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 the agriculture ministers of the G7 rich countries meeting in Stuttgart, Germany, that the most significant threats stem from the conflict and the associated humanitarian impact, along with with multiple overlapping crises.
at my address to #G7 agriculture ministers, I stressed the need to support the continuity of agricultural and agri-food chains in Ukraine. I commended the group for their coordinated and timely action. We must ensure that the measures taken to address the crisis do not exacerbate food insecurity. https://t.co/JCPfv7LIzG
— FAO QU Director General Dongyu (@FAODG) May 13, 2022
“The crisis poses a challenge for the food security of many countries, especially for low-income countries dependent on food imports and vulnerable population groups,” he said.
a dark vision
Based on the Global Food Crisis Report released May 4, last year around 193 million people in 53 countries/territories were officially in Crisis phase or worse (IPC/CH Phase 3 or higher).
Further data from 2021 revealed that 570,000 people in four countries were in the catastrophe stage category (IPC/CH Stage 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 Phase 2 conditions.
“Price increases always have implications for food security, especially for the poorest,” Qu recalled.
emergency and recovery
In addition to the already “high prices driven by robust demand and high input costs” resulting from the COVID-19 recovery, the FAO chief highlighted Ukraine and Russia as key players in global commodity markets, explaining that the uncertainty surrounding the war triggered further price increases.
The prices of wheat, corn and oilseeds rose in particular.
At 160 points, the FAO Food Price Index reached its all-time high in March, averaging 158.2 points in April and remains at an all-time high to this day.
Mr. Qu said the FAO’s proposed Food Import Financing Facility 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 most vulnerable countries.
Price increases always have food security implications – head of FAO
a balancing act
Since the start of the conflict in February, export forecasts for Ukraine and Russia have been revised downwards as other market participants, notably India and the European Union, have increased exports.
“This partially offset ‘lost’ exports from the Black Sea region, leaving a relatively modest gap of around three million tonnes,” said the FAO chief.
He noted that wheat export prices rose in March, continued to rise in April and are likely to “remain high in the coming months.”
He also called on governments to “refrain from imposing restrictions on exports, which could exacerbate food price increases and undermine confidence in global markets.”
Turkey, Egypt, Eritrea, Somalia, Madagascar, Tanzania, Congo, Namibia and other countries dependent on Ukraine and Russia for wheat were heavily impacted.
Mr. Qu said these states need to identify new suppliers, “which could pose a significant challenge, at least in the next six months.”
At the same time – with levels ranging from 20 to over 70 percent – Brazil, Argentina, Bangladesh and other nations rely on Russian fertilizers for their crops.
While Africa in general accounts for only three to four percent of global fertilizer consumption, Cameroon, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire are among the most vulnerable countries, relying heavily on Russian supplies.
“We need to ensure that major food-exporting countries have access to the fertilizers they need to ensure the availability of enough food for the coming year,” said the senior FAO official, encouraging all countries to improve fertilizer efficiency, including through soil maps and best application.
To support farmers’ access to agriculture and livestock in the immediate and medium term, FAO has developed a Rapid Response Plan for Ukraine, which outlines three main actions.
The first is to maintain food production through cash and inputs for cereal crops in October, vegetable and potato production in spring, and harvest support in July and August for the next winter crop.
Second, the plan advocates strengthening agri-food supply chains, value chains and markets through public-private partnerships that provide technical support to smallholders and households.
And finally, it highlights the importance of ensuring accurate analyzes of food security conditions and needs as they evolve.
“Coordinated action for Ukraine within this group is indispensable to facilitate the smooth functioning of global food markets and thus ensure food supplies for all,” said the Director-General.
“FAO emphasizes the need to support the continuity of agricultural operations in Ukraine; while supporting agri-food value chains”.