Challenge for 2023: Guaranteeing sufficient food production

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The potential shortages of some raw materials can lead to internal instability in many countries, increasing internal and external migratory flows. Credit: FAO
  • Opinion by Mario Lubetkin (Rome
  • Inter Press Service

As we approach four months after the start of the war, the data continues to show a trend of rising food prices, especially in the poorest countries, as concerns about the potential effects of these increases mount.

The potential shortages of some raw materials can lead to internal instability in many countries, increasing internal and external migratory flows.

Russia and Ukraine together account for 30% of world exports of wheat and maize and 63% of sunflower seeds. According to experts, there is already a shortage of three million tons of these grains this year, despite increased exports from other countries, such as India.

Rising energy and fertilizer prices could lead to an increase in hunger by tens of millions of people, significantly increasing the number of 811 million already starving by 2020.

That figure continued to rise due to the effects of COVID-19, reaching more than 100 million in 2021, threatening the next global crop.

According to a recent study by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP), by 2021, some 193 million people in 53 countries were in acute food insecurity and in urgent need of assistance, nearly 40 million more. than in 2020.

Famine remains high in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.

It will be the most vulnerable countries in Africa and Asia that will pay the highest price, even though many European countries are 100% dependent on Russian fertilizers, the world’s largest exporter.

This is the case for Estonia, Finland, Lithuania and Serbia, while countries such as Slovenia, North Macedonia, Norway and Poland also rely heavily on these fertilizers.

In addition, more than 50 countries in other parts of the world are at least 30% dependent on Russian fertilizers.

Egypt and Turkey are among the countries most affected by their reliance on imported wheat and maize from belligerent European countries, as well as several African countries such as Congo, Eritrea, Madagascar, Namibia, Somalia and Tanzania.

With regard to the increase in food prices, there are countries like Lebanon where the increase is already more than 300%. But even more developed countries are feeling the impact of the conflict, as in the case of Germany, where prices have risen by 12%, and the United Kingdom, where they have risen by more than 6%.

By the end of March, just over a month after the war, food products had already risen by 12.6%, the highest increase since 1990, according to FAO data.

Reduced production could lead to an immediate decline in food quality, increasing the critical situation of obesity that already exceeds 600 million people, while more than 2 billion people are overweight, which can also increase health risks, from cardiovascular disease to diabetes.

“We need to keep the global trading system open and ensure that agri-food exports are not restricted or taxed,” said FAO Director General Qu Dongyu.

According to Qu, it is necessary to increase investment in countries affected by current food prices, reduce food waste and improve and use natural resources such as water and fertilizers more efficiently.

It is also necessary to promote social and technological innovations that will significantly reduce market distortions in agriculture, and to improve social protection and personal assistance for the farmers most affected by this crisis.

The FAO’s chief economist, Máximo Torero, recalled the proposal by this Rome-based specialist organization to create a global instrument called the Food Imports Financing Facility worth $9,000 million to cover 100% of the food costs for the worst affected countries in 2022.

© Inter Press Service (2022) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service



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