Far from the battlefields along the Black Sea, the missiles are falling on the world’s poor, in the form of rising prices for basic foodstuffs caused by a conflict in which they play no part. Although peace is paramount, a global agreement today should include measures to prevent the war in Ukraine from causing a devastating spike in hunger and economic stagnation in low-income countries. Providing affordable credit to ensure that enough food is available for all is not only the right thing to do, it is financially viable and likely to bear fruit in the medium term.
It has been done before, and we can do it better today, by allowing countries to lighten the burden of rising food import bills and ensuring that they are not prevented from seeking sustainable productivity gains that reduce the risk of future food crises. the food supply.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has presented a proposal for a Food Import Financing Mechanism (FIFF) which, if approved, could benefit almost 1.8 billion people. people from the 61 most vulnerable countries.
The basic idea is simple: low-income net food-importing countries receive subsidized loans to cover the impact of higher costs, thereby reducing the risk of food insecurity for their people. In exchange, they commit to maintaining and expanding investments in their own agri-food sectors, thereby reducing the long-term risk of dependency and perpetual crisis.
The prices of basic food products are at historical highs. The FAO Food Price Index is currently 30% higher than a year ago. Most importantly, the price of internationally traded cereals and vegetable oils, which account for half of the gross import bill of the world’s poorest countries, compared to just 20% of high-income countries, has uploaded even faster.
The war is exacerbating the price trend, due to large export quotas for wheat, sunflower oil and other foods from the Russian Federation and Ukraine. Other factors, such as energy and fertilizer prices, currency movements and the proliferation of trade barriers – 53 governments now have export controls on food and fertilizers, half of them since February 23 – are also contributing to the rise in food prices and are an indicator that the rise is not likely to subside any time soon.
Requiring loan recipients to continue to invest in more productive and sustainable agri-food systems will reduce future external aid needs. The FIFF is aimed at low-income food-importing countries. These countries represent less than 10% of world food imports, and the cost of covering their credit lines is very affordable.
Otherwise, the prospect of humanitarian crises far from the conflict is overwhelming. Without alternatives, the agricultural sectors will suffer as people focus on survival, undermining collective efforts to protect our climate, water, soils and biodiversity. Helping the poorest not to be forced to choose will revert to the good of all.
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