Food security became a hot issue at the 2022 Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB), which took place over the weekend. Speaking at the meetings, President of the World Bank Group Malpass emphasised that conflict and its consequences are troubling the poor around the world. Food prices have soared by 37% compared to 2021.
Previously, speaking at an event hosted by the Atlantic Council, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said she was deeply concerned about the impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on global food supply and prices. Yellen noted that more than 275 million people around the world are at risk of severe food insecurity.
Meanwhile, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) said that world food prices have recorded a new record high in March. The food price index of the FAO in March was 159.3 points, up from 141.4 points in February. FAO stated that the food price index rose 12.6% from February to March, to a new record high since the index was recorded in 1990. The FAO also warned that food and food prices could increase by 20% due to the conflict in Ukraine, increasing malnutrition around the world.
The food security crisis and rising food prices are pushing many people in poor countries into starvation. According to a report by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development in Eastern Africa (IGAD), more than 29 million people in the region are facing food insecurity. IGAD Executive Secretary Workneh Gebeyehu told the press that about 16 million people in East Africa are in immediate need of food assistance. According to Gebeyehu, between 6 and 6.5 million people in Ethiopia, 3.5 million people in Kenya and 6 million people in Somalia are affected by the drought, while the situation in south-central Somalia is dire, with 81,000 people at risk of starvation.
Experts say that the two main causes of the current food security crisis are the Russia-Ukraine conflict and severe drought in some countries, which negatively affect food production and supply. Both Russia and Ukraine are the world’s leading exporters of corn, wheat, barley and sunflower oil across the Black Sea.
The FAO recently reduced its forecast for global wheat production in 2022 from 790 million tonnes to 784 million tonnes due to concerns that at least 20% of the winter crop area in Ukraine could fail to have products to be harvested. Meanwhile, in African countries, droughts lead to severe water shortages and a reduction in food production. In addition, shortages of energy and fertilisers, which are essential items for the crop, are also exacerbating the food security crisis. The World Bank believes that this crisis will last for many months, possibly even into 2023.
Faced with the above serious food security challenge, IGAD has called on its member states, donors and humanitarian partners to strengthen emergency response measures in countries affected by drought. Meanwhile, Alessandra Casazza, manager of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resilience Hub for Africa, called on governments and international donors to work to prevent the humanitarian crisis in East Africa from becoming more serious.
At the 2022 Spring Meetings of the IMF and WB over the weekend, World Bank Group President Malpass called on developed economies to increase food aid to developing countries and strive to increase food production, energy and fertilisers to cope with current shortages and rising prices.
The World Bank Group President also reiterated his commitment to building a 170 billion USD emergency aid fund in the next 15 months to support the poorest countries affected by multiple crises. Earlier, the leaders of the WB, the IMF, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO), also issued a joint statement calling for coordinated action to help countries address the growing threat to food security.
The current food security crisis is a direct consequence of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, therefore, in addition to implementing the above urgent measures, the world community needs to join hands to prevent and resolve the serious conflict in Ukraine peacefully. Only when food production in poor countries is improved and food production and supply activities in Ukraine are “normalised” again, will the food security crisis have a chance to cool down.