.
“FAO stresses the need to support the continuity of agricultural operations in Ukraine; while supporting agri-food value chains”.