DAILY COURIER – The World Bank Group, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, (FAO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Food Programme, (WFP) and World Trade Organisation (WTO), have called for urgent actions to address the global food security crisis.
The Director General of the WTO, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said that the COVID-19 pandemic’s interruption in international supply chains, and the war in Ukraine have severely disrupted food, fuel, and fertilizer markets, which are interlinked.
Okonjo-Iweala maintained that by June 2022 the number of acute food insecure people, whose access to food in the short term has been restricted to the point that their lives and livelihoods are at risk, has increased to 345 million in 82 countries according to WFP.
She added that around 25 countries have reacted to higher food prices by adopting export restrictions affecting over 8.0 per cent of global food trade.
She added that the food supply has been complicated by the doubling of fertilizer prices over the last twelve months, reflecting record-high costs of inputs such as natural gas while global stocks, which steadily increased over the last decade, need to be released to bring prices down.
“All this is happening at a time when fiscal space for government action is already severely constrained following the COVID-19 pandemic. Beyond the short term, climate change is structurally affecting agriculture productivity in many countries,” she lamented.
She highlighted four key areas to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the short and long-term actions to include providing immediate support to the vulnerable, facilitating trade and international supply of food, boosting production and investing in climate-resilient agriculture.
“They should be replaced with cash transfers that reach only the most vulnerable. Over time, effective social protection systems may be expanded to cover more people. The best systems include strong targeting and efficient enrollment, delivery, and payment systems, often leveraging technology,” the report added.
The WTO boss advocated that in the short term, releasing stocks as appropriate and consistent with WTO rules, and finding a diplomatic solution to evacuate the grains and fertilizers currently blocked in Ukraine, would help to address availability and affordability of food supplies.
She added that facilitating trade and improving the functioning and resilience of global markets for food and agriculture, including cereals, fertilizers and other agriculture production inputs are key, as outlined in the WTO Ministerial Declaration on the Emergency Response to Food Security.
Okonjo-Iweala averred that, “the 2008 crisis taught us that imposing global trade restrictions leads directly to increases in food prices. Removing export restrictions and adopting inspections and licensing processes that are more flexible help minimize supply disruptions and lower prices. Increasing transparency through notifications to the WTO and improving the monitoring of trade measures will be critical.”
Meanwhile, stakeholders have stressed the need for urgent action to encourage farmers and fishers to boost sustainable food production in both developing and developed countries and improve the supply chains that connect them to the world’s eight billion consumers is needed.
“This would require affordable fertilizers, seeds, and other inputs through the private sector as the primary actor in these markets. Providing working capital for competitive producers is also a key priority. Looking forward, disseminating best practice knowledge by FAO, WBG, and others will be key to increasing efficient fertilizer use through the rapid deployment of soil maps, extension services and precision agriculture technology. This will provide producers with the necessary know-how crucial for maintaining production levels and promoting sustainable use of natural resources.
“Supporting resilient investments in agricultural capacity and providing support to adaptation, smallholder farms, food systems and climate-smart technologies are essential to develop a resilient climate-smart agriculture that would ensure steady production in the years to come. Work on norms and standard-setting for food safety and on value chain infrastructure (storage facilities, cooling facilities, banking infrastructure and insurance infrastructure) is also important to increase access and reduce inequality, “they said.