UN chief warns of ‘catastrophe’ of global food shortages

BERLIN (Reuters) – The United Nations chief warned on Friday that the world faced a “catastrophe” because of growing food shortages across the world.
Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the war in Ukraine has increased disruptions caused by climate change, the coronavirus pandemic and inequality to produce an “unprecedented global hunger crisis” that is already affecting hundreds of millions of people.
“There is a real risk that multiple famines will be declared in 2022,” he said in a video message to officials from dozens of rich and developing countries gathered in Berlin. “And 2023 could be even worse.”
Guterres noted that crops in Asia, Africa and the Americas will be affected as farmers around the world struggle to cope with rising fertilizer and energy prices.
“This year’s food access issues could become global food shortages next year,” he said. “No country will be immune from the social and economic repercussions of such a catastrophe.”
Guterres said UN negotiators were working on a deal that would allow Ukraine to export food, including through the Black Sea, and allow Russia to bring food and fertilizer to world markets without restrictions.
He also called for debt relief for poor countries to help keep their economies afloat and for the private sector to help stabilize global food markets.
The host of the Berlin meeting, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbocksaid Moscow’s claim that Western sanctions imposed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine were to blame for food shortages was “completely untenable”.
Russia exported as much wheat in May and June this year as it did in the same months in 2021, Baerbock said.
She echoed Guterres’ comments that several factors are behind the growing hunger crisis around the world.
“But it was Russia’s attack war against Ukraine that turned a wave into a tsunami,” Baerbock said.

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