World food crisis deepens – Politico

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A six-month war between Russia and Ukraine – two agricultural powers – has thrown a crumbling global food system into utter devastation, leaving millions starving.

The war is already exacerbating the crisis caused by climate change, rising cost of living and rising fertilizer prices which is creating The most acute global food crisis in decades. A UN-mediated agreement to reopen the Black Sea to food ships may not be enough to provide relief to millions of people struggling to eat in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

“I have been working in this area for over 15 years and this is the worst crisis we have seen for me,” said Karin Smaller, executive director of the Shamba Center, a think tank working to end global hunger. Told.

Humanitarian agencies are scrambling to prepare themselves for even more severe levels of hunger, as they face a €14 billion annual gap in food security spending as of 2020. report good By Ceres 2030, also a think tank. Moscow’s war in Europe’s breadbasket has seriously rocked global food markets, forcing humanitarian agencies To reduce food rationing in countries like Yemen. thirty six countries On Ukraine and Russia for more than half their wheat imports.

a specialized United Nations Crisis Task Force is watching More than 60 countries that are struggling to pay for food imports. high energy prices and ups and downs in food markets This has put additional pressure on the cash-strapped developing countries.

As more people go hungry globally, the United Nations goal of ending hunger by the end of the decade appears higher than ever.

Drought is raging in the Horn of Africa, leaving about 26 million people in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia facing food shortages. in the next six months. More than 7 million livestock cattle have already been eliminated, In all of East Africa, there are about 50 million people facing acute food insecurity,

Jan Eggland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, tweeted: “A completely preventable famine threatens the Horn of Africa region.” It’s a “mega-crisis that no one is talking about,” he said.

In Lebanon, also a major importer of Russian and Ukrainian wheat, there is ongoing real food inflation. 122%, Household food price inflation is high in almost all low- and middle-income countries, according to world Bank,

This means that it is difficult for people to eat food even in places where there is no shortage. Everywhere from Peru to Burundi, people are paying more for basic needs. According to the World Food Program, a record 49 million people could fall into famine or “famine-like conditions” in 46 countries amid a food crisis. worst affected countries Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen, where 750,000 people face starvation and death, 400,000 of whom are in Ethiopia’s Tigre region alone, where a civil war is raging.

Low foreign exchange reserves made it difficult for Sri Lanka to import food. The deposed government sought to remedy its balance of payments crisis by banning fertilizer imports, which – along with a complete ban on their use – led to the destruction of half of the country Rice crop.

Shalmali Guttal, executive director of Focus on the Global South, said, “While domestic food production has declined sharply over the past year, fuel shortages have made production, processing, transportation and retailing very difficult and food and fuel Imports are extremely expensive.” think tank.

off plain sailing

An agreement between Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations to restart food exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports has helped ease markets somewhat. wheat prices dropped 14.5 percent Encouraged by the prospect of exports of about 20 million tonnes of grain locked up in Ukrainian silos, between June and July.

But the settlement has since been off to a slow and shaky start. To be signed on 22nd July, Russia immediately attacked the port of Odessa with missiles, and Ukraine, although optimistic of bringing much-needed financial relief to its farmers, maintains that there is only one “Small Chance” for it to be successful.

The dozens or so ships crossing the maritime corridor so far are largely those that have been stuck in Ukraine since the outbreak of the war and great challenges remain to reach the number of ships, including UN chartered ships for food. Taking help.

Even though Ukraine and Russia export at full capacity, experts are wary that the deal could easily be scrapped. “Is this enough to restore the pre-war status quo? No,” Wrote two agricultural economists Joseph Glauber and David Laborde in July. “A single wrong rocket can prevent insurers from providing insurance,” he wrote.

The international development world is also holding its breath.

“It is not yet clear whether Ukraine can actually manage to export everything it needs to export,” said Dominic Ziller, vice president of the UN agency International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

“We still fear that shortages of these staple foods could cause turmoil in commodity markets, and cause prices to rise again, which would again affect the poorest people in rural areas,” he said. ”

On fire

Extreme weather events are occurring in many parts of the world, partly due to climate change. Extreme heat in South Asia and the Americas, drought in large parts of Europe and East Africa and China, and flooding in Korea mean that large amounts of crops are dying, making food more expensive.

“I would see that global stocks in cereals and oilseeds remain tight, and that is part of the story of food inflation,” said Robin Anderson, who represents the agricultural industry on the United Nations Committee on World Food Security. wheat production is fall predicted In 2022, for the first time in four years.

“We need agriculture firing on all cylinders on all continents at all times, because climate change always means someone is struggling,” she argued.

Rising fertilizer prices have also made food more expensive to grow. A UN official warns there is a crisis “Huge,” And the hunger crisis threatens to prolong if farmers around the world reduce their exposure to yield-boosting chemicals to protect their low levels. Fertilizer prices were high even before Russia invaded Ukraine, but the industry’s reliance on natural gas—which has also skyrocketed since the war—has risen.

“Rise in fertilizer prices and concerns about availability cast a shadow on future harvests, and thus the risk keeping food prices high for a long period of time,” They say IFPRI Think Tank.

There have been a flurry of international political initiatives, including those from France and Germany, to deal with the crisis, but experts agree they will not be effective without large injections of cash.

“They are all really good initiatives. It is not clear if there is any additional money,” said the younger of the Shamba centre.

The World Food Program has donated $8 billion this year, but a total of $22 billion is needed.

If the money comes, emergency aid could help address the worst of the hunger crisis this year, but experts say the world needs systematic change.

“When there is a crisis, there is always a great readiness to do emergency relief, which will not lead to sustainable development but will prevent people from dying,” said IFAD’s Ziller. “When it’s about building resilience, funding long-term growth, it’s more difficult to raise money.”

Bartosz Brzeziński contributed reporting.

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