global food safety alert

As a result of the war in Ukraine, particularly in Asia-Pacific, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, between 8 million and 13 million additional people could go hungry in the world. These projections come from work published Friday, March 11, by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which assessed the potential impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on world hunger. Ukraine and Russia are among the world’s largest exporters of wheat, maize, barley, rapeseed and sunflower, and together account for more than a third of the world’s grain exports.

Twenty-six countries, mainly in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, are more than 50% dependent on these two countries for their wheat imports. This is the case, for example, for Lebanon, which imports 80% of its wheat from Ukraine and has reserves of this grain for only a few weeks. The population, weakened for months by record inflation, is paying the direct consequences: the country decided on Thursday 10 March to raise the price of bread.

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The Russian invasion came as Ukraine was just entering the farming season. The advance of Russian troops and the bombing have completely shut down Ukrainian ports and the greatest uncertainty is about harvesting capacities in a few months. Russia’s grain exports are based on infrastructures that are theoretically unblocked, but which should be heavily impacted by international sanctions, the FAO anticipates.

Depending on the duration of the conflict, the UN agency expects its food price index, which aggregates the prices in international markets of various basic foodstuffs (cereals, sugar, meat, dairy products, etc.), to increase by 8% to 20. % above the current, already stratospheric level. At the end of the year, this index was up 30% compared to the previous year, mainly due to the rise in energy prices and the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. This unprecedented combination of risk factors comes at a time when world hunger affects nearly one in ten people and a third of the population is food insecure, without regular access to adequate food.

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Call to keep markets open

At the request of Germany, the agriculture ministers of the G7 member states, Germany, Canada, the United States, France, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, agreed in a joint statement on Friday: “to avoid all signals and restrictive measures that would limit exports and lead to further price increases”. This meeting, also invited by Ukraine’s Agriculture Minister Roman Leshchenko, the FAO, the World Food Program (WFP) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), was the first formal international meeting on the agricultural consequences of the war. in Ukraine. At the same time, French President Emmanuel Macron concluded a European summit in Versailles with a call for preparations for a risk of… “destabilization of the diet”.

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